Dario Cataldo first noticed Bradley Wiggins when he won the Giro d'Italia's opening time trial in 2010. Later in the race, they both featured in an escape that turned the classification on its head. This year the 27-year-old Italian will ride alongside Wiggins in Team Sky colours as the Briton bids for the Giro win.
"Italians have a different feeling for the race, when we are on home roads and with the tifosi near by, but for sure, Wiggins appreciates the Giro," Cataldo told Cycling Weekly before stage five of the Tour of Oman.
The 2010 race was marred by terrible weather, and the stress of riding it was a factor in Wiggins's below par performance in the Tour de France that year. "He did it that hard year, one where it was easier to hate the race than to love it," Cataldo said. "However, he says that he wants to return to the race and he wants to win the race, which says it means a lot to him."
Cataldo has that southern Italian charm; he is polite and goes out of his way for others. In Muscat this morning, he arrived with a friendly 'ciao' and said that he had been waiting to speak with Cycling Weekly.
He won the Baby Giro d'Italia as an amateur and the last two years placed 12th in the pro version with team OmegaPharma-Quick Step. Sky signed him to round-out its GC team, supporting Chris Froome - who looks set to win the Tour of Oman tomorrow - and Wiggins.
"Wiggins is quiet, keeps to himself, but polite. When he goes for a goal, he gives it his all and doesn't make a mistake. There's a lot to learn from him," Cataldo said.
"He also gets us going, imitating anyone. Lately at the dinner table he's doing Joe Dombrowski with his American accent."
Cataldo held hopes of leading Sky in the Giro, but with Wiggins aiming at the race, he has had to refocus. "I'll improve, work for him and look for results in the other races," Cataldo continued. "My goal is to give Froome the overall win here in Oman. It'll be the same in Tirreno-Adriatico and like that in the Giro for Wiggins. I'll have occasions to have chances, but now I'm just thinking about my work."
Tirreno-Adriatico is next month. He will work for Froome in the Italian stage race and ride others, like the Giro del Trentino in preparation for the Giro d'Italia.
Cataldo won the Italian time trial championship last year and climbs well so a big win is in his grasp. He looked over at the Sky branded car where the leaders were preparing for the days stage. "Just riding along side Froome and Wiggins," he said, "it will rub off."
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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