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MALLORCA, Spain (Reuters) - Davide Formolo could have gone into the wine trade in the Valpolicella region before the Italian opted instead to pursue a professional cycling career that now appears full of promise one year in.
"My grandfather had a lot of vine plants and I could have gone to work with him every day but I preferred to ride," said the 22-year-old who was seventh in last year's demanding Tour of Switzerland.
"Sorry grandfather...," he laughs in an interview with Reuters during a training camp with his Cannondale-Garmin team.
It all started when Formolo would go to see his brother, a bike rider, race on Sundays.
"When we were back home I would imagine racing against him in my head on the little plaza in my home town (of Negrar)," said Formolo.
He was quickly spotted in the youth ranks just like Fabio Aru, the 24-year-old Astana rider who finished third in the Giro d'Italia last season and fifth in the Tour of Spain.
"We've known each other for five years, we were team mates in the Italian team, he (Aru) is a good guy, very friendly," said Formolo who last year finished second to Vincenzo Nibali in the national championships.
"Where he (Formolo) ends up none of us know but he is a huge talent not just physically but also psychologically, he is strong mentally," Formolo's Cannondale-Garmin manager Jonathan Vaughters told Reuters.
"He trains very hard and likes it. He is one of the few riders who gets upset when the weather is bad and he can't train for five, six hours. He is angry about it, really angry. He wants to be working hard."
Formolo may be young but he has already identified his own strong and weak points.
"I'm very good at climbing and recovery," he said cheekily.
As he tries to become a grand tour specialist, Formolo knows he needs to improve in the solo effort against the clock, something that sorts the wannabes from the true champions.
"(I need to get better in the) TT (time trials) of course because I want to be a racer for the GC (general classification) and now if you want to be good in GC you need to be good in TT," said Formolo.
"I use my time trial bike every day for one, two or three hours, it's important."
Formolo underlined his credentials early this season when he was third behind Alejandro Valverde and Stephen Cummings in the Trofeo Andratx, a race decided with a brutal uphill finish.
He is unlikely to ride in a grand tour this season as his new team are set to let him bloom in one-week stage races such as the Tour of California.
Formolo said he felt good at Cannondale-Garmin, the youngest team on the elite World Tour.
"Maybe it's a risk (to be the youngest team) but it's also good for me," he explained.
Formolo said a pre-season training camp involving sailing in the Caribbean helped him blend in. "I could get to know my team mates outside of cycling," he added.
Cannondale-Garmin are the result of a merger between Italian outfit Cannondale and U.S. team Garmin. It was an association that did not seem natural at first but those few days out on the water helped, said the young rider.
"In sailing if you don't know how to say 'push' or 'pull', you cannot go (forward) so it was good to improve my English," he explained.
Formolo is now riding on the Tour of the Algarve. He will then test himself against the big guns on the week-long Tirreno-Adriatico race, the Criterium International, the Tour of the Basque Country and the Tours of California and Switzerland.
(This version of the story changes name in brackets in para 8 from Aru to Formolo)
Editing by Tony Jimenez