Valerio Agnoli's career thus far has been spent in the service of others with little personal reward for his domestique duties so when the 31-year-old realised he would be pulling on the first leader's jersey of the Giro del Trentino following Astana's team time trial win, he was honoured and surprised.
"I think it's important in life to do your work with soul and dedication. Life as a domestique is not easy, but I feel blessed to have been riding on the side of great champions like Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali, and I have always felt part of their success. Today, again, the team put on a huge effort, and for once I was on the top of it," said Agnoli had previously enjoyed team time trial success at the 2008 Vuelta a España and 2010 Giro d'Italia with Liquigas.
A stage winner at the Tour of Qinghai Lake back in 2005, the Italian turned himself into a valuable domestique with Liquigas having been a successful junior cyclist, helping Ivan Basso to victory in the 2010 Giro d'Italia and Vincenzo Nibali in 2013. When Nibali made the move to Astana at the end of 2012, he made sure to bring Agnoli with him.
Agnoli and Nibali had had a "separation" of sorts in 2014 with the duo handed separate programmes from Astana. While Nibali went on to win the Tour that year and finish fourth in his defence, Agnoli hasn't raced a grand tour since the 2013 Giro. The duo appear to have rekindled their relationship, which Agnoli explained extends off the bike, with to duo set to line up in Apeldoorn for the 2016 Giro.
"I am very happy. You know, between me and Vincenzo there is a special feeling, something that goes beyond the simple professional relationship," Agnoli, who introduced Nibali to his wife, Rachele, told La Gazzetta Dello Sport. "And what he did here confirms his character. It was a spontaneous gesture that had not been decided before. Also because the team time trial has particular dynamics that can change in an instant.
"At the finish line it required a look, Vincenzo turned around, then my wheel passed his. But I did not believe it, I was really convinced that he was first. The important thing however, was the team result. We did well and got a good result already at the first opportunity after the hard work of the two weeks at altitude on Mount Teide. We were very concentrated and in the race we did not make any mistakes."
While Agnoli was basking in the leader's purple jersey on the podium, it will be back to the normal on stage 2 with the peloton facing a 220km day in the saddle from Lienz to Arco-Anras featuring two ascents of the Categoy 2 Vigolo Vattaro climb, before the Category 1 Anras finale in Austria .
"I would obviously like to keep the jersey but our priority will be to bring Vincenzo in the best position into the final kilometres. And then, there are other teammates I should pay close attention to, namely Michele Scarponi and Jakob Fuglsang who are riding great," added Agnoli.