Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani-CSF) was in tears as he rode to the podium area after winning stage 17 of the Giro d'Italia in Vittorio Veneto. He has gone on the attack dozens of times at the Giro d'Italia during his five year career but had never managed to win a stage until today.
He finally got his big day out with a late solo attack in the streets of the elegant Veneto town after being in the break of the day during the 208km stage. He got a gap on Tim Wellens (Lotto Belisol), Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff-Saxo), Matteo Montaguti (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Thomas De Gendt (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) in the finale and accelerated away to win alone.
Unfortunately Pirazzi spoiled his moment in the spotlight by making an offensive gesture after crossing the line. He was fined 200 Swiss Francs and was forced to quickly apologise.
"Winning had become and obsession that had lasted five years. I regret the gesture and I ask to be forgiven," he said in the stage winner's press conference.
"It got to the point that if Pirazzi attacked, everyone chase him down but if anyone else attacked it was OK. People kept saying 'Pirazzi gets it wrong again,' 'Pirazzi attacks for nothing'. I’ve always tried to put on a show and so I always knew a win would come eventually."
"Fortunately this time I chose the right moment. Of the four riders left up front, I was the slowest so I attacked from far out. We did a fast final two hours and so in the end they lacked the strength to chase me. I attacked, got a gap and stayed away."
Pirazzi hails from the Lazio region, near Rome and his family and friends are often seen at races, and especially at the Giro d'Italia, with 'Tutti pazzi per Pirazzi – Everyone is crazy for Pirazzi' banners.
He has always tried to lived up to the catchphrase, going on the attack and even ignoring team orders. He tried and failed earlier in this year's Giro d'Italia but rode a perfect race on the long road to Vittorio Veneto, as the sprinters let another opportunity slip their grasp and the overall contenders rested up after the confusion and chasing of the day over the Stelvio.
"When De Gendt got away, I spoke to my teammates Nicola Canola and Nicola Boem about try to bring him back, and convinced them we could make it to the finish. They did a great job, while I tried to save as much as possible for the finish," Pirazzi explained.
"In this Giro, I’ve been in two breakaways. Today it finally went well. Last year I attacked a lot to win the points for the blue climber's jersey. This year the goal was to win a stage, and I’ve done it. I have a good Giro and there's still the mountain time trial which I’ll try to rider well in."
It was the third stage victory in this year's Giro d'Italia for the Bardiani-CSF team after Canola won in Rivarolo Canavese and Enrico Battaglin won at the Oropa Sanctuary.