Italian National TT Champ 'Lupo' Ascani

Luca Ascani won the 42.8-kilometre time trial yesterday in Novi Ligure to become Italian National Time Trial Champion. The rider enjoyed an early birthday gift (24 this Friday) by finishing 25 seconds up on 2005 champion Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) and 27 over Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas).

It was his fourth victory as a professional for the Aurum Hotels rider; this year he won a stage and the overall of the Giro d'Abruzzo. "I finished fifth in my first year as a pro, fourth in the second year. This victory does not have to be considered a surprise," explained the third-year pro to La Gazzetta dello Sport on Tuesday.

Ascani is known as 'Lupo' ('wolf') in the peloton because his name starts with 'lu' but also because he enjoys his time alone. Solitary for the 1.88m and 71kg 'Lupo' can be found on the quite roads near his home in Castelfidardo, Le Marche.

"Two training sessions a day and then to bed early," he continued. "The crono is a massacre. You have to go at your limits on the tip of the saddle. You have to depart at full speed and keep it going at full speed to the edge of death, saying 'I am already dead,' but still continuing on the tip of the saddle."

"I went all out but he was the strongest," said second-placed Pinotti, who will ride the road championships this Sunday. "I am getting better every year," said 22 year-old Nibali. "Complements to Ascani."

Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) finished in fourth and Luca Celli (Team LPR) in fifth.

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