By Gregor Brown in Alpe di Pampeago
On the 2008 Giro d'Italia's first stage in the high mountains, two of Italy's minor stars shined while the classification riders sought to sort the overall picture. CSF Group's Emanuele Sella proved he belongs in the maglia verde of mountain's leader by dominating over the two passes, while LPR Brakes' Gabriele Bosisio benefited from his work for the team's leaders and moved into the race leader's maglia rosa.
Italy's Sella formed part of an escape group that went at kilometre 13 into the 195-kilometre stage that was set to cover the Passo Manghen and finish on the Alpe di Pampeago. While Sella marked his escape companions, waiting to go solo, Italy's Bosisio - winner of stage seven - kept watch over team leaders Danilo Di Luca and Paolo Savoldelli.
"I studied the map this morning," noted 27 year-old Sella, who took his second stage win in the Giro d'Italia, following his win in 2004 to Cesena. "The directeurs said, 'Tomorrow there are five GPMs [Gran Premio della Montagna - ed.] with lots of points, but if you go today with a large group then you can get points.' So, I understood that it would work. There were good companions in the escape, a lot of guys that pulled, and you could feel it."
After a surge by José Rujano (Caisse d'Epargne) in the escape group, Sella turned the screws tighter and went free at kilometre 143. "I went solo and I did all of my own," he said. He managed himself well in the escape: "Yeah, I was coy, not pulling so much."
After four years, it seems as though Sella has changed. His win in 2004 was a surprise to most, while this win was one that many were expecting. "It is a Sella more mature," he remarked on the differences. "I started to race more with my head - [I'm] more motivated."
He is serious about his maturity and will get married this June, a promise he made to his girlfriend if he was to win a stage in the Giro d'Italia. "She was very happy, she knows that it was something very important for me," he said of his girlfriend, Laura. "I said, 'If I win in this Giro, I will marry you at the end of this Giro.'" The couple will marry June 8.
"We knew each other via her dad. He is a fan of cycling, I met him one day while cycling. Then, he came to see me at the races and I got to know his daughter."
He plans to relax tomorrow and consolidate his lead in the mountain competition. "I will try to recuperate my energy and defend the green jersey." He will not fight for the classification, although he is currently in 26th. "Overall? I [have] never been able to stay with the favourites. Today, to go on the attack was great, but to get on the podium is something else, is too much. I believe it will be for Contador, Simoni and the others."
Bosisio under fire
While Sella may relax somewhat, Bosisio will be under fire for the maglia rosa. The 27 year-old rider from the province of Lecco only holds five seconds on Tour de France champion Alberto Contador (Astana).
"I want to enjoy this day and this sensation, this won't change much with how we confront the race tomorrow," Bosisio confided.
He will continue to work for Di Luca and Savoldelli, but offer the team an addition card to play. "It is an advantage according to me and the team because the others have to work to watch me as well. ... I am calm, I don't have anything to lose. It is better that is me here than some other rider from some other team."
To read the complete winner's feature, click here.