Pirazzi notches up first Grand Tour stage with well-timed Giro attack

by Shane Stokes

Launching his move just before the final kilometre and benefiting of the indecision of his breakaway companions, Italian rider Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani CSF) notched up his team’s third stage victory in this year’s Giro d’Italia.

The 2013 Giro King of the Mountains showed strong instinct with a jump at the perfect time, and hit the line in Vittorio Veneto ahead of Tim Wellens (Lotto Belisol), Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff-Saxo), Thomas De Gendt (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team) and Matteo Montaguti (AG2R La Mondiale).

While he has taken that mountains title in the Giro and also the same award in Tirreno-Adriatico, today’s result was his first time hitting the line first as a professional.

“It had become a five-year obsession. I always knew a win would come, and I was sick of the criticism: ‘Pirazzi gets it wrong, Pirazzi’s attack comes to nothing’,” he said. “Everyone has his way of riding. I’ve always tried to put on a show. I turned pro very young and I had to learn the ropes.”

When he crossed the line he gave the continental version of the two fingered salute, punching the air while bringing his other arm to the inside of his elbow. It showed his relief at taking a long-awaited victory, but was something he admitted afterwards that he wished he didn’t do.

“Winning today was very important for me, and, in my emotion, I made a gesture on the finish line. I regret it now and I would like to apologise,” he said.

Following a pre-stage debate about yesterday’s controversial descent from the Stelvio, team managers instructed their riders to take to the start. The day’s big move went clear early on and comprised twenty riders, including Pirazzi, Wellens, McCarthy, De Gendt, Montaguti, former race leader Enrico Gasparotto (Astana), 2004 race winner Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida), Fabio Felline (Trek Factory Racing), Lars Bak (Lotto-Belisol), Philip Deignan (Sky), Simon Geschke (Giant-Shimano), Alberto Losada (Katusha), Daniel Oss (BMC Racing Team), Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida), Eduard Vorganov (Katusha), Igor Anton (Movistar), Davide Malacarne (Europcar), Marco Canola (Bardiani), Jos Van Emden (Belkin), Nicola Boem (Bardiani), Oscar Gatto (Cannondale), Johan Le Bon (FDJ), Evgeni Petrov (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Jussi Veikkanen (FDJ).

The group opened a lead of over twelve minutes with sixty kilometres remaining, ensuring that it would stay clear. De Gendt won a stage and finished third overall two years ago and was psyched up to try to return to Giro success, attacking on the day’s final climb and opening a gap.

However he was later joined by Pirazzi, McCarthy, Wellens and Montaguti and these five opened up what would be a decisive gap on their former breakaway companions.

“In the first hour, it was very fast and intense. There were attacks on the climbs, and that’s how I got into the breakaway,” said Pirazzi. “In the closing kilometres there was five of us. On paper I was the slowest, but after many hours of riding at high speed, the others lacked their usual finishing speed.

“De Gendt frightened me more than the others. When he goes, it’s difficulty to bring him back. When he attacked, I spoke to my team-mate [Boem] and told him to try to bring him back, and then I tried to save as much energy as possible for the finish. I attacked with 2.5 km to go, but they chased me down. I attacked again 1.2 km from the line, and stayed away. I chose the right moment.”

Race leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar) had extra pressure due to criticism about his attack on the descent of the Stelvio, a move which went clear when the riders were supposed to stay behind the motorbikes waving red flags. He was dismissive of the controversy.

“It makes me laugh, because in reality everyone here and everyone watching on TV knows what happened,” he said. “I didn’t go down in a car or on a motorbike. I came down on a bike, on the same roads as everyone else. A few riders refused to shake my hand this morning, but there are always people who cannot accept defeat, and many others, who ride for the teams whose directors sportifs are now arguing, came to congratulate me on my win. They know what really happened.”

He continues to hold a one minute 41 second advantage over Rigoberto Uran Uran (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) and over three minutes twenty seconds on Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) plus Pierre Rolland (Team Europcar).

He said that he will expand that advantage if possible. “There are two mountain stages coming up that suit me. If I have a good day, I’ll show myself. I will ride as a team leader, and I’ll honour the Maglia Rosa, and, if the opportunity arises, why not add time to my lead?”

“I have proven that I have the means to be where I am,” he continued. “If it hadn’t been for the breakaway at Oropa, when I was still ill, I might have won, and I was second behind Aru’s spectacular attack at Plan di Montecampione], beating the other favourites by several seconds.”

As for Pirazzi, he is proud of his Giro thus far and wants to keep pushing the pace on at least one of the remaining stages. “Last year I was on the attack a lot to win the Maglia Azzurra, but this year the goal was to win a stage,” he said. “I’ve only joined two breakaways in this Giro, and today went well for me and I’ve done it. I’ve had a good Giro so far, and there is still a mountain time trial to come, which I’ll try to ride well.”

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