When several riders crashed in the final corner of stage 2 at Tour la Provence on Wednesday, Davide Martinelli and Fernando Gaviria found themselves alone off the front. The young Etixx-QuickStep teammates new instinctively what would happen next, as Gaviria sat up and let his lead-out man take the win, the first of the 22-year-old Italian's professional career.
“It’s an incredible feeling, I’m over the moon about it,” Martinelli said after the stage. “We worked hard today behind the five escapees, and this is a victory of the entire team. For me, it’s the best day of my life. That I can say. Riding with this team is a real honour and a pleasure. Now I will probably need a couple of days to realize what has just happened.”
With a sprint finish likely on the closing circuits, which included a speed hump in the exit of a sharp left turn less than 200 meters from the line, Etixx-QuickStep spent the majority of the day on the front, keeping the breakaway in check before reeling in the escapees to set up the final bunch gallop.
As the peloton swept into the final kilometres, Martinelli positioned himself ahead of the team's 21-year-old sprinter as Gaviria's final lead-out man. The pair led through the last corner, and when several riders went down they found themselves clear with less 100 metres to go.
“I came out of the last corner in first position with Fernando on my wheel, and when I took a look over my shoulder I saw that it was only me and him, as some riders have crashed,” Martinelli said. “We had a good gap, looked one another in the eyes and agreed on the outcome, so Fernando gave me the win. He was a class act and I can’t thank him enough for this. I will rest now and on Thursday I will give it my best to repay Fernando.”
Thursday's final stage of Tour La Provence, a 171km route from La Ciotat to Marseille, traverses rolling terrain at the start but then flattens out in the last 60km, meaning the three-day race that Thomas Voeckler currently leads is likely to conclude with another bunch sprint.
This season is Martinelli's first with Etixx-QuickStep after several years racing in the amateur level, where he was a three-time national champion. He started the season at the Tour Down Under, where his best finish was eighth in the final stage won by Orica-GreenEdge's Caleb Ewan. Tour la Provence is Martinelli's second race with his new team, and he's been rooming with Gaviria at the French race's first year on the Calendar. Martinelli was effusive in his praise of the 21-year-old Colombian sprint phenom.
“I got to know him better and see what a great person he is,” Martinelli said of Gaviria. “He has the DNA of a great champion, and I’m sure he’ll win many races in the future. Today, he made a great gesture, and he has my gratitude for that.”