Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) had never won a race in his twelve-year career until he imposed himself with the benediction of Alberto Contador one year ago at the end of stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia in Macugnaga. Unexpectedly, he doubled up at Rocca di Cambio to give a different meaning to his career as a domestique.
“The change for me is the freedom,” said the Sicilian rider who served Damiano Cunego for many years prior to joining Contador at Astana. “In the past, I’ve always given the maximum to the riders I’ve worked for. Today I got the green light. I had studied the course for three days, I knew this stage suited me and I told my team: I’m feeling well, I want to try.
"I did what I had to do. I held on to Scarponi who was strong. He took ten or twenty metres of an advantage. As soon as he sat on his bike, I gave even more than what I had. It was an enormous effort. After the finishing line, you’ve seen me collapsing. I didn’t understand where I was. I was exhausted.”
Italian reporters supposed that Tiralongo’s second win at the Giro d’Italia was nicer than the first one because he didn’t owe it to anybody’s favor this time around whereas Contador clearly let him win in Macugnaga. “No! Last year it was nicer,” he insisted. “Alberto let me win but to have him behind me on the results sheet was a huge thing. He is my friend and he’s a fuoriclasse [extraordinary rider]. I dedicate today’s victory to him as well. I know what he is enduring at the moment. For a true champion like him, it’s a torture to be watching the race on TV. I can imagine what he thinks. I was with him during the 2010 Tour de France. I’ve seen what happened. I went to his court case at CAS to support him.”
Tiralongo indicated that Contador wants him back on his side when he returns to racing but he insisted that he’ll respect his contract valid for 2013 and he will remain with Astana. “I’m not a champion, I’m not a fuoriclasse but I make a lot of sacrifices to perform. Since January, I’ve left my family at home to go and train at altitude quite a lot. I’ve trained hard, I can tell you! I’ve been fifteen times on the Etna. That’s where I improved my climbing for winning today. Now at the Giro I’ll give everything for Roman Kreuziger to win the overall classification.”
Once a domestique, always a domestique…