Lining up in Bastogne on April 24 to face La Doyenne (“The Old Lady”) will be young Italian climber Barbara Malcotti. As the program’s first-ever rider from “il bel paese,” the 22-year-old who hails from the Dolomites of Trentino is well-suited to the hilly Ardennes test that will face the riders at the sixth Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes.
Having finished in 26th place in 2021, Malcotti hopes to use the experience of cresting the climbs of the Amstel Gold Race, De Brabantse Pijl and Flèche Wallone Féminine to better her result.
“It is one of the races that I like the most as I prefer long climbs with not too steep slopes like those of the walls here in Belgium. Last year I achieved a good result but I would like to be able to improve myself more over the years.”
Having grown up in the mountains, Malcotti has a natural affinity for those days on the bike where flat roads are impossible to come by.
“I leave the house and find climbs everywhere,” she says, describing her home town of Tione di Trento. “They are long climbs and you have no choice to go on the flat because even only a ten-kilometer ride will be up and down anyway.
Having previously raced for the Italian Valcar – Travel & Service team, 2022 marked a step out of Maclotti’s comfort zone as she switched to an American-based program that is comprised of riders and staff of 13 different nationalities. She hopes to “become an athlete on the same level” as ex-teammates, Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallone winner Marta Cavalli and current world champion and “great friend,” Elisa Balsamo.
“It is a totally different environment,” she says. “I like it very much and I get along very well with my teammates as well as with all the staff. There is professionalism but at the same time fluency on aspects that are of fundamental importance for Italy.”
A potentially daunting early-season transition was made smoother by the support of team directors Joanne Kiesanowski and Andrew Bajadali.
“They are very helpful and I integrated well and it is nice to know other lifestyles and cultures,” the 22-year-old explained. “The team are teaching me a lot of their ways of life, we exchange cooking recipes and tips and teach each other words and phrases that are typical of our countries so we are looking to work together to build a competitive team.”
Malcotti’s grace on two wheels is matched by her hospitality off them, which included preparing ten pizzas for the squad after a gruelling edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift. She will drop everything and cook even the press officer some food to create a communal evening meal, a metaphorical and practical expression of commitment in the Italian gastronomical culture.
As well as leading the team through the Setmana Valenciana stage race and the Ardennes races, Malcotti has also had new chances to adapt as a rider by taking on a spring campaign that included Strade Bianche, Ronde van Drenthe, Dwars door Vlaanderen and the Tour of Flanders, challenges she was not afforded on her previous team.
“The team are allowing me to gain a lot of experience that I have been missing from the past years,” she explains. “I am experiencing wind, pavé, cobbled climbs and all kinds of roads.”
Malcotti already knows she will be wearing a Human Powered Health jersey in 2023, by which time she will be 24 and have her debut Women’s WorldTour season in the legs. Right now, the introduction to WorldTour racing has represented a steep learning curve.
“The level is very high and there are very strong athletes, but the goal is always to do the best possible – maybe one day I will be able to get a good result for the team.”
The young Italian says she’s happy to be in a team where she doesn’t have a lot of pressure to bear on her shoulders, but she has an eye on steady improvement through the season.
“I would like to improve a lot this year and thanks to the numerous races that the team is allowing me to ride, even the ones that don’t match my strengths, I am bringing home a lot of experience,” she says, before adding in true Italian fashion:
How to watch
In North America, FloSports has live coverage of the racing and in Europe, it can be caught on the Eurosport Player and GCN+. Live images from the women’s race start at 5:30 am ET with coverage joining around the majestic Côte de La Redoute.
To keep up with all the action ahead of the TV, make sure to stay across the team’s updates on social media as we will be bringing wall-to-wall coverage from Belgium.