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You wore the Maglia Rosa last season. What was that like for you?
For me, it was the first time in the Giro d’ Italia, my national race. It was unbelievable. It was a perfect day. It was a big surprise because we thought Dario Cataldo but because I finished first in the team time trial the day before.
As a young Italian rider, is wearing the pink jersey as good as it gets?
Yes, it is the best moment. Every kid in Italy grows up dreaming of riding the Giro. So to do that and wear the jersey is unbelievable. To have everyone on the side of the road screaming “Puccio! Go Puccio!”, it was amazing.
How was your year overall?
It was good. It was a long season. I did the Ardennes Classics, the cobbled Classics, Milan-Sanremo, the Giro, the Vuelta. Doing two big Grand Tours is a lot. I’m a bit tired, but I’ve had a restful end of the season, with a full month off the bike.
What did you do during your break from riding?
I did nothing. I took a week’s holiday with my girlfriend. We went to Egypt and just sat on the beach. I didn’t pick up the phone once. I just relaxed.
I have this idea that, as a professional cyclist, you start to unravel if you’re off the bike for too long?
Everybody after October totally stops the bike. Everyday, from November until the next October, it is every day, 120k, 150k, every day. You need a break.
2013 was memorable for terrible weather. What was it like, having ‘half-time’ at Milan-Sanremo?
I’ve never had anything like it. Getting on the bus, taking a shower, looking for dry, warm clothes and then having to go back out into bad weather to race was very tough. So many riders didn’t return to the race. I was near the front and then crashed at the last corner. It was not a nice day.
As good as the Giro was, did you have any rough patches this year?
I went into Paris-Roubaix having been sick two days before and just never got off the line really. It was a rough race.
What do you want to do in 2014?
I will have a pretty similar schedule to this past year, Classics and focus on the Giro. I love the Classics, especially Flanders. I won Flanders as a junior. Roubaix is hard, very hard. There have been some great Italian winners – Moser, Ballan, Tafi, Ballerini – but it is so hard. Even the flat sections are full-gas, right from the start. Last year was my first time racing Roubaix and it was brutal in the dry; I cannot imagine it wet. Even where bottles caused wet areas it was slick, I can’t imagine it wet and muddy.