“They need time,” Cassani told Cycling Weekly. “Riders like Philippe Gilbert or Vincenzo Nibali needed a few years to get to the top. Or look at Fabian Cancellara. He needed time to win Flanders and Roubaix. When he got there, he was nearly unbeatable. These guys shouldn’t try to get there in a hurry but at their own pace. You got to build your base unless your name is Peter Sagan and you’re a phenomenon.”
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Cassani’s eyes spot talent easily. He raced for 15 years, commentated for Italy’s Rai television and over the winter, accepted the role as team Italy’s DS. In his stable several riders are emerging behind home star Nibali (Astana). He named Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing), Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) and Adriano Malori (Movistar).
Looking abroad, he said that Nairo Quintana (Movistar), for stage races, and Peter Sagan (Cannondale), classics, are the obvious choices. “They’re young and they’ve already proven themselves,” he added. “Quintana nearly won it all last year in the Tour de France and Sagan came so close to a big classic.”
He explained that Quintana could win the Giro d’Italia and Sagan should take his first monument this year. Behind the obvious ones, several others emerge.
“Phinney, still just 23, improved gradually over the last three years with BMC Racing. He can podium or already win Paris-Roubaix. With Quintana, the Giro d’Italia will be a hard fight, but Porte already showed up to it. He helped Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome win the Tour and won Paris-Nice for himself last year. Kelderman? He’s the youngest of the three, at 22, and has less experience but already placed well [17th] in the Giro last year.”
“They are no longer young boys,” says Cassani. “However, Evans started well in Australia. They have enthusiasm even if they’ve lost a bit of their edge. They are still going well but that date on their passport holds the truth. Not everyone can keep winning at 41 years old like Chris Horner!”