Leopard Trek celebrates first and last Classics win

Oliver Zaugg (Leopard Trek) wins the Giro di Lombardia

Oliver Zaugg (Leopard Trek) wins the Giro di Lombardia (Image credit: Riccardo Scanferla)

Sport is all about timing, a sentiment that Oliver Zaugg's (Leopard Trek) win on Saturday in Lombardy encapsulated perfectly.

Not only did the Swiss rider judge his late attack to perfection, dropping his foe on the final climb in the Giro di Lombardia, but he also offered an important reminder that there was more to Swiss cycling than Fabian Cancellara.

However the most crucial aspect of his victory came with the realisation that it was Leopard Trek's first and last Classics success, with the team set to fold into Johan Bruyneel's clutches come the end of the season. And while the Leopard Trek team celebrated its deserved win in Lecco, there was a feeling of regret around the lakeside finish; what if the win had come sooner - at San Remo, Flanders or Roubaix; would the team have secured a sponsor for next year and carried on? All ifs and buts as Zaugg and his teammates, minus Fabian Cancellara and the Schlecks, toasted the team's farewell.

In is post-race press conference, Zaugg praised his teammates for their work, with Jakob Fuglsang helping to form a two-pronged attack as the race began its crucial selection. First the Dane escaped with Philippe Gilbert and Vincenzo Nibali before Zaugg burst from the lead group on the final climb.

"It was a surprise, but I knew that I was feeling very well and knew that I could try. The team came me freedom to try. It's fantastic," he said at the finish.

It was also Zaugg's first win as a professional rider, having joined the ranks with Saunier Duval in 2004.

"Why have I never won before? Good question. I've also asked myself the same question. There were moments when I thought would never win a race. This is very important because it should help me to believe in myself. Friends believed that I had talent but sometimes you either don't believe in it or you underestimate yourself. But I rode well in the GP Beghelli and Piemonte and knew that I felt good."

That "good feeling" was demonstrated in the finale of Lombardia and Zaugg will certainly have more chances to shine next year at RadioShack but for one final race of the season he belongs to Leopard Trek, and it will be a victory the team will savour.

"It's the end of Leopard Trek," Fuglsang said at the finish, "but we showed at least that we could keep our spirits high and raced all the way to the finish."

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Daniel Benson