By Susan Westemeyer
Gerolsteiner's Francesco De Bonis was the surprise winner of the Tour de Romandie's Queen stage Saturday, taking the victory of the race's most difficult stage out of a breakaway. "It was a great moment for me," he told Cyclingnews on Monday morning, but admitted that he didn't believe he would win it until the last minute.
"Before the stage, which was a very short one [112.4 km], our directeur sportif said that an early escape group might be able to get away. I was one of our riders who should try to be part of it," the 26 year-old said. "I made the group so my assignment was fulfilled, which made me happy. But then I noticed that the others weren't any stronger than me, plus I felt very well in the mountains. But I didn't really think I would win until just before I crossed the finish line." Established climber such as John Gadret (AG2R La Mondiale) and Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas) came second and third within seconds to the Italian.
The first-year pro and his team-mates celebrated his first pro win with a glass of champagne on Saturday night. "Of course I am very happy that I even had a chance to fight for the victory. A lot of other young pros have to wait years before they are lucky enough to get in such a good situation. How often are escape groups are caught just before the finish!," he pondered.
Nevertheless, the victory won't break him out of the helper's role within the team. "The win doesn't really change anything on my real job, which is to help my captain. I still have a lot to learn," he added.
De Bonis came to the pro ranks relatively late, at 26 years of age. Why not earlier? "I have no idea. There are so many talented young Italian riders, some are just luckier than others and get contracts earlier. But better later than never," he replied.
The Italian won't be riding his homeland Grand Tour, the Giro d'Italia, but can look forward to the Volta a Catalunya later this month and then "it looks like" the Dauphiné Libéré.