The Big Feature: Androni’s Daniele Ratto

Every rider in the professional peloton has their own unique tale. Here at VeloVoices, we try to give a voice to some of the more unsung ones. I recently spent an evening with Androni’s Daniele Ratto, a rider I first met back in spring 2014, when he seemingly had the world at his feet, after an audacious descent to win the most challenging Pyrenean stage in Vuelta a Espana 2013.

Two years after our first meeting , it was good to catch up with him.

Sheree: So what’s new?

Daniele: I have moved and I now live two kilometres higher up in the mountains. Okay now it’s only 10°C, no more, but I prepare for the cold by wearing a t-shirt at home, not sweaters, though my mother and girlfriend complain about the temperature. I didn’t mind the rain but after my crash [on stage 4, Tour de Suisse 2014], where I broke my collarbone, I have a little anxiety now when it’s wet. In Donoratico [GP Costa degli Etruschi] this year, I was with the leading group but the downhill was a little wet, so I had some worry.

Sheree: So it’s the mental aspect of that crash that makes you more cautious?

Daniele: Yeah, sometimes I remember the crash sound. In that moment, I didn’t have pain but I remember the front wheel of Degenkolb and BOOM! I broke my collarbone in four places, one bit exploded, so the doctor had to rebuild it and now I have a big scar (Daniele shows me the scar).

I spent one month doing nothing. I had a lot of bruising on my knee and shoulder. I had to stand up three to four times per day but it was so painful, I cried. I also had a problem with my head because I broke my helmet when I fell. After the operation, I couldn’t move my legs because I was in such pain. It took two and a half months before I was back racing on my bike. I did Brussels Cycling Classic [September 2014], then the next day at GP de Fourmies, I had a fever of 40°C. I got bronchitis and that was the end of the season.

Sheree: You joined US ProConti team United HealthCare in 2015. As an Italian, how did you find that?

Daniele: It was a good team and I would have liked to stay another year but they lost one of their bigger sponsors, Aegis, and had budget issues, which meant they had to reduce the number of riders.

American cycling is very different to here in Italy. Here it’s all about the racing, training and food. In the US, the race is important, but the sponsor wants action on social media before and after the race. I think it’s correct because it’s helping the sponsor. At the Tour of California, the sponsor was there with us every day on the bus. This isn’t possible in Europe – after the stage, it’s shower, change, massage, dinner, sleep.

When I arrived at the first training camp I understood nothing, but now, it’s better although my English grammar is really bad. In Italy, when you’re in an Italian team, you speak only Italian.

Sheree: Typically, who do you train with?

Daniele: I created a group with WhatsApp because, in my valley, 10-15 guys ride together. Zilioli from Nippo, Villella from Cannondale, Boaro from Tinkoff – he has a girlfriend near my house, Vanotti and Tiralongo from Astana. Now my Colombian teammate Rodolfo Torres stays in my apartment and we ride every day together.

Sheree: I seem to recall in your Cannondale days, you were King of the PlayStation league? Have you retained your crown at Androni?

Daniele: No, I haven’t time to play now. In the morning, I ride four to five hours. When I come back my girlfriend has cooked and after I do the, how do you say bricolage in English?

Sheree: DIY, do it yourself.

Daniele: Now I have finished the house but I must do the little room because on 3 July I will become a father. It’s a boy, a little cyclist. I prefer because I think I can play more with him.

Sheree: Congratulations! So how long is your contract with Androni?

Daniele: One year. I like this team, not only because it’s Italian, but for the rider you can be more free. I didn’t want to do GP Lugano because it’s a hard race for me, and my mind wasn’t ready after the Tour la Provence. The directeur said that’s okay I could stay at home and train. This is rare. I have my space, I respect my teammates and it’s good.

Daniele and a few of his new teammates (image D Ratto)

Daniele and a few of his new teammates (image D Ratto)

Everything’s a bit more relaxed. There’s only one problem– we must have invites for WorldTour races. We lost our invite for Giro d’Italia, but we did Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-Sanremo. We have a good calendar but without the Giro d’Italia, we could lose our sponsor. In my opinion, we must put Italian teams in the Giro.

Sheree: And your upcoming race schedule?

Daniele: I didn’t finish Strade Bianche so I could ride the following day (GP Industria & Artigianato) to help Gavazzi – he finished fifth, but I didn’t finish. I missed Milan-Sanremo so I can come back for Cholet-Pays de Loire and Coppi e Bartali.

I lost six kilograms this winter. It was a combination of training and a change in eating. I eat less gluten, I only have a bit of bread at breakfast. I’ve lost muscle from my upper body, but it’s better for climbing and my stomach is much better. I can now do 400 watts for much longer without pain in my legs.

Sheree: Has your role in the team changed at Androni?

Daniele: Not really. At Cannondale, I worked mostly for Viviani, sometimes Peter [Sagan]. But Peter doesn’t really need teammates, he can survive on his own. He’s just happy if you bring him water or food.

Daniele winning stage 14 Vuelta a Espana 2013 (image: Cannondale)

Ratto winning stage 14 Vuelta a Espana 2013 (image: Cannondale)

Sheree: What would you like to achieve at Androni?

Daniele: My aim this season is to win a race or a stage. It’s three years since my last victory. I don’t know where but I need a new win. I get lots of third places and top 10 finishes. I try and work really hard for this but Italian teams tend to take each day and race as it comes.

You can follow Daniele Ratto on Twitter, Strava and Facebook.

Header image taken at Strade Bianche sign-on © Richard Whatley

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