Eighteen years is a long time. At eighteen you come of age, you can get your driver’s license and you can vote. At eighteen you are now a man, ready to face life. Here: Francesco Gavazzi, eighteen years old, has spent them in this world and riding a bike. And in eighteen years, “Gava,” has seen so much: he has changed teams and teammates, he has worked for the champions who have been lucky enough to have him on their teams, he has grinded out kilometers. And in his eighteen-year career, there is one race he has never missed: the Italian championships, which Gavazzi has always raced and which leave a special flavor in his mouth each time. Right to have him tell us about it, this race, that at the end of the season he will leave cycling and tomorrow’s will be his last Italian championships.

“The Italian championships are by far the race I have done the most: in my 18-year career, I have not missed an edition: it is a special race, because special is what is at stake. The jersey with the colors of your flag, to wear for the whole year after. And the Italian champion’s jersey is heavy to wear, we are a nation with a great cycling tradition and whoever wears it in the peloton is always viewed with great respect. There are races that can always excite, that’s it: the Italian championships are one of those races”.

What kind of race will it be tomorrow?

I have raced Italians of all kinds: completely flat, very hard…but the thing that was never lacking was great heat, and last year in Puglia we reached the maximum from this point of view. As I said, it is a particular race for many reasons, first of all the line-up of the teams is particular because there are those who start with almost twenty runners and those who start with two. But the teams with few riders usually have very strong riders because they are the Italians who race in the world tours. That’s why this is a difficult race to interpret and manage tactically. I’ve seen Italian championships where the breakaway came and others ended in a sprint: everyone tries to interpret the race in their own way, and that’s why it’s easy for there to be surprises. And that is also the beauty of the Italian championships.

Is there a particular memory related to the Italian championships?

The edition I remember most is the one in Imola in 2009, then won by Pozzato. I was coming from a Tour of Switzerland where I had hit a few podium placings, I was doing very well. We arrived in thirty riders to play the sprint, and by team order I had to pull the sprint to Cunego: he came third and I came fourth, and I am sure that time I could have played for the victory. Whenever I think about the Italian championships, I can’t help but think about that time in Imola.

Tomorrow’s favorite?

It will be a difficult race to interpret, it will be very selective because the course is very hard and the heat will be felt: a climber will win or at least a rider capable of going strong uphill. My favorite was Zana but he won’t be there, now the man to beat in my opinion becomes Ciccone.

What will you think as soon as you cross the finish line?

As soon as I cross the finish line I will think that I will have taken another step toward the end of this life. But I will be happy, because I am living this transition very well: even at the Giro d’Italia I was very serene, I am leaving cycling exactly as I wanted. Hopefully a good race will come out: for me, and for my teammates. And I hope Inter won’t sell Onana.

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