FOUR STAGES UNDER THE EYE OF NATIONAL COACH CELESTINO, WHO WILL BE THE PROTAGONISTS?
The countdown to the Internazionali d’Italia Series MTB 2024 has officially begun, in a season embellished by the Olympic Games in July. The most important season of every quadrennium is about to kick off; some riders have changed their uniforms and bikes, and Coach Mirko Celestino has already called the representatives of the national XCO team for the first seasonal training. While waiting to finalize the exact names of the 2024 teams, the journey towards Paris 2024 takes shape in the calendars of top riders, with an essential reference to Internazionali d’Italia Series events. Up for grabs are up to two Olympic spots for men and two for women for each National Olympic Committee. The IOC has indeed reduced the contingent expected for Paris 2024 by one unit. In total, 72 athletes will be able to compete, with two spots rightfully belonging to France and two to the so-called “universality places” assigned by the dedicated Commission. The contingents will be drawn up by adding the points of the three best-placed cyclists from each National Olympic Committee during the qualification period that began on May 7, 2022, and will close on May 26, 2024.
Here’s how the calendar of Internazionali d’Italia Series represents an ideal opportunity to test the form of those vying to wear the “azzurra” jersey, especially considering the events that count towards Olympic qualification. The four scheduled events are strategic: the debut in San Zeno di Montagna (Verona) on March 16, followed by stages in Esanatoglia (Macerata) on March 30 and in Nervesa della Battaglia – Rive degli Angeli (Treviso) on May 4, concluding in Chies d’Alpago (Belluno) on June 29.
The winner of the overall 2023 standings, Daniele Braidot of C.S. Carabinieri Olympia Vittoria (3rd in Pineta Sperane, 3rd in Esanatoglia, 1st in La Thuile, 3rd in Alpago), has a clear vision for the season, aiming to reclaim the leader’s jersey: “I’ve included IIS among my goals; two races will already be before the events in Brazil, and there we’ll need to be strong,” races that could already prove useful for selection by Coach Mirko Celestino. “The goal is to aim for the standings again this year.”
Another highly anticipated contender is Luca Braidot (Santa Cruz RockShox Pro Team), twin brother of Daniele Braidot, who won two Internazionali d’Italia Series races in 2023. Luca is a leading athlete of the national team who began his 2024 season with the Italian team retreat. His tricolor jersey will be seen in competition for the first time in the Middle East, in a direct challenge against Peter Sagan.
The young guns, becoming less young and more reference athletes. Simone Avondetto (Wilier Vittoria Factory Team) after the forced stop in 2023 is eager for redemption. He showed his talent at Esanatoglia and will want to compete for a spot in Paris. Andreas Vittone (KTM Protek Elettrosystem) and Filippo Fontana (CS Carabinieri Olympia Vittoria) are talented outsiders ready for a breakthrough. In the women’s field, there will be exciting and unpredictable challenges.
The Wilier Vittoria Factory Team will be the team to beat in the women’s category. Giada Specia and Sofie Pedersen are young athletes with powerful engines who have already challenged Martina Berta (Santa Cruz RockShox Pro Team), the reigning Italian champion.
“Internazionali have always been useful competitions for me to understand my fitness level, given the participation of important foreign athletes, and it’s a way to compete with high-level athletes. For me, it’s the reference Italian circuit. We are still finalizing the race schedule, but I plan to participate in some of the competitions in the series,” commented Giada Specia.
Chiara Teocchi (now with the Orbea Factory Team) has already included some Internazionali events in her calendar, including the one in Lamosano, which suits her well.
Elian Paccagnella, silver medalist at the Junior World Championships 2023, will make the leap to become a reference point among the U23 riders, leaving the field open in the junior category for Diego Milan (Rock Bike Team).
Similarly, Valentina Corvi, the reigning Junior European champion, will seek confirmation among the U23 riders, passing the baton to Elisa Lanfranchi (KTM Protek Elettrosystem), who was already a leader in the Internazionali d’Italia Series among the Juniors in 2023.
The Internazionali d’Italia Series 2024 calendar:
- 16TH MARCH: San Zeno di Montagna (Verona);
- 30TH MARCH: Esanatoglia (Macerata);
- 4TH MAY: Nervesa della Battaglia – Rive degli Angeli (Treviso);
- 29TH JUNE: Chies d’Alpago (Belluno).