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On a legendary climb, in the snow, Giovanni Visconti leaves the peloton and the past behind

  • By Gregor Brown
  • Published May. 19, 2013
Giovanni Visconti goes it alone, toward victory on the Col du Galibier. Photo: Graham Watson | www.grahamwatson.com

VALLOIRE, Italy (VN) — Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) conquered the Giro d’Italia’s stage to Galibier on Sunday and left behind a black period.

“I’ve never thought about quitting cycling. The bike is my life and not work,” Visconti said in a press conference. “The passion that brought me to this point helped me make a life for myself and buy a home.”

Visconti spoke with around 30 journalists in the Valloire cinema just 20 kilometers down from where he won on one of cycling’s legendary climbs.

The Tour de France only finished once on the Col du Galibier, coming from the south side in 2011, when Andy Schleck won. The Giro d’Italia planned a visit from the north side, but snow in the last week forced organizer RCS Sport to cut out the last 4km. Instead of racing to the pass at 2642 meters, the 15th leg only raced to Le Granges, at 2301 meters.

A perfectly timed afternoon snowstorm made the stage just as legendary as it would have been had it climbed to the pass above. This combination of factors — the Giro’s visit to a famous Tour de France climb, snow and a year and a half of struggles — offered Visconti salvation.

A star struggles

Visconti shot quickly to cycling stardom. The Sicilian won the Italian championships at 24 years old and in 2008, traded the tricolore jersey for an eight-day run in the Giro d’Italia’s maglia rosa.

He lost track, however, just as fast.

One year ago, he abandoned the Giro on the same day, stage 15, due to shortness of breath. Some called it a panic attack.

It would not have helped that his name was linked to known doping doctor Michele Ferrari. Since 2011, he had been in the eyes of Italian prosecutor Benedetto Roberti. Last year, after Ferrari was banned again as part of the Lance Armstrong scandal, Italy issued Visconti a three-month ban.

Despite a new contract with Spain’s Movistar team, he became depressed.

“Sometimes there are problems which are in the head and harder to deal with than a broken arm or leg,” Visconti added. “Someone told me today, ‘A circle is closed.’ He’s right.”

Leaving the tunnel

The Galibier stage allowed Visconti to ride free of his problems.

He escaped with a group just over 80km out on the Col du Mont Cenis. In France and on the Col du Télégraphe, he shot free on his own.

When snow started to fall on the Galibier, he had all the right elements to win on a legendary climb in epic conditions.

“I’d been telling my dad all Giro that I want to get into a strong escape and win one of the legendary stages. I did it,” Visconti said. “With this win, I’ve exited the tunnel. I hope it turns a page in my career.”

 

FILED UNDER: Giro d'Italia / News / Road TAGS: / /

Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown

Bikes kept Gregor Brown out of trouble growing up in Oklahoma — BMX, freestyle and then watching Greg LeMond's Tour de France wins on CBS television's weekend highlights shows. The drama of the 1998 Tour, however, truly drew him into the fold. With a growing curiosity in European races and lifestyle, he followed his heart and established camp on Lake Como's shores in 2004. Brown has been following the Giro, the Tour and every major race in Europe since 2006. He will tell you it is about the "race within the race" – punching out the news and running to finish – but he loves a proper dinner, un piatto tipico ed un vino della zona.

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