Lars Bak (Lotto-Bellisol) scored a superb lone stage 12 win in the Giro d'Italia today, blasting away 1.7 kilometres from the finish line in Sestri Levante for his first-ever individual Grand Tour victory at 32.
Bak was part of the HTC squad that won the team time trials in the 2011 Giro and the 2010 Vuelta a Espana, but today was the first time he was able to soak the limelight up in a Grand Tour in his own right.
Riding the 155-kilometre stage as if it were a one-day Classic,strength and strategic timing both played their part in netting the former Tour du Porvenir winner and triple national time trial champion Lotto-Bellisol's first Giro success of 2012.
"I tried to save my energy right until the end, because I knew this breakaway was going to make it to the finish, the climbs weren't so hard," Bak said afterwards.
"I could see that [Sandy] Casar (FDJ-Big Mat) was the strongest of the other breakaways, he was always closing down the attacks, and he'd won stages in the Tour de France, so I knew I had to watch him. And [Jan] Bakelants (RadioShack-Nissan) is also fast."
"The attacks [by the break] were brought back three times, and then I came from behind and went for it. I got 200 metres, then 300 metres. They hesitated a bit, then a bit more, but then I was away, I'd taken my chance."
As Bak pointed out, he's not a climber or a sprinter so he has to get in breakaways. However, he is a good time triallist, and after getting away, he certainly exploited that skill to the full in the crucial last part of the run-in to the finish.
"I've maybe won 10 races in my career, but I've almost always won them from late attacks," Bak said. "So I knew what I had to do."
"I'd like to thank my sponsors, Lotto-Bellisol, too. They kept their faith in me after I broke my hand during the Classics season and couldn't race. They said I should do the Giro instead, but without any pressure. And that was perfect for me."
Next up after the Giro for Bak is - probably - the Tour de France, where Bak will work for team leaders André Greipel, Jurgen Van Den Broeck and Jelle Vanendert. But with a Giro win in his stage, he's also had his own chance to shine in 2012.