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Gatto takes slice of glory at Ruta del Sol

Oscar Gatto’s main mission this spring will be working for world champion and Tinkoff teammate Peter Sagan in the Classics, from Milan-San Remo onwards. But as the Italian sprinter and Classics specialist rightly pointed out after winning stage 3 of the Vuelta a Andalucia Ciclista Ruta del Sol, he sees no harm in taking a slice of glory for himself when Sagan has no need for his services.

Gatto himself already took a memorable stage win in the 2011 Giro d’Italia, after he tore out of the front of the pack along with Alberto Contador - on a twisting finish in the southern coastal resort of Tropea.

Given Contador's absence in Andalucia, however, it was not Gatto but Tinkoff’s veteran fastman Daniele Bennati, El Pistolero’s right-hand man in the fraught finales of flat stages of Grand Tours, who first took full advantage of going for some personal glory on Wednesday’s stage 1.

But after Bennati duly blasted to a bunch sprint victory in Sevilla, on Friday, Gatto, set to be a key piece in Sagan’s Classics masterplan this spring, followed suit, taking his first victory for his new team since he snapped up two stages of the Sibiu Cycling Tour in Romania last summer. It was also, thanks to the two Italians, Tinkoff’s second win in three days in the Ruta del Sol, on this occasion on roads that Gatto says he knows well from training at altitude in the nearby Sierra Nevada ski station.

“This shows we’ve worked well over the off-season,” Gatto, 31, told a small group of reporters, “and that we can be optimistic about the races we’ve got coming up in the near future.

“I will be doing a lot of work in what’s left of the race for [Tinkoff teammates] Rafal [Majka] and Roman [Kreuziger], right up to the last metre of the last stage if I can, but my personal goals are finished here for now.”

Gatto recognised that will also be true about his personal goals when he lines up alongside Sagan, “and this is one of my last windows of opportunity before my big goal for 2016, which is working for Peter in the Classics.”

A former winner of Dwars Door Vlaanderen in 2013 - whose organisers, curiously enough, are present on the Vuelta a Andalucia this year as guests - Gatto says,  “My big goal this season is to give Peter as much support as possible, from San Remo through to Flanders and Roubaix. But this win shows my base form is good, and it’s good for my own motivation, too.”

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