Brambilla seizes maglia rosa after superb win in Arezzo
A great teamwork and some superb climbing and descending skills saw Gianluca enjoy his best ever day since turning pro.
In the hometown of Giorgio Vasari – one of the leading figure of the Renaissance period – Gianluca Brambilla created his own masterpiece, as he soloed to victory in stage 8 of the Giro d'Italia, a performance which took him right to the top of the general classification. This beautiful reward, which came for all the years of hard work, for himself and for the team, also made up for the disappointment of last yseason, when the Italian was forced to miss his home race due to a broken collarbone, which he suffered just a couple of weeks before the start.
This time around, with a few weeks to go until the Giro, Gianluca experienced a whole new feeling, as he and his girlfriend, Cristina, became the proud parents of a beautiful baby girl. This only gave an extra boost of confidence and even more motivation to the 28-year-old Italian, who lined up in Netherlands last Friday for what was to be his fifth start in the Corsa Rosa, with the clear goal of making the most out of his participation.
Following a couple of quiet stages, in which he lend a hand to his teammates everytime they called for his help, Gianluca waited for the second week-end to rise to prominence, with the stage between Foligno and Arezzo being the one in which he chose to signal his intentions. After the flag was dropped, Brambilla was the first to attack and opened a small gap before being joined by 12 riders, including teammate and fellow countryman Matteo Trentin. The presence of the Paris-Tours winner in the escape was quintessential for Brambi, as Matteo put in a fantastic amount of work at the head of the group, thus ensuring an advantage of four minutes at the foot of the Alpe di Poti, a double-digit climb with 6.4 kilometers of gravel roads.
Giacomo Berlato (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Matteo Montaguti (AG2R) and Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) were the first to attack and get a gap, as Gianluca – third in Strade Bianche earlier this year – kept his composure and patiently waited for the sterrato and the 10% ramps to launch his move. On that section, he powered away, caught the three and distanced them in the blink of an eye, opening a 30-second on Montaguti, the only one who tried to get in his wheel. Further back, the peloton was disintegrating and among those to suffer was also race leader Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), who lost contact with the other GC favourites.
After the top of the second-category climb, Brambilla continued to push hard and to increase his advantage over Montaguti and the rest of the chasers, which allowed him to be more relaxed as he cruised through the medieval streets of Arezzo and approached the finish line. Cheered by hundreds of supporters, the Italian got out of the saddle one more time on the uphill roads of the town, before starting his celebration at the end of what was arguably the most spectacular and thrilling stage of this year's edition.
"I'm over the moon today. To be sincere, I was thinking of this stage ever since I came third in Strade Bianche, two months ago. At the start of the stage I decided to give it a go, but as soon as I got a gap, a group of 12 joined me. Fortunately, Matteo was there, so it was the perfect situation for us. We weren't given too much space from the peloton, just five minutes, but we stayed up on the road thanks to a fantastic Matteo. During the stage I told him that I have good feelings and he gave it his all, especially in those 20 kilometers leading to the climb of Alpe di Poti, where he went full gas", Gianluca explained right after the stage.
The Italian, who claimed his maiden victory at World Tour level and the maglia rosa on the podium in Arezzo, where the Giro returned after 13 years, continued: "I let the others attack on the climb, because I knew that the most important section is the one of dirt roads. There I accelerated and it all played into my favour. I pushed hard on both the climb and the descent, where I took some risks. Coming into the last kilometers, I realized that I'm enjoying one of the best moments of my life. I love this sport and I worked really hard every time to get where I am today."
In the past years, since joining Etixx – Quick-Step, I became more and more confident, and now I am living the dream.
"This victory is for my girlfriend, Cristina, and for my daughter, Asia, who was born just a couple of weeks ago. I can't wait to see them in Asolo. Until then, a hard individual time trial is scheduled, and I'm keen on giving my all on Sunday."
Besides Gianluca Brambilla's fantastic exploits and getting the top spot in the team classification, Etixx – Quick-Step also has Bob Jungels in the white jersey, as the young Luxembourg champion is still leading the young rider standings: "This has been a really big day for us and we played it really well. It's unbelievable to have both pink and white. On the last ascent, the peloton rode a frantic pace and I didn't have the legs to follow the favourites, but I didn't finish too far off. There's one more stage until the second rest day, and in my opinion it will be one of the key stages of this Giro d'Italia. The Chianti time trial is long, technical, has many up and downs, and the weather could play a major role out there, so I'm expecting some pretty big gaps there."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele