To the surprise of many Tour de France followers, it wasn't Peter Sagan (Cannondale) but Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) who stormed to the win on Friday afternoon at the end of stage 7 in Nancy, France. Sprinting against a much reduced peloton, the 24-year-old Italian narrowly held off Sagan in his green jersey by a few millimetres.
The Italian's win salvages the Tour de France for the Omega Pharma - Quick-Step team. After losing their sprinter Mark Cavendish in the first stage, they were fighting to remain a factor in the race.
"We win for Cav and win for the team. We keep on fighting every day to take home a victory. For sure we are happy now," Trentin said. "When Cav crashed, we said we have to keep going and keep an eye on the victory. That's what we did. If you see all the last stages, we were always in the front on the cobbles, always in the front on the sprint stages, and all that work finally paid off."
After crossing the line, Trentin didn't celebrate as he thought he had been beaten by Sagan. "That was really close," Trentin said, laughing. "Honestly, I didn't think that I took the win today. I thought that Sagan beat me on the line. With all the publicity and the several lines on the ground, I was a bit confused. It's better to wait and be sure before you speak Then somebody told me on the radio that I won and Sandro [press officer Alessandro Tegner] came running and told me I'd won. Then I could celebrate," Trentin said.
It's the fourth professional victory for Trentin in three years. Last year, the Italian won the Tour de France stage from Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule to Lyon during his debut. Trentin was asked to compare his two victories during the post-race press grill.
"That's really difficult. [...] Last year, getting into the break was really hard, we went flat out for 100 kilometres to get away. This year the final kilometres were hard. The good thing is I won two times. You can't compare. This is the Tour de France. Everybody is 100 percent, 99.9 percent of the guys at the start could win the stage."
And hard work it was although Trentin profited from the energy-consuming racing style of Sagan. Shortly before the finish, there were two short climbs which brought down the numbers in the peloton. Upon hitting the last climb, the Côte de Boufflers at five kilometres from the finish line Trentin was patiently cruising along in the peloton while Sagan was in an attack with Greg Van Avermaet (BMC). When going under the red flag, the two were caught.
A late attack from Richie Porte (Sky) was neutralized by the Orica-GreenEdge riders and meanwhile several riders crashed out of contention. Teammate Michal Kwiatkowski surged forward before the last corner to lead out Trentin, who had Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) and then Sagan on his wheel. The Polish champion managed to hold the lead until there were 250 metres to go. Trentin put his head down and with a late jump, he held off the surge from Sagan by a few millimetres.
Trentin usually features as super-domestique in the team from Patrick Lefevre. The man from Borgo Valsugana has been part of Lefevre's Spring Classics team in 2012 and this season. Last year, his Classics season was ruined by a crash in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
After riding the Spring Classics, he headed to Italy to prepare for the second part of the season. He came back to win a stage in the Tour of Switzerland. During the fifth stage of this Tour de France, the epic mini-Paris-Roubaix stage, he finished ninth despite a late mechanical. Today, he won the stage in which the team had appointed him as leader.
"One week after Paris-Roubaix, I went to the USA to train. It was good weather compared to my home where it was raining and snowing everyday. I was able to go in the Specialized wind tunnel to improve my position. Then I did the Tour of California and afterwards. I did altitude training in Lake Tahoe. In total I spent two months over there, with my girlfriend [Claudia Morandini] so I was lucky. All my work in the last two months paid off."
Race leader and compatriot Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) expressed his joy about another Italian victory. When asked about the future of Italian cycling Trentin was confident. "As a professional I've always been riding for a non-Italian team so I can't speak too much about it. There's a lot of good young riders waiting to grow up and they'll show that Italian cycling is not dead."