To dominate the field, get five or six of more riders in the top 10 of nost races they took part in, or launch the likes of Popovych, Bernucci, Timochine and other talented guys was no longer enough. So the mighty Zoccorinese-Vellutex-Palazzago, Italy's most powerful Amateur team, set a new target: to win the hearts of female cycling fans. And to attain such a difficult objective, they seemingly chose the right person: according to the Italian "Kataweb Sport" website and other sources, the latest addition to the team's ranks is nobody else but 26-year-old Luca Ricci, a professional male model, and winner of the 2000 edition of "Il piú bello d'Italia" ("Italy's nicest man"), a beauty pageant seen as the male counterpart of "Miss Italia".
Even before signing for Zoccorinese, Mr. Ricci was not stranger to cycling anyway: an amateur rider himself, Luca is the grandson of Mario Ricci, an excellent professional rider of the 40s and 50s that even won a Giro di Lombardia in 1941, ranked 5th at the 1948 Worlds in Valkenburg, and was coach of the Italian National Team from 1967 to 1972. "Cycling is the biggest passion in my family. And now, after being a successful model, I want to get some satisfactions as a rider too" Ricci said.
Plan so bring the 2000 winner of "Italy's nicest" contest immediately won the approval of Olivano Locatelli, Zoccorinese's Team Director, and one of the best and most experienced managers in the amateur scene (Mr. Locatelli's portrait-interview is available here): "Ricci's signing may good for the image not just of our team, but also of cycling as a whole, as it could raise more interest in this sport" he said.
Unfortunately Luca Ricci is well above the age of the 23, such that he will be able to compete only in a few races, the ones sanctioned as UCI 1.6 and 2.6, but not in the several 1.7 and 2.7 events reserved for Under 23 riders. As an Elite-2, Ricci might also take part in "open" contests (UCI ranked 1.5 and 2.5) along with the pros, and - in theory at least - challenge the beauties of Cipo and Danilo "Di Caprio" Di Luca on the bike.
As for the man's palmares, seems that Mr. Ricci so far has been more successful as a model than a rider. In 2000 (the year he became "Italy's nicest") and 2001, he rode for G.S. Fratelli Giovaniello, a small amateur team, without getting any significant result. Last year things went a little better, as he got some good placings riding with the Velo club Annemasse (a French squad) outfit, before suffering a shoulder fracture in June.