An interview with Lorenzo Bernucci, July 7, 2005
The Tour de France is renowned for bringing out the best in riders, motivating those to new highs, achieving results previously thought unattainable. Today in Nancy was a case in point.
25 year-old Lorenzo Bernucci, a promising amateur but a relative unknown pro up till now, took full advantage of Christophe Mengin's misfortune and Alexandre Vinokourov's sudden reaction on the final corner to steal victory from under the sprinters' noses. It was a lucky win in some ways, but a little luck goes a long, long way, as Anthony Tan reports.
"This is my first victory as a professional today, so, of course, I'm very happy," said a tranquillo Bernucci after the finish. "As an under-23 rider, I won many races, but since turning professional, I have been more of a teammate, so I'm used to both [roles]."
"... My win today will remain in my heart till the end of my life ..."
Bernucci's first year as a professional for Landbouwkrediet-Colnago in 2002 was a good one. Third overall in the Etoile de Bessèges stage race in France, where, in very similar circumstances to that of today, Andrea Ferrigato and himself broke away on the second stage with 10 kilometres to go to take first and second place respectively.
Then, in April of that year at his first Grand Tour, he managed to finish third on Stage 12 of the Giro d'Italia.
The next two years with the same team were solid though not spectacular, though Bernucci did come close to winning a prestigious one-day race in Italy - the Trofeo Laigueglia in February of 2004 - beaten by a wheel-length by classy countryman Filippo Pozzato.
However, it was in fact at the classics a month or so later where he was spotted by one of the wizened old men of Italian cycling, Fassa Bortolo's direttore sportivo, Giancarlo Ferretti.
"No, not at all," he said when asked if it was the fact that he's good friends with Alessandro Petacchi that got him on board the Silver Train. "It was Ferretti who saw me in the classics in Belgium, and he spoke to me and asked me to come on the team."
81st in Flanders, 19th in Gent-Wevelgem, 28th in Paris-Roubaix are nothing to be ashamed of, but also nothing to boast about, either, even though at Gent-Wevelgem in 2004, Bernucci was part of the winning break in the mid-week classic won by Tom Boonen (see report).
Without sounding cruel, Ferretti's interest in him perhaps shows the lack of depth and/or talent among Italian riders in the spring races, where a culture geared (sorry for the pun) more towards big hills and big tours rules the day.
Earning another two podium places this year at the Tour de Luxembourg and Tour de Suisse, a win for Bernucci was certainly on the cards, but the fourth year pro says his win today doesn't change a thing.
"It is a pleasure to help my teammates and also a pleasure to be helped", he said, "But what happened today won't change anything - I will remain the rider that I am."
That rider Bernucci says he is and will remain true to is a man for the classics, but as he admits, it's hard to ignore the significance of his first win, and a win at the Tour no less.
"Well, the Tour de France is particular and special in itself. My win today will remain in my heart till the end of my life," he said.
And with Fassa Bortolo's continuity in the sport in doubt, Bernucci might not change as a rider, but he may need to change teams...