John Gadret (AG2R La Mondiale) jumped at the perfect time in the taxing finale of the Giro d'Italia's 11th stage to earn his first Grand Tour stage victory. Gadret has parlayed his climbing talents into nine top-ten stage finishes in his three Giro appearances, but today the punchy Frenchman crossed the line first.
"In the finale, I felt I had good legs," Gadret said. "I had the team at my service. They put me in the best position at the bottom of the climb. Rinaldo Nocentini looked after me to perfection.
"When I saw the two leaders [Ignatas Konovalovas and Daniel Moreno] 12 seconds ahead of us, I realised they were slowing. As soon as the other riders slowed down at the front of the bunch with 300 metres to go, I jumped and I told myself that I would look behind only once I passed the finish line. I'm very happy, this is the most beautiful win in my career."
Gadret is best known for his acumen as a cyclo-cross rider and it's no surprise to see him performing well on gravelled and steep roads. With his weight a svelte 58 kilos, it explains why he finished so well at the 2010 Giro d'Italia in the uphill time trial on the gravelled roads of Plan de Corones where he scored the third best time.
Earlier this Giro, Gadret was away on stage 5 to Orvieto on the strade bianche of Tuscany. "Had Pieter Weening kept me with him till the end, I probably would have won that stage with the hill in Orvieto," he said. "But I don't want to look back, especially today after this win.
"It's not because I've won today that my Giro is over," he told Cyclingnews. "On the other hand, the Giro is only starting after tomorrow with the big climbs. I came to win a stage and my first mission is accomplished. Now I'll ride for a top-ten overall. It's feasible."
Gadret said he would celebrate his stage win with his teammates with champagne rather than Italian spumante. Until the age of 23, he worked in the vineyards of the Champagne area, collecting grapes for the brand Bruno Michel, who was also the mayor of his village, Moussy, near Epernay.
"I haven't had an easy youth," Gadret said.
The Frenchman grew up as a fan of Marco Pantani and pleased the Italian tifosi today with his acceleration on the final climb to Castelfidardo, reminiscent of "the pirate".
"I just loved Pantani's style of racing," Gadret said.