By Shane Stokes
First year pro Steve Morabito will doubtlessly be pinching himself this morning in order to make sure he didn't dream his stage win of yesterday at the Tour de Suisse. The 23 year-old started racing for Phonak this year and admits that his first couple of months in the professional ranks were tough ones. Finding more strength recently, he was granted a start by his team and exceeded both his and their expectations when he took a ProTour-level win.
"To get into this race was like a present," he told the press yesterday. "I initially found it hard to adopt to the rhythm of racing in ProTour events, and that made me question the way I was training. But more recently, I have been doing better. The second part has been a bit better, because I think I rode well in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour de Catalunya. My team showed then confidence in me by selecting me for the Tour de Suisse."
Although local lad Morabito had never ridden up the first category Leukerbad climb prior to his win there yesterday, the Phonak competitor said that being from the region definitely helped.
"I think it was great for my morale as I had family and many fans along the roadside who were encouraging me. I never did the climb by bike, although I did drive up it three years ago in the car. I remember that there were flatter parts and that they would be good for recovering a little. About a kilometre from the line I could see flags and saw the direction the wind was in; I could plan my finish to take advantage of that."
He then gave a little information about his background and also his plans for the future. "I was originally a basketball player for five years but then switched to cycling a second year junior and won 11 races, national and international. I was also racing mountain bikes, too."
"My objective this year was to do many different types of races. I did races with steep hills, races with cobblestones, competitions in Spain and in Italy, and also classics like Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. I like the Ardennes Classics because those courses suit me well. I also enjoy stage racing because it is a combination of strength and tactics that is important."