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The winner next door


Looking at the startlist on the eve of the Giro di Sicilia 2022 it seemed clear that there was at least a good chance that the winner would be, once again, a home rider, a Sicilian. If last year’s victory of Nibali from Messina was significant and exciting for several reasons, one must admit that this year’s victory of Damiano Caruso from Ragusa has been quite suggestive.

Caruso versus Nibali was meant to be, and Caruso versus Nibali it has been: the former, however, is enjoying a more exciting moment in his career than his fellow Sicilian, and the impression is that he is currently not only in the best period of his cycling life but is also the most concrete Italian option for stage races. After all, finishing second in a Giro d’Italia behind a rider like Egan Bernal can hardly be a coincidence.

Damiano, as everyone knows, has spent most of his career working for his teammates, only sporadically showing his qualities as a captain, perhaps because not even he expected to be able to reach such high levels. Then, at last year’s Corsa Rosa, at almost 34 years of age, we all witnessed the epiphany of a still unfulfilled talent. Almost a year after that great achievement, we can say that it was not a flash in the pan. Caruso is one hell of a rider.

This Giro di Sicilia marks his first career victory in the overall classification of a stage race. The last time he did so was as an U23 in 2009 at the Giro delle Pesche Nettarine, the predecessor of the current Giro d’Italia U23. And the fact that such thing happened in his own Sicily is a lovely sign of destiny. He who, unlike many of his colleagues, has decided to move back to this region and live here for good.

“In Sicily you live very well, the summer lasts until November. You don’t even need to go on holiday, because there are plenty of wonderful places here,” he explained in an interview a few months ago. “If you practice cycling like me, here you find both mountains and plains and the roads are not busy. For me it is the perfect place to train. Perhaps it would have been easier to live in the centre-north for various reasons of comfort, but I wanted to return home to my family and my land. I had to prove first to myself and then to others that it is possible to return to Sicily. Today I can say that I have won my bet. This is a land which makes you cry when you leave it and makes you cry when you can finally return”. Let’s hope that this success in his homeland is just the beginning of another fine chapter to be written in his career.

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