• Valentina Scandolara has made Australia a second base for her training (Kirsty Baxter)Source: Kirsty Baxter
It’s rare that a foreign cyclist is so wholeheartedly embraced by Australians, but Valentina Scandolara’s case is different.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

22 Jan 2016 - 10:31 AM  UPDATED 22 Jan 2016 - 10:31 AM

After two years riding with Orica-AIS and a few summers staying with the the Edmonson family and her friends in Melbourne, many are claiming the Italian as an Aussie.

“You know, I love Australia, it feels like a second home for me now,” Scandolara told Zela. “So many friends and people that I feel really close to. I’m not in an Australian team anymore, but I’ll probably come back often.”

Scandolara, who now rides for Cylance Pro Cycling, had hoped to kick start her season with a successful title defence of the Santos Women’s Tour crown, which she won last year. She looked to be in some handy form, coming off a win in the Bay Cycling Classic, but she couldn’t recapture that winning form in Adelaide.

Nonetheless, she remains optimistic for the early season. After leaving Orica-AIS at the end of last season, she will take on more responsibility with her new team. With more leadership opportunities, Scandolara hopes to take some results that will cement her pathway on to the Italian squad for the Olympic road race in Rio.

“From the first day I didn’t feel in the best form, I thought I was better,” she said of the Santos Women’s Tour. “I’m pretty confident my form will come back soon.

“We have a really cohesive group of girls. We just met but we had a lot of fun this week. I’m confident that we’re going to have a great year.

“I’ll have a try in some of the early races of the season, not the really heavy cobbled ones, but Strade Bianche, Cittiglio, I really like those races. So I’ll need to be in form around March/April then be good for the Giro.” Building and maintaining her form for the Rio Olympics is also part of the plan.

Scandolara is renowned for her attacking style of racing, often breaking away from the main bunch well before the favourites have decided to make a race of it. With her increased responsibility this season, the small Italian knows that she’ll have to tone down her attacking instincts a bit, but not too much.

“I’ll be trying to ride more smart and think about the win, rather than just be out there and have fun, but I think this attacking style will always be with me.

“I’m training to become better in a few fields. I’m trying to improve my sprinting ability, with Shelley Olds, she will teach me a lot. But I’ll need to be stronger in the climbs for Rio as well, so it will be about finding that balance.”

With a lot of cyclists, you get a feeling that they are very single-minded in pursuing their ambitions. Scandolara, by comparison, has an eclectic personality, and has a life that isn’t permanently bound to cycling.

“I think with everything in life, if you don’t have fun, then you’re not obtaining great things. If one day I don’t like it anymore I’ll stop,” she said.

“I’m a really curious person, I have a lot of interests and I want to do a lot of things. I don’t see myself riding until I’m 50 as some people did already. Every year is a new year, and every day a new day, so if I don’t feel like it anymore I quit and do something else.”

Given Scandolara’s current enthusiasm for cycling, that day looks a while away yet.