Italy is putting Moreno Moser under the gun. As the national race, the Giro d'Italia, re-enters its home country from Dublin, the pressure is only rising on the 23-year-old nephew of Francesco Moser.
"I don't know what it is, from where it comes," Moser said of the pressure. "My uncle won the race 30 years ago, but maybe if I didn't have his last name I wouldn't even be considered."
The smooth and slow talking Moser, son of Francesco's brother Diego, races his first Giro d'Italia in his third year as a professional. Despite the debut, eyes are on him to produce.
Already in his first year, he gave Italian cycling a twinkle of hope that it found its new star. As a 21-year-old in 2012, he won two stages and the Tour of Poland overall classification, and one-day races Trofeo Laigueglia and Eschborn-Frankfurt.
Last year, he failed to win as much but still came away with results. He shot free into Siena to take Italy's Strade Bianche one-day race. At the Tour de France, he placed third behind Christophe Riblon and Tejay van Garderen on Alpe d'Huez.
"Everyone already started say that he'd be the one to save Italian cycling. Winning a WorldTour race, the Tour of Poland, at 21 years old ahead of Michal Kwiatkowski, who's now one of the best cyclists,” Cannondale sports director, Stefano Zanatta said.
“Maybe that weight held him back. The newspapers write a lot, build him up and question the his possibilities, but we're trying to keep our feet on the ground."
Moser already suffered a minor setback this season. He left the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race with knee pain. He had to stop while it improved and began training again at the end of March.
Zanatta said that he is not at his best, but nearly there in time for the Giro d'Italia. With the race re-entering Italy and starting in Puglia on Tuesday, it is good timing.
"He's not just here to ride the stages, he needs the feeling of racing at the front and winning. That's our goal. His goal. The Giro's the perfect stage for that."
The Italian tifosi would go mad to see a Moser win again. The attention and pressure on him, however, would only intensify.
"Frankly, I don't mind the pressure," Moser said. "I can live with it."
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