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In her own words, this is “just the beginning” for Marta Cavalli.
The Italian climber, who just turned 24 last month, attacked to the biggest win of her young career at the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday. It is also one of the most prestigious wins so far for her French FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope squad.
Cavalli has been knocking on the door of greatness for some time with top-10 results at many of the biggest races on the calendar, as well as taking the Italian national title when she was just 20 years old, and this Amstel Gold Race victory is confirmation of her talent. It may well be the start of something bigger for the young Italian.
“These are incredible feelings, I still can’t believe it,” Cavalli said in a team press release.
“Every time I look at my phone, I still cry because a lot of friends and fans write to me to congratulate me. It’s a lot of emotion for me because I’ve done a lot of work to get here, and a lot of people are involved with me. I think it’s the best way to say thank you to everyone world. I love my job and it was the best way to end the day. It’s not the finish line, it’s just the beginning.”
Cavalli is in just her second season with the FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope team after moving to it for the 2021 season. The 24-year-old is part of a strong contingent of young riders that have come through the hugely successful Italian system.
She started her professional road career in 2017 with the Valcar Travel & Service squad, a team that has nurtured talents such as world champion Elisa Balsamo, Dwars door Vlaanderen winner Chiara Consonni, Gent-Wevelgem podium finisher Maria Giulia Confalonieri, and Cavalli’s new teammate Vittoria Guazzini.
As part of the Italian national set-up, Cavalli also has a strong record on the track with a European title in the team pursuit from 2019, as well as silver in the individual competition. In recent seasons, Cavalli has left the track behind but her history on the boards has stood her in good stead for the road time trial discipline.
Last season, she helped Italy to gold in the European mixed relay competition and was part of the squad that took gold at the worlds. She also finished fourth at the Chrono des Nations at the end of last year, behind the likes of Marlen Reusser, Anne Kiesenhofer, and Mieke Kröger.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s more.
This year has seen us praise men’s Tour de France champion Tadej Pogačar for his decision to go all-in at some of the big cobbled classics and his ability to master them. For now, however, Pogačar is steering clear of Paris-Roubaix.
Cavalli has yet to win a grand tour, but she has the capability of doing so and has been gradually closing in on a huge result at the Giro d’Italia with sixth overall in 2021 her best result so far. She also competed in the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes last season, taking ninth place, and she’s going to have another bash at it this weekend.
Timed to perfection
Back to the Amstel Gold Race, and Cavalli’s move over the top of the Cauberg with just under two kilometers to go was timed to perfection. She sat at the back of the group as Annemiek van Vleuten did her best to try and crack her rivals, waiting for the right moment.
That moment came when van Vleuten pulled off the front and there was a moment of indecision in the small group. As Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio looked over her right shoulder to assess the group, Cavalli charged up the left and had a clear advantage before anyone noticed she had gone.
The fraction of a second decision was enough for Cavalli to get the gap she needed, and it was something the team had planned for in the days leading up to the race.
“[When] we did the recon and we spoke about this moment when you are in the back and in the front they slowed down, this is the key moment,” Cavalli explained. “It’s an incredible feeling, I can’t believe it. I have to thank my sport director in the car, because in the last 15k, I didn’t have a really nice feeling. I felt a bit tired.
“When we arrived at the top of the Cauberg for the last time, we were with eight or nine riders [eight -ed] and he pushed me on the radio and said ‘Marta, this is your moment. It’s the money time, try, try you have nothing to lose.’ We went with this motto, ‘all or nothing,’ and I tried. After 500 meters, I turned my head back and I saw a big gap and I was just pushing to the finish line.”
While others had long ditched their leg warmers, and some had even disposed of their arm warmers, Cavalli was noticeably wrapped up against the Dutch weather — and even wore toe covers.
The Italian had learned a hard lesson the previous season when she could only manage 83rd place.
“Last year, in this race, I was very cold, and I wanted to avoid repeating this bad feeling because my legs would not be good. I preferred to stay more covered and warmer and have a better feeling,” she explained.