Damiano Caruso is one of the strongest and most appreciated interpreters of our cycling. The rider from Ragusa (the southernmost professional in Europe, ed) of Bahrain-Victorious in 2020 was the best Italian both at the Tour de France and at the Imola World Championship where he finished in tenth position. Then the Giro d’Italia 2021 where he managed to do something immense that will remain forever in the history of our sport, winning at the top of Alpe Motta and finishing second behind Egan Bernal in the overall. Caruso is the symbol of strong cycling, of those who as a child left their home for a race, for a place in the team. He studied and grew up, he did his duty with sacrifice and passion to pursue his dream. Then the return home with the awareness of having accomplished something great after a life as a wingman for great captains.
How are you Damiano?
“Well, that’s not bad. I’m traveling and I’m returning home (after the Tirreno-Adriatico, ed.) “.
What are the sensations of this start of the season?
“The sensations are more than positive because I had a winter as I looked for it and therefore quiet in the first part, and then continued with a block of height at Teide and then I went directly to the Ruta del Sol. Already in this first race I had perceived to be well advanced, the Tirreno-Adriatico received confirmation. I wasn’t there as a captain, but as a sidekick for Landa and Bilbao. The average level at the Tirreno was very high and we managed to bring home a good week. Closing with a top ten is a good sign that gives me morale for the rest of the season ”.
How will your calendar continue now? We won’t see you at the Corsa Rosa but will you be at the start of the Tour de France?
“The goal of this season for me will be the Tour. But first I’ll be at the start of the Milan-Sanremo, the Giro di Sicilia with the National team and then the Giro di Romandia. After that I will stop for a while and then start again with the high ground and then the Tour of Switzerland, the Italian Championship and the Tour de France ”.
What does it mean for you not to have the opportunity to try to reconfirm the podium obtained last year at the Giro? Could it have been within your reach?
“I’m a little sorry, especially because I would have liked to reciprocate the affection received last year from the public. Of course, however, you must always find a compromise between what I want to do and what the team needs. At the Tour I will not take care of the general classification, but I would like to win a stage also because this would mean having managed to win a stage in all three Grand Tours. There are still a few months to go, but this is the idea. Round? Maybe I’ll be back next year. I don’t know if this year I would have managed to repeat the podium, surely if I had been at the start of the Corsa Rosa I would have tried to reconfirm the podium even if it would not have been easy. A top5 is more affordable ”.
Wouldn’t you like to be captain in the team, especially after last year’s second place in the Giro?
“This year I will turn 35 and therefore overwhelming what has always been my career as a wingman is not easy. I’m asserting myself and I’m taking away some great satisfactions. You can always become a captain along the way, as happened last year at the Giro d’Italia ”.
What do you prefer between Giro and Tour?
“Definitely the Giro, not so much for the podium last year, but for the fact that it is raced in Italy, on home roads, I like the warmth of the public on the side of the road and also on a technical level I prefer it over the Tour, the routes are more suited to my characteristics and it is less hot than in July. But the Tour also has its charm ”.
We are in the years of generational change. What do you think of these young people who are emerging?
“Wow! This I think (he tells us laughing, ed). This week I had the chance to run closely with guys like Pogacar, Evenepoel, Vingegaard just to name a few. It is the new that advances, it is normal that this is the case. The difference from ten years ago? Today boys mature earlier and are successful from a very young age. This is the new cycling we all have to adapt to ”.
We are seeing many young foreign champions and a few Italians. Why?
“I don’t know, but I’d like to understand why. In my opinion it all starts from the fact that in Italy there is no real school with a World Tour team and its reference nursery. For stage races today we have good elements like Ciccone, but we don’t have the phenomenon of the moment. Maybe it will come … “.
What kind of relationship do you have with Vincenzo Nibali?
“I have a good relationship with Vincenzo, we often hear and discuss also on aspects not inherent to cycling”.
Is there a moment with him that you carry most in your heart?
“The 2019 Giro d’Italia in the Bahrain-Merida jersey. We lived the whole season in close contact and then being in the Giro to fight for the final victory was a very important period which also strengthened our friendship ”.