By Jean-François Quénet in Lienz
It's the Giro of the former students. The name of Laurent Mangel came out of relative anonymity when he was mentioned as one of the riders to have attended university before giving all their time and energy to cycling. When La Gazzetta dello Sport explained that the former pink jersey Marco Pinotti, an engineer, wasn't the only one who went successfully to university before, journalist Claudio Gregori also recalled that the first winner of the Giro, Luigi Ganna, in 1909, was one of the few cyclists able to read and write while many others only drew a cross as they couldn't put their signature on the start list.
Mangel completed his degree in industrial maintenance at the university of Besançon before joining Ag2r three years ago following his win at the Ruban Granitier Breton (now called Tour de Bretagne) ahead of Jussi Veikkanen and Simon Gerrans. So far, he has won a stage of the Boucles de la Mayenne in 2005 and a stage in Le Tour de Langkawi in 2006. He would have returned to Malaysia this year had it not bee for the birth of his first child, Luna, on January 23.
Now competing in his first Grand Tour, the Frenchman believes he's finally found his niche within cycling after experiencing the Spring Classics, including a breakaway at the Tour of Flanders. "I believe I've found what I'm good at," he said. "Many people have supposed I'd be a rouleur because of my format but I'm not. I'm 1.95m for 82kg, but I'm a puncheur, I can climb okay and I'm not too bad in sprint finishes in small groups. Now I realise that I can be all right in long stage races because we're in the third week and I'm feeling better and better."
Having targeted the stage to Lienz, Mangel was somewhat disappointed to win the bunch sprint which would have given him victory, had it not been for the outstanding breakaway ride of Stefano Garzelli. "It gives me mixed feelings," he said. "I came to the Giro pointing out one or two stages that I'd try and win. Today was one of them, so for the past few days I did my best to save energy for today.
"It's really good to be up there but only the first place counts in the record books. I'm disappointed although there wasn't much to do against Garzelli. When he attacked in a downhill, I first thought we'd catch him because my other breakaway companions didn't look too tired but he was too strong. He was really impressive."