PIAN DEI RESINELLI, Italy (VN) — Matteo Rabottini survived an all-day escape on the rain-soaked roads in Lombardy to win big — a grand tour stage in the Giro d’Italia. The Farnese Vini-Selle Italia rider was one of the wild cards, one of the chancers, one who tried his luck early on to be repaid handsomely.
Often in races, Grand Tours included, escapes are doomed. They are just a race within the race to pass the time until the favorites attack or sprinters sprint. Maybe at times, the riders are there to gain publicity on TV or maybe, as in Rabottini’s case, they are there to win.
After shaking a bottle of Astoria Prosecco on stage and receiving kisses from podium girls, he met with the press. He stood under a tent on the side of the podium, sheltered from the rain and elements that he had conquered just 20 minutes before.
He said, “When you start with the idea to do well — sure it was hard, but if you consider all the sacrifices I made before — there’s no way you can give up in the last 20km, on the final slopes and throw away all you’ve done since the morning.”
In Busto Arsizio, just miles from the Milan Malpensa airport and Ivan Basso’s home, the riders rode off at 12:31, hammered by rain. Rabottini who will be a dad soon, joined with Guillaume Bonnafond (Ag2r La Mondiale), dropped him and rode free over the Valcava climb.
Wet roads made the going risky and his chances to win were slim. He crashed; so did riders chasing behind, including Marco Pinotti (BMC Racing). He pushed on.
Over the Culmine di San Pietro, where Pedro Horrillo fell 60 meters in 2009’s race, a wet and bruised Rabottini led by 2:48 on a chase group with Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) and 5’47” on the group with leader Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda).
“It was a difficult day, but I think it was just as difficult for everyone else,” Rabottini explained, rain bouncing off the tent above. “The big thing is not to let it break you down mentally.”
The Pian dei Resinelli remained. Angelino Soler won here in 1962, 50 years ago. It climbs 7.75 kilometers and switches back 15 times before arriving at a small ski resort.
Alberto Losado (Katusha), who closed in at 20 seconds with one kilometer left, threatened Rabottini. The Spaniard, though, acted as a launch pad for teammate Joaquím Rodríguez who was racing for time and to take the pink jersey from Hesjedal. He closed in on Rabottini for the stage win.
“In the last 300 meters, when Rodríguez passed me, I lost all hope,” Rabottini explained. “In the last 50 meters, when I saw I could overtake him, only then did I believe in the win.”
Was it a gift, as many speculated after? “Rabottini beat me fair and square,” Rodríguez said. “I thought I would be dropping him, but he stayed on my wheel. I took advantage of his slipstream and I was able to pass.” But then the Italian was able to pass him again for the win.
Rodríguez took the pink jersey and Rabottini a hard-fought gift for his partner Flavia and the baby they are expecting soon.