Quinziato announced his impending retirement through a social media post in the immediate aftermath of Paris-Roubaix last month, so unpretentious that some thought it a joke.
The 37-year-old can count his pro career wins on two hands but he has been an instrumental part of the BMC Racing stable since joining from Liquigas in 2011 – the same year he helped Australian Cadel Evans to Tour de France glory.
Quinziato had privately told teammates at the end of last season about his decision, just before he in March completed a Master of Laws degree, which the Italian national time trial champion was once told wasn’t possible to achieve while full-time cycling.
“I didn’t need a Master degree to be an agent but it shows I’m a finisher; when I was a bike rider I could study,” he told Cycling Central from his Italy home. “It doesn’t matter what you study, I think it’s more about the person you have to become to get the degree, the Master degree, whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. It’s the organisation you have to put down to get there.”
Quinziato admits he almost fell victim to doubt – taking a hiatus from academia for five years while continuing a “comfortable” pro cycling career now in its 16th year. He’d all but relegated law before a rag to riches friend called him out and labelled the multiple team time trial world champion a “loser”.
“It’s like anything else in life, it’s just about motivation and organisation. If you’re motivated enough you do it, otherwise, you find an excuse. I was really, really close to finding an excuse,” he said.
“There were 26 exams and I got to 24 and then I didn’t study for five years because the last two exams I had to give were really, really hard. They told me a normal student in six months only studies to pass one of these exams so I said, OK, I can’t do that. I actually believed in somebody who told me I couldn’t do something.”
“For five years, I didn’t study, I said I’ll do it after my career. Then everybody was making me feel really comfortable because they were telling me, ‘you’re good, you’re a bike rider and you’re studying, how can you do that? Unbelievable.’ So, I was always comfortable. That’s a big mistake,” he continued.
“In the end one of my best friends, he told me straight - ‘you’re a loser. You’re quitting with two exams to go.’ He told me and he meant it. This made me really wake-up.”
Quinziato took two years to complete his remaining two exams, and in April last year approached a professor about completing a Master degree that he started in June. He’s also consulted his own rider agent, Giovanni Lombardi, for practical advice as he prepares for life after cycling.
“I put the achievement on the same level of the team time trial world championships because it made me raise the bar, I really had to push myself really hard to get there,” he said.
On the bike in his final year as a pro racer Quinziato has already marked a vintage campaign, notably assisting teammate Greg Van Avermaet, 31, to victory at Paris-Roubaix. He’ll take to the start line of the 100th Giro d’Italia on Friday, determined to support BMC Racing leader and title hopeful Tejay van Garderen as well as Australian wildcard Rohan Dennis.
“I want to get there with the best possible shape and see what happens,” he said. “For Tejay, it’s a big chance to show his real level. I think he can be back at that the level he was in 2014 when he was fifth in the Tour de France.
“Rohan is one of the strongest I’ve ridden with. He’s impressive, and now he’s losing weight because he has his goal of being good at a Grand Tour.”
Quinziato doesn’t speak much past the Giro, in which he’ll proudly wear his national jersey in the time trials that feature on home turf, but is nonetheless on track to a romantic ending of an expansive pro career.
“For the rest of the season for sure I want to try and keep the national time trial title. The super happy ending would be winning the TTT world championship and retiring as world champion. That would be pretty cool – like [Formula One star Nico] Rosberg!” he said.