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Quinziato keen to rock in the city of cool

The veteran Italian rider will race one last time through his dream city in the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic on Sunday

There can’t be many professional cyclists who’d pick London over Paris as the scene for one of their last ever rides at the end of a long and distinguished career. But then, Manuel Quinziato is not like most professional cyclists.

Paris may be an iconic city in the cycling world, its annual role as scenic backdrop to the final stage of the Tour de France providing one of sport’s great spectacles.

But for the veteran Italian, a qualified lawyer and renowned domestique, London, not Paris, is the “special city” he wants to cycle in one more time before the curtain closes on his 16-year pro career at the end of this season.

Luckily, the 37-year-old will get his wish this Sunday, 30 July, when he rides the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic as part of the BMC Racing Team that counts 2015 champion Jean-Pierre ‘JP’ Drucker among its numbers.

Quinziato wasn’t part of the BMC squad two years ago and Sunday’s race will mark his RideLondon debut, a full 10 years since his only previous London appearance.

That was in the 2007 Tour de France prologue, an event that left such a stark impression on the former Italian time trial champion that he placed a return to London for Britain’s first ever UCI WorldTour race at the top of his wish-list for his swansong season… that and his love of British rock music.

“I always knew I really wanted to come to London again,” he says. “I was eighth in the prologue and I just remember the crowds that day, and the noise. The number of people was incredible. I’d never seen so many people at a bike race.

“London is really special to me, more than Paris. To me it’s really cool and a beautiful place to compete, so this will be a new race for me in an amazing place.

“London is a city I really like anyway. I love the music and the scenery is unbelievable. I’ve heard about the atmosphere at RideLondon and I just wanted to do it once in my last year as a professional.”

Quinziato has been a stalwart of the pro peloton for many years, moving from Lampre to Liquigas and then to BMC in 2011 when he played a major role in shepherding Australian Cadel Evans to the Tour de France title.

He didn’t ride the Tour this year, but in April guided Greg Van Avermaet to victory in the coveted Paris-Roubaix one-day classic, an achievement all the more remarkable give that Quinziato had completed his Master of Law degree only the previous month.

That is an achievement of which he is rightly proud, one he puts alongside his Tour de France, Dauphiné and World Championship team time trial victories, and his two Tour of Benelux stage wins, as a highlight of his time as a pro rider, not least because he was once told it would be impossible to do while competing as full-time cyclist.

“I realised that this was special because of the reaction I had from my colleagues,” he says. “I got a lot respect. There was a moment when I almost stopped and gave up, so I’m really happy I could finish before the end of my cycling career.

“I think this can be an inspiration for young kids who don’t know whether to go on studying. As someone said to me 20 years ago, ‘Being a champion lasts a year; being a man lasts a whole life.’”

Though not essential, his legal know-how will no doubt come in handy for Quinziato’s next move. In a few months he will step out of the saddle to become a cyclists’ agent and manager, hoping pass on the wisdom of his decade and a half at the top to young riders just starting out.

“My life is going to change, for sure,” he says. “But I feel it’s the right time to change, to grow and think about new challenges. I’m lucky because until now I’ve been doing my sport as a job, and soon I’ll be doing it to enjoy and stay healthy.

“It will take time to adjust,” he adds. “I will start as an agent with a small group but at a high level. I want to help the youngsters avoid mistakes. I think I have the ability to help young guys – it’s about working hard and giving the best of yourself. It’s a really big challenge but I will give everything I have.”

As he always has as a cyclist, and will do one more time in front of British fans on Sunday just 24 hours after racing in the Clasica in San Sebastian.

So does this fan of Radiohead, Blur and Oasis think he can set the mood music for the 2017 Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic?

“I hope I am not too tired after San Sebastian but I will do my best,” he says. “We have JP in the team and he’s won the race already. It depends on the weather and I don’t know how we’re going to race yet.

“But I do know it’s a tough race, where small groups can hope to get away, although it’s likely to be a sprint at the finish.”

As for his own chances of one final victory in the city of cool, he says: “Well, I’ve always been known as a very good domestique, but in the end we race for glory, that day when we raise ourselves and become a special person.”

It would be a special end to a special career.