Italy's Alan Marangoni enjoyed an emotional, fairy-tale ending to his 11-year professional career, winning for the first time in his last ever race.
The 34-year-old spent much of his career as a domestique with the Cannondale team, sacrificing his own chances to help teammates such as Peter Sagan, Vincenzo Nibali, Ivan Basso and Rigoberto Urán.
He went close to victory in a stage of the 2015 Giro d’Italia near his home in Forli but seemed set - and content - to retire without ever winning a professional race.
Destiny stepped in at the final hour, at the one-day Tour de Okinawa in Japan, with Marangoni - now riding for Nippo-Vini Fantini - winning alone after a late attack from the breakaway.
He beat Australia’s Freddy Ovett, who was riding for BMC as a stagiaire, and Chun Kai Feng (Bahrain-Merida), finishing alone with his arms in the air for the first time in his professional career.
"It was the perfect day I’ve always looked for in my career and I found it today," Marangoni said emotionally after shedding a few tears immediately after crossing the line.
"I took the risk of attacking in the last kilometres because I wanted to play all my cards to try and finally achieve the goal I’ve chased for so long during my career. I think a made a perfectly timed attack and it seemed like I was dreaming or watching a movie about someone else. It was already a special day for me and to cross the line with my arms in the air and win was incredibly emotional.
"I’ve spent a final month away from home but I wanted to end my career on a high. It’s a fairy-tale finish to my career, one that I’d dreamt about. Now it has all come true."
Marangoni turned professional in 2009 with CSF Navigare and then joined Liquigas in 2011, which became the Cannondale team. He stayed with the team when it joined forces with Garmin and was managed by Jonathan Vaughters in 2015, moving to Nippo-Vini Fantini in 2017 as a road captain and role model for the Italo-Japanese team. He rode seven Grand Tours and 19 Monument Classics during his career.
Marangoni will celebrate his career with family, friends and the supporters of his fan club on December 1.
"I want to thank my teammates and all the staff who helped me during this final season and helped me to reach this goal," he said. "Now it's time to head back home because a new adventure awaits me in cycling. Now I’ve won a race, I feel part of the sport more than ever."