Daniele Bennati is a rising force of sprint and overall strength. In 2005 he finally put his marker down with six solid wins, a third in Gent-Wevelgem and a second in Paris-Tours. Not limited to bunch gallops, he is also comfortable on the cobbled power-climbs of the Flanders. The 25 year-old Toscano, with added support from a close-knit Lampre-Fondital squadra, is on track for a prosperous 2006. BiciRace.com stopped Benna between races and asked him a few questions ranging from hammering the pavé to flavors of gelato. Enjoy...
BiciRace.com: Ciao Daniele. Thanks for joining BiciRace.com in an interview. Have you visited BiciRace.com? Do you like the website?
Daniele Bennati: Yes, the site is very nice looking. I like it a lot.
BR: Thanks for surfing the site. So tell us, how did you discover cycling? Was cycling in the family?
DB: Yes, my father raced up through the Dilettanti [amateur] category. And my brother also raced through the junior category. So yes, cycling is a passion within my family.
BR: Through your family is a great way to learn. And when was your first?
DB: My first race on the road was in 1990 and I won.
BR: That was a great way to start! Which was your first as a professional?
DB: I turned pro in 2002 and immediately raced in the Tour of Qatar.
BR: Did you also win your first pro race?
DB: I did not win there but the race went well overall.
BR: So since Qatar, in the last four years, which riders have taught you the most?
DB: Well, without a doubt the rider that taught me the most was Mario Cipollini.
BR: Right, you turned professional in 2002 with Acqua & Sapone, Cipollini's team. Was it a good experience in those two years that you rode with him?
DB: Yes, certainly it was Cipollini who helped me in those years.
"It is the best result that I have ever obtained in a one day classic. ... I hope that this result is a good omen." - Benna, after finishing second in Paris-Tours.
BR: An excellent way to start your pro career, under the guidance of Cipollini. ... Congratulations on last year's fabulous season. What was your last race for 2005?
DB: Thanks. My last race in 2005 was Paris-Tours.
BR: So, Paris-Tours is famous among the sprinters and you finished 2nd. What are you memories of this battle with the likes of Zabel [1st], Davis [3rd] and McEwen [4th]?
DB: I remember how I arrived second, and only a few centimeters behind. This still stings me a little bit, nonetheless it was a great result for me.
BR: That race came down to the wire... It was very exciting to see you almost get one over on Zabel. What were you using up front? Did you use a 54 big ring?
DB: I used a 53 by 11 combination for that sprint.
BR: In 2005 you also had three wins in the Deutschland Tour and two in the Tour de Pologne. After winning one stage was it easier to win the others?
DB: Yes ... True. After the first stage I am unblocked, and also mentally. So I managed to be right on target for the other two stage wins.
BR: Which races are on your program for the first part of 2006?
DB: I just fished the Gran Premio Costa degli Etruschi, Tour Méditerranéen and Laigueglia. From here I will take part in [Vuelta Comunidad] Valenciana, Giro di Lucca, Tirreno-Adriatico and then Milano-Sanremo.
BR: Will you captain Lampre-Fondital for Sanremo?
DB: Yes, I believe this will be the case.
BR: Which teammates will you want for the race?
DB: I think [Alessandro] Ballan, [Daniele] Righi, [Paolo] Fornaciari, [Claudio] Corioni, [Ruggero] Marzoli ...
BR: The race is mostly a flat affair but with the hills arriving at the end. What do you think makes the Cipressa and Poggio so difficult?
DB: Right, they are climbs that are not that hard on their own but after the distance of 250 kilometers they then become very hard.
BR: What are your first memories of the races up North, like Flanders? Did you watch them on TV as a child?
DB: Yes, the earliest memories of those beautiful races were watching them on TV.
BR: You have made Flanders one of your key goals for this season. Who do you think will be your key rivals?
DB: Oh, without a doubt it will be Boonen, Ballan and Van Petegem ... And I also hope Bennati.
BR: So is it the Tour of Flanders, or another race that you would most love to add to your palmarès before the end of your career?
DB: The World Championships.
BR: Lampre-Caffita has changed to Lampre-Fondital. Also the bicycles have changed from Cannondale (Six13) to Wilier. How do you like the Wilier?
DB: Yes, we changed from Cannondale over from last year. The Cannondale was a great bicycle for me. Now I am racing with the Wilier and I am finding it just as great.
BR: Which model do you ride? Le Roi?
DB: Yes, in fact I just raced for the first time on the Le Roi at Laigueglia.
BR: The Wilier Le Roi is an all-carbon model but will you have a special frame from Wilier for Flanders and Roubaix?
DB: For Flanders I think that I will just use the Le Roi while for the Paris-Roubaix I will have a different frame. I will have a special Wilier frame in steel.
BR: In addition to a steel frame do you prefer a special wheelset for the pavé?
DB: I prefer traditional wheels with 32 spokes with low profile rims. Tubulars for both races... For Flanders a 23 tire and for Roubaix a 26.
BR: OK, when you are not hammering the pavé or training, what do enjoy?
DB: I like to be with my wife Chiara and my purebred Cocker ... His name is Pepe.
BR: And do you have a favorite plate of food? A special Arezzo plate?
DB: My favorite plates are pizza and Chianina steak. [Chianina beef is a huge white oxen raised in the Val di Chiana, near Arezzo.]
BR: We love the pizza here in Italy. And do you have a favorite flavor of gelato?
DB: I prefer nocciola [hazelnut] and pistachio.
BR: Good combination! Daniele thank you for taking time out of your schedule for a BiciRace.com Interview. Good luck with the start of the season. Ciao!
DB: Alright, see you soon.