A double stage winner at the Tour of Denmark last week, the Astana man continued his purple patch with a perfectly executed sprint in Terneuzen on Monday. It was by far the most prestigious of Guardini’s six victories since joining Astana last year, following three wins at the Tour de Langkawi and his recent Danish brace.
"It’s a powerful win and a powerful moment," Guardini told Sporza afterwards. "It’s the best moment of my career right now because I’ve had three wins in a few days – two in Denmark and now here. It’s my first victory with Astana in a WorldTour race and it’s so perfect for me."
Guardini, of course, has the tendency to amass his victories in fits and starts. He heralded his arrival in the professional ranks by gobbling up five stages in the Tour de Langkawi early in 2011 and went on to win six legs of the same race the following year.
His travails in converting that pure speed into more victories in Europe saw Guardini earn the reputation as something of a flat track bully, although he responded defiantly with a devastating sprint victory ahead of Mark Cavendish in Vedelago during his debut Giro d’Italia in 2012.
Since joining Astana at the start of 2013, however, Guardini has not been back to a Grand Tour, and has found his opportunities limited during his time with the team to date. While his speed is unquestioned, the 25-year-old’s ability to cope with anything but the flattest of courses has been a doubt. Winning at the end of a demanding day of wind and rain in the Netherlands was an important step in his progression.
"It was very difficult with the wind, it was windy every kilometre of the day, but with a breakaway out in front most teams just wanted to control the race and stay calm, stay easy," said Guardini, who was among the fallers during a crash-strewn finale.
"It was a difficult finale with the rain and I crashed with 30 kilometres to go but after that, fortunately, the rain stopped. The wind in the finish made it hard especially when you had to change position but my teammate Borut [Bozic] brought me to the front and pushed me really well. I started my sprint with 200 metres to go and I won well."
Giant-Shimano’s Tom Dumoulin looked to have upset the fast men when he clipped off the front of the peloton inside the final 500 metres, but Guardini displayed his remarkable turn of pace to overhaul the Dutchman within sight of the line, and win comfortably from Yohann Gene (Europcar) and Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida).
"It was a very powerful move and when I saw him I said to myself that it would be difficult to take it," Guardini said of Dumoulin’s effort. "But there was a really strong headwind and he had jumped out alone, so I was able to make a good sprint from behind and win."
Guardini carries the overall lead into Tuesday’s second stage to Vlijmen, where the terrain should once again be to the liking of the sprinters. "I want to make another good sprint if it’s possible and try to make the best for me and my team," he said.
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