After each of his three stage wins at the Tour of Oman, Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) has climbed onto the podium, raised his arms, looked up, and pointed to the sky. On the first two occasions, he declined to explain what lay behind the salute but after conquering Green Mountain on Wednesday he revealed that it was for his family and his wife, who suffered a miscarriage in December.
Lutsenko had clearly been emotional on the podiums earlier in the race but Astana’s press officer explained he wanted to wait until Green Mountain, which effectively sealed his second consecutive overall title, before opening up about what he has been through.
Elena Lutsenko was two months pregnant with twins when tragedy struck.
"I won this stage for my wife," Lutsenko said. "For me, this is a really difficult time for us. We lost two kids. The start of the new season is a difficult time for me and my family."
Lutsenko touched on how he’d won, how he’d attacked three times in the final two kilometres of the brutally steep climb and dropped all his rivals before passing the last survivor of the breakaway to complete his hat trick of stage victories. However, the details faded into insignificance as he grappled with what this meant to him.
"This victory is just for my wife… just for my wife," he said, voice cracking. "Thank you to my wife."
In order to better explain what had happened, Lutsenko, who is from Kazakhstan, switched to Italian, which he speaks fluently.
"I’m really happy because this season has been difficult for me. Two months ago, my wife lost our two babies and that has weighed on everything," he said. "After the first training camp in Spain, when I got home, my wife was in hospital. It was hard to take for me and for all my family. I slowly got back into training but with my wife’s problems on my mind.
"This win is for my wife. It’s terrible to lose two babies like that. We’ve got a five-year-old girl, too. I wanted to give my absolute best for all my family."
Barring accident, Lutsenko will ride into the Mattrah Corniche in Muscat on Thursday and climb onto the podium to be crowned the overall winner of the 2019 Tour of Oman, where he will once again look up and point to the sky.