There were many years where the Italians were next to invisible in the Tour de l'Avenir. With riders like Damiano Caruso and Dario Cataldo being the l'Avenir bright spots in the late 00s, it wasn't a bad time for Italian cycling. Yet at the dawn of the new decade, there were podium ambitions. Mattia Cattaneo went back-to-back with 3rd place overall finishes in 2011 & 2012 while Davide Formolo finished 6th overall in the 2013 edition.
Last year, Giulio Ciccone had finished in the top 7 in three consecutive stages and was sitting 7th on the GC heading into the last stage, which finished on La Toussuire. Ciccone crashed out on the final stage and had to pull out of the race thus ruining Italy's chance but Ciccone is back once again with a bevy of his trade teammate from Colpack and others.
Roster: Giulio Ciccone, Simone Consonni, Oliveira Troia, Edward Ravasi (all Colpack), Simone Petilli (Unieuro-Wilier) and Gianni Moscon (Zalf-Euromobil)
The Azzuri is coming in hot with a stacked roster albeit I think there are a couple of riders that were big snubs albeit I do not know their individual plans. In any case, they have a three-headed hydra of riders that are ready to attack the mountains, a rider for the sprints and a jack of all trades.
Ciccone is back again after his breakthrough 2014 season but this year has been a bit different for the Abruzzian. Ciccone hasn't made much of an impact in UCI races besides his considerable time in the breakaways in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta where he won the KOM jersey by a comfortable margin for the 2nd year running. Ciccone's lone win this year came in the historic Bassano-Monte Grappa, which is a 110 kilometer race that ends up on a mountain. Will he go for GC hopes or be content working for others? Perhaps a question for the road to decide.
Simone Petilli would be the man that many would think would make a stab at GC but the main question is are the Italians willing to be content with a podium place or do they actually want to go for the win? Petilli did win the Ronde de l'Isard but out of the major stage races in the U23 ranks this year, it had one of the weaker start lists. He beat Laurens De Plus by 10 seconds and Jeremy Maison by 23, which is certainly an accomplishment but this was a plateau. At the Giro della Valle d'Aosta, Petilli was right at or under the level of Robert Power and De Plus. The only time he was able to attempt an attack was when Power had mechanical troubles. Will he be able to go to another level to take time from his rivals or will he be a shadow?
The other pure climber here is Ciccone's trade teammate Ravasi. The Colpack rider finished 4th in the Tour of Croatia in the pro ranks (mainly thanks to one big climbing stage) and then followed it up with two 2nd place stage finishes in Aosta but didn't have any big GC ride after one catastrophic day in the high mountains. While he has the legs to keep up in the big mountains, there is that thought in the back of some heads if he will succumb to a bad day.
The dark horse here is Gianni Moscon. In a one-day race, there are not many that are better than Mister Moscon. In a stage race, it really depends on the terrain. In the Course de la Paix, Moscon finished 5th overall but that can be attributed to stages that weren't overly long as well as a steep, punchy finish on the final day that kept him in contention. On the long, Alpine climbs, Moscon will probably be mid-pack but perhaps stage 4, which has a few climbs but a descent to the finish, will interest him.
Rounding off the roster is a the sprint team of Simone Consonni & Oliveira Troia. Consonni is probably the most consistent sprinter on the Italian circuit this year with 4 wins as well as a win in the La Cote Picarde Nations Cup, which was a mass sprint ahead of Owain Doull and Daniel Hoelgaard. Consonni is certainly one of the fastest sprinters out there in the U23 ranks but if a breakaway sticks, he is relegated to sprinting for minor places. Troia will be his main lead out and even he isn't a bad sprinter himself. A stage win would be a good target.
There are two big snubs from this roster in last year's points jersey winner Davide Martinelli and Stefano Nardelli. Martinelli has been on a fantastic year this year with the Italian U23 TT win and a podium in the European U23 RR. It seems like the team is focusing on climbing but Troia over Martinelli? Nardelli on the other hand is a climber that finished 6th in Valle d'Aosta in support of Petilli while he won the GP Poggiana in a late solo breakaway.
In any case, Italy could win a stage and finish top 5 in GC.
Read l'Avenir team previews for Spain and Colombia