A few days before the begging of the 2014 road season we could speak with one of the best Italian young talents, the 23-year-old Valentina Scandolara. Scandolara is riding this year for the Aussie team ORICA-AIS, sharing team (and coffees) with the best female cyclist on Earth (at least according to the UCI Ranking,) Emma Johansson. This is the result of our nice chat with Vale. Enjoy!
For those Spanish fans who may don’t know who you are, how would you describe yourself?
I think it’s difficult for me to describe myself, because I think I’m a very normal person. I have lots of interests outside bike, such as animals, reading, obviously sports… I think it’s difficult to tell “I’m like this,” or “I’m like that.”
And you study Sciences And Technologies For Breeding…
Yes, well, it’s not easy to study and to be a cyclist at the same time. Being a vet was my real dream when I was little, but with the bike, well, it’s difficult to do both things!
But you have always loved sport…
When I was little I was pretty hyperactive. I did running in winter and cycling in summer, and after some years just picked cycling even being national cross country champion in running. I played soccer as well.
What cyclist were your idols when you were little?
That’s a funny question [laughs]. Marianne [Vos] became kind of an idol for me, and then she became a really good friend. She’s really nice: she’s one of the best in the world, but she’s still very kind with people… I think a champion has to be like her.
Being a junior you became European champion twice. A special moment, I guess.
Yeah, in the beginning I couldn’t realize what had happened. It was like “Europe! Europe! It’s big!” [laughs]
In your third year as a U23 cyclist, you went into Gauss. Good memories from that year, 2011?
Of course. When 2011 started, I said to myself: “look, this year is the year. If you don’t improve, you go to somewhere else, but not the bike.” My director (who nowadays is my friend), Luisiana Pegoraro, was really able to motivate me — she has been really important for me. That year I also won the European Point Race Championship in the track.
Last year you were about to win many races, but you couldn’t do it, at the end…
Yes. Sometimes I was there, but couldn’t win. Sometimes because my team had different plans, so if I was in a breakaway I could not work; and some others because I just found someone who deserved it more [laughs]. I am not the fastest sprinter and not the strongest climber – riders like me have to be brave and smart to win races. When you’re a sprinter, or a climber, you can win a lot of races. But when you are like me, not so many.
But you’re everything at a time.
Well, I am, but I’m not the best sprinting and I’m not the best climbing, and we have many riders who can do it really good in these races. I like to fight, I like to put myself in front of the bunch.
This year is your first season at ORICA-AIS. Are your teammates being good with you?
[laughs] I was very nervous before leaving Italy, because this is a big step for me. I didn’t know if I was enough for them. You are never sure if you’re going to fit in another world, another level; but I’ve found really wonderful people. It’s not just a team, it’s a family.
Did you think you were going to be as fit as you are these days in January?
I think I didn’t expect so good in January, because I started training in December with the team. Attacking is the only way to avoid the sprint, because we wanted to do an aggressive race.
When did ORICA-AIS first showed interest in you?
Hm… It was in the period of the World Championships, it’s a long story. In the beginning I didn’t want to change the team, I didn’t feel ready; but then things happened in the team and I said “okay, I look for another possibility,” and I found it. Some teams asked me, but I decided to go with ORICA-AIS.
Do the ORICA-AIS girls train with the ORICA-GreenEDGE boys?
Not yet—I don’t know if we will in the future.
I guess having Emma Johansson in the team makes you train harder to help her…
Of course. For me it’s way better to work for a leader like her, but also to be able to have the chance to win some races. I like ORICA-AIS because… wow, Emma is the number one in the world, she’s the best! But at the same time the team let the others to be there. You know you have to help, you know you have to do your work; but you can also have your opportunity.
Are you going to miss racing in Italy as often as usual?
Not really. ORICA-AIS calendar is pretty similar, because in Italy we have many good races. And ORICA is based in Varese, so I don’t think it’s gonna be so different from 2013. Of course I will miss my old teammates, but we will see each other at the races.
And will you be again on the cyclo-cross mud next winter?
I still don’t know my plans for next winter. I like cyclo-cross and surely sooner or later I will go back to do it again. I like track as well and if I have the possibility (maybe with my military team) I would like to go for some Point Race World Cup in the next years. We will see, nothing is written yet, I am just focusing on my 2014 with the amazing ORICA-AIS squad.
What objectives do you have for this year?
I want to do it well at the National Championships – they are close to the Giro d’Italia, so hopefully, if I I perform well at the National Championships, I will be fine for the Giro. And then the World Championships, where I’d like to do it better than last year.
Here goes a hard question. Do you think you will be world champion, some year?
It’s a dream. Not only mine, it’s the dream of every rider, I think. I would like to have the chance to be the leader of the Italian team some year. I still have to improve, but that is one of my targets.
You have raced the Emakumeen Bira several years…
Yes! I love Bira, I think it’s my favorite race. It was my first race in the elite and I love it, but I also hate it. [laughs] It’s very hard! I don’t know if it’s going to exist this year…
It’s going to be a 4-stages-race.
Great! Perfect, then!