Rewind 12 months and Michael Albasini was one of the strongest riders for the Orica GreenEdge team with two stage wins and the overall at the Volta a Catalunya. On Thursday, the Swiss added a stage of Paris - Nice to his impressive palmares on a lumpy day.
Indeed it was a big day for the team with Matt Goss also claiming a stage win at Tirreno - Adriatico.
Albasini was both excited and shocked by his win.
"I actually wasn't sure of my condition when I came here," admitted Albasini. "I was feeling good, but we couldn't race Lugano and my last race before that was three weeks ago last Wednesday. Without racing, it's hard to understand what's going on with your body. I'm super happy to start the season with an early, important win. I'm a bit surprised, too."
"It's even nicer to win on a day when we also won with [Matt] Goss in Tirreno," Albasini added. "It's really perfect. It's important to keep the wins going like we did last year."
With seven climbs to be contended with on Stage 4, it was unsurprising that several splits formed in the peloton, but it was only on the final descent that Albasini made his move, with teammates Jens Keukeleire in tow - along with 28 other riders.
"We don't need to put pressure on a guy like Alba [Albasini] in a stage like this," said sports director Lorenzo Lapage. "We can count on him to do well if he's there. Everyone knows when it comes to a small group in the finish, Albasini is one of the strongest. Alba spoke with Jens. He told Jens he had the legs for the win, and Jens was able to help him."
Albasini first thought that he would work towards a result for his teammate however, as he was able to cover the relentless attacks from within the group, the 32-year-old realised that he could have the potential to go for his 25th professional win.
"At the end, there was a roundabout 500 metres or so from the finish," he noted. "There were two guys about 50 metres ahead at the point. They started sprinting, and I knew I had to go. If I didn't, it would have been too late. I opened my sprint and went full gas. Once I overtook them, I was able to maintain control all the way to the line.
"It was a long sprint," he noted. "But it worked out in the end."
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