Giro Sensation Giulio Ciccone Interview by James Startt with Images by Serge Waldbillig

For some people, dreams do come true. And the up-and-coming Italian rider Giulio Ciccone is doing more than living his dream. Since the age of 8, he dreamed of nothing but turning professional. He realized that dream when he was only 21. And although he spent his first season on the modest Bardiani-CSF squad, it could not have been more memorable. After the squad grabbed a wild card spot in his country’s Giro d’Italia, Ciccone was selected to ride his first grand tour in only his first year as a pro.

That rookie ride turned into nothing less than a Cinderella story on stage 10 when he jumped into an early breakaway and soloed to victory. Since then he has confirmed his early promise, scoring at least one victory every year, with a stage win at the 2017 Tour of Utah and victory in the 2018 Italian semi-classic Tour of the Apennines. And now that, at only 24, he has stepped up to the UCI WorldTour with American team Trek-Segafredo his successes have multiplied, first with a stage win at this February’s Tour du Haut Var in France, and now at the Giro d’Italia—where Ciccone has just about sown up the King of the Mountains classification on top of his sensational stage 16 victory the day the race crossed the gut-wrenching Passo del Mortirolo.

We caught up with the happy-go-lucky Ciccone to talk about his background, successes and dreams.

Peloton Magazine: You come from Bergamo in northern Italy, which is often the finish town for the Tour of Lombardy classic. Was that the first bike race you ever saw? Do your remember the first time you saw it?

Giulio Ciccone: Well, I started following bicycle racing in 2004 or 2005, but it was the 2006 or 2007 races that I remember the most, because that is when Paolo Bettini won. I have done it three times now as a pro and it is just a beautiful race, a great way to finish the season out.

PM: Was Bettini your hero growing up?

GC: Sure! That said, my big hero was actually Alberto Contador. He was just such a strong rider and I loved the way he was always attacking. It was just fantastic.

PM: How did you get into cycling?

GC: Well, my father was always very passionate about the sport and growing up he would always take me to watch races. And then I started riding in 2003 myself. I was only 8 years old. But ever since then, I only wanted to be a professional cyclist.

PM: Well, you realized your dream; and more than that you have had a great start to your career. You’re only 24, and you’ve won races every year, but no victory could have been better than your first one, when you won a stage of the Giro d’Italia in your rookie season. That’s no small feat!

GC: Yeah, it was just unbelievable. Already doing my first grand tour and the Giro no doubt in my first year as a professional was pretty amazing. And then to win a stage was just incredible. I’ll never forget that day. For me just making the breakaway [on the hilly stage from Campi Bisenzio to Sestola] was important, because I was in the break with big riders like Visconti, Cunego and Atapuma. There were like 11 or 12 of us, but I never thought we would stay away to the finish, let alone that I would be the strongest and actually win. But the day just went better and better. And then just before the last climb I decided to try my chances and attack. And it worked! I stayed away to win at the finish. It was just incredible!

PM: So what gave you the idea to attack? I mean you were a neo-pro on a small Italian team and you are in a break with some big-name riders, including a former Giro d’Italia winner, and you decide just to launch an attack before the final climb?

GC: To be honest, I don’t know. I just had a flash thought that this was the moment to attack and I should try my chance. And that was it! It was just amazing. But then the next year I didn’t win a stage or the year after. But I keep trying—and that’s one reason that I came to Trek-Segafredo.

PM: So, now you are in your first year at the WorldTour level with a very established team. That’s a big jump up for you, but one that can have real advantages, right?

GC: Absolutely. It’s been great and I am really happy to be in a team like this. I just have a lot more opportunities in a lot more big races. For me, it is really important to have an opportunity to work with experienced champions like Richie Porte, Bauke Mollema or John Degenkolb. It’s just a great way to learn and improve. Sometimes, in races like Paris-Nice, I have a lot of opportunity to attack and play my own cards. But in other races I am focused on working for Richie or Bauke. And for me that is just as important. I’ve already ridden with Bauke this year in Mallorca [and now at the Giro]. It’s pretty amazing to be wearing the same jersey as these big champions.

PM: And when you have a chance to ride for yourself; what kinds of races suit you the best? Mid-climbing races like the stage you won in the Giro?

GC: Yeah, for the moment, stages in races. And then we will see in years to come.

PM: And if your biggest dream could come true, what would it be?

GC: The Giro d’Italia, or at least to wear the pink jersey once in my life. But I think that I have the possibility to develop G a good grand tour rider. That is definitely my dream!

Also check out: Celebrate the Giro with Franciacorta