The Giro's stage 10 time trial proved to be a special day out for Salvatore Puccio, who received a warm welcome in his adopted home region of Umbria.
Puccio was born in Sicily, which the Giro visited this year on stages four and five, before moving to the Umbria region in 2002.
It was here that his cycling career took off, and he made his first strides as a junior rider. Tuesday’s stage was a Puccio family affair, with friends and relatives visiting the Team Sky bus, as well as lining the course.
The only WorldTour pro from Umbria clocked a very respectable time on the stage, and explained, “I knew these roads well as I've trained on them for 10 years. I knew every single metre.
“I’ve lived in Monaco for a few years now, but before that Umbria was my home for 12 years. I went to school here and all my girlfriend’s family live locally. All my family were at the start today. My mother, brother, sister and nephew, as well as a few friends from my little town – Petrignano.
“I am getting married in Assisi in October, just 20 kilometres away from the stage start in Foligno. It will be after Lombardy at the end of the season. All professional riders get married in October (laughs).”
When I did the climb, after 12 kilometres there were so many people, and PUCCIO, PUCCIO, PUCCIO on the road for 25 minutes!
The 39.8-kilometre course was a tough affair, but Puccio received huge encouragement, with his name plastered over much of the parcours.
“On the stage there were so many people who saw me ride when I was young, racing for small teams. Every Sunday you would have a race with the team. Many Sport Directors still help with coaching for the youngsters now, and 15 years ago they were doing it for me.
“When I did the climb, after 12 kilometres there were so many people, and PUCCIO, PUCCIO, PUCCIO on the road for 25 minutes! I had to push a little bit more because of all the support. I tried to set a good pace.”
The combination of a more relaxed time trial stage, coupled with Monday’s rest day, added up to a memorable few days for Puccio – who played an impressive wingman role for Geraint Thomas in the race's opening week.
He added: “On a normal stage you just have a couple of moments with the fans at the start. You can maybe take a picture, say hello and then you have to go. But today we had more time, with people coming to the bus. I was able to see a lot more friends, as well as yesterday at the rest day. It’s been a great couple of days.
“You have to wait sometimes, as some years the Giro won’t pass through Umbria. But this year they took the chance to come and I’m really glad they did. Thanks to everyone as the support was incredible.”