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Matteo Pelucchi (IAM Cycling)
Italian sprinter dedicates his win to Kristof Goddaert
The 25 year-old Italian has won four races as a professional and taken several good placings but hit the jackpot in Cascina.
"It's even difficult for me to believe that I've won," he admitted in the stage winner's press conference.
"I didn't think I'd win today. We were riding for the sprint as a team, but I would have considered a top five a good result considering the riders here. There's an incredible high level of riders here. The best sprinters in the worlds are here, so it's an incredible result."
"This is an important result for me," he continued. "I don't want to get big headed. I've been getting good results, but have always been missing that big result. I was lucky and strong today and things went my way. Now it’s up to me and my team to keep doing well."
Pelucchi explained that teammates Heinrich Haussler and Roger Kluge protected him perfectly in the chaotic finish.
"It was a crazy sprint. I was a bit behind in the final 800 metres but I'd thought that was the best thing to do because I'd noticed there was a headwind. I knew I had to come late," he recalled.
"I didn't see Kittel's crash. It was a very confusing sprint. Until the last kilometre we couldn't understand who was going to take control of the sprint; people kept dropping back or moving up."
"I just stayed cool and stayed focused. I didn't panic and the help from Kruger and Haussler was a big factor. Being fresh in a sprint is very important, it's what I was missing last year and until today."
Now for Milan-San Remo
Pelucchi wasn't in the planned IAM Cycling line-up for Milan-San Remo but that is likely to change now. No young Italian sprinter wants to miss a chance a victory at La Classicissima.
"It was 90% sure that I would ride it, but now and with change of the route, things could change," he said honestly.
"However it'll be difficult for me: it's a long race, with a hard finale. But I can't deny I'd love to try to be there and try something. We've also got Haussler and Chavanel but we could play off other teams."
Dedicated to Kristof Goddaert
Pelucchi dedicated his victory to his teammate Kristof Goddaert, who died while training at home in Belgium, while his teammates were riding the Tour of Oman.
Pelucchi shared a room with Goddaert at the Tour of Qatar and knows first hand the dangers of cycling and the tragedy an accident can cause. He was training with his girlfriend Marina Romoli in the summer of 2010 when she was hit by a car. She suffered serious injuries and was left disabled.
"I don't really want to talk about my tragedies, we all have them in life, it's how you face them that counts," he said showing maturity and intelligence beyond his years.
"This win is dedicated to Kristof, who died a few weeks ago in a crash. It's been hard for all the team because it was so terrible what happened. But it has also united us and helped find something extra. We wanted to win for him and help his family in some way. I think he helped us win today and would have been happy."