The feeling is pretty simple: Niccolò Bonifazio’s legs and engine are nothing short of remarkable and perhaps should have brought him a few more victories than he has collected so far. Do not take us wrong, five wins over the last three and a half seasons is a respectable haul, but the Ligurian rider seems to be struggling to find a team that truly believes in him, a squad that will provide a train or, at the very least, 2 or 3 strong riders to lead him out in the final part of the race.
Today, Stage 2 of the Giro di Sicilia 2023, is the perfect example: the 29-year-old from Intermarché-Circus-Wanty masterfully worked his way through the intricate finish in the town of Vittoria (also Italian for “victory”), but he did do so on his very own, jumping from wheel to wheel and making the most of his extraordinary technical abilities (remember the crazy descent from Cipressa at Milano-Sanremo a few years ago?). Eolo-Kometa’s forcing in the last two kilometres disoriented and isolated a number of sprinters, including the highly favoured Mark Cavendish, Elia Viviani and Matteo Malucelli, who did not even try to sprint. Well, Bonifazio did! He stuck first to the Eolo-Kometa train and then to that of the UAE Team Emirates, and eventually delivered an imperious sprint that no one was able to beat.
This guy’s skills are certainly not discovered today, after all he has 21 career victories, including a prestigious stage at Paris-Nice, but it must be said that, over the course of the season, it would be nice to see him a little more often at the front battling for glory. In this 2023 he has had to sacrifice for Biniam Girmay and Gerben Thijssen, making today’s sprint his first real chance of the season.
“I finally got my opportunity!” he said immediately after the finish. And it’s a pity it only came in late April, because with a leg like that he could have done well in a variety of competitions. Tomorrow’s stage, which will take the riders from Enna to Termini Imerese, is a bit tougher for pure sprinters, as the last kilometre climbs constantly at 5%. Should Bonifazio manage to hold on and sprint as he did today, well, at that point he would have every reason to claim more space.