Professional cycling traditionally celebrates the best, the strongest and most talented rider in the peloton, with victory reserved for an elite few. But every once in a while, the hard working domestiques and less-talented riders are paid back for their pain and sacrifice with a moment of glory. Cesare Benedetti's moment came on home roads at the Giro del Trentino, thanks to his Bora-Argon 18 team winning the opening team time trial between Riva del Garda and Arco.
The little Italian sprinted to the finish to make sure he was first across the line and so pulled on the first fuchsia-coloured race leader's jersey. It was only his second victory as a professional and his second in a team time trial after success at the 2012 Coppi e Bartali race. The 27 year-old knows every inch of the roads of the first three stages of the Giro del Trentino and will wear the race leader's jersey during the 168km second stage that starts in the town of his first-ever racing club and passes his home before the final climb.
"One or two days a year you might have a special moment but a great day, and winning in front of your family is pretty special," Benedetti said in the press conference, as his father, a race volunteer, watched on with pride.
"It's great to win. I'm not usually up there in the results but I try to show myself when I can and it came off on my home roads. That makes it a special double success. We're really happy with the team performance because it's very important for us as a team and for our sponsors. We beat Team Sky, too, and they're specialists and maniacs about this discipline. It'll be tough for me to keep the jersey but we'll see what happens.
"This win is for my family and especially for my wife, Dorota, because she puts up with my highs and lows of being a rider. It's not always easy and your problems often come out at home."
First across the line, fighting on home roads
Benedetti recalled that his team was beaten by BMC last year on the same TTT course and he sprinted to the front and to the finish to ensure he would take the leader's jersey in case of victory.
"We hadn't agreed on anything but last year I tried to sprint and someone closed me against the barriers," he explained. "This time I was third coming out of the last corner and at 350m to go I went flat out, hit the front and dragged everyone to the line. This morning at breakfast I joked that we only needed to improve by one placing to win. We all worked well together, even if there were some time trial specialists in our squad. Even so, we were all at the same level. I think that helped us win."
Benedetti knows he will need another day of grace if he is to retain the leader's jersey but is ready to put up a fight on his home roads.
"It's my home stage tomorrow but knowing the roads doesn't help when the road kicks up but we'll see what happens. I'll give it everything," he said.
"I've worn a leader's jersey before at the GiroBio as an amateur and at the Coppi e Bartali race three years ago. It helps you mentally and gives you more determination but in cycling your limits always find you out."
Perhaps it'd be better if I didn't know the roads… But I ride them often in training and probably rode the big climb of the stage for the first time when I was 15. It's hard but it's not too bad. It's a good climb but not extreme like the Zoncolan."
An Italian migrant rider
Benedetti is one of the growing number of Italian riders who opted or have been forced to race with team from outside of Italy. He joined Bora [or NetApp as it was known until this season] in 2010.
"After four years as an amateur I rode with Liquigas as a stagiaire but then a chance came up with this new team and they wanted riders from different countries to satisfy the sponsors. I knew it was a small team but I knew it was a great chance. In hindsight it was the right choice," Benedetti explained with pride.
"I've never raced for an Italian team but I'd say they're more disciplined than other teams and have internal more rules. At Bora-Argon 18 we've got more freedom and responsibility for our own actions. Of course things are reviewed at the end of the season and if you haven't done as expected, you get cut. Fortunately I'm pretty well organised and disciplined."
Bora- Argon 18 will not ride the Giro d'Italia this season after again securing a wild card invitation to the Tour de France. Benedetti is one of the quiet grafters in the team but knows he will need another day of grace to earn a place in the Tour squad.
"The team was pretty small when I joined, just a Continental team, but with plans to grow. We did the Giro d'Italia in 2012 and we've grown since then. Our management is ambitious and so we've got a good race calendar. I didn't make the team for the Tour de France last year and it's more likely another no this year. But maybe I can earn a place but I know it will be hard," he concluded.
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