Andrea Guardini (Astana) let out a huge roar as he crossed the line at the end of stage 3 of the Tour de Langkawi, a noise that symbolised the releasing of the pressure he had been under over the last season.
Since signing for Astana, the wins that had once come in abundance all but dried up, leading some to think the move was a mistake. His sole win for the Kazakh team came at this race, but he couldn’t follow it up with another. He hopes that it will be different this time.
“It is one year that I didn’t win. This is the first and I hope to win again in a few days,” he told Cyclingnews just before he stepped onto the podium to receive the applause from the crowd who had been almost as happy as he at the victory.
He admitted that it hadn’t been easy for him and he had to leave it late in the day before he made the call on whether he would contest the sprint. “In the first part of the stage, I had a lot of pain in my foot, but after that my legs and condition got better,” he said. “I thought that I could sprint with 20km to go, after the climb, I had good legs. I wanted this win, because Kuala Lumpur is special for me.”
Guardini looked like a future sprinting superstar when he was riding for the Farnese Vini-Sella Italia team, even beating Mark Cavendish to a stage victory at the Giro d’Italia. Enamoured by his success Astana were quick to sign him for 2013. Since then he has struggled to match his past victories.
While at this year’s Tour de Langkawi, Guardini has been visibly down, not helped by the huge crash he was involved in on stage 2. He was taken to hospital after the stage, but didn’t receive stitches for the hole he had gotten in his foot. After a lot of gel and plasters from the team doctor, Guardini set off for stage 3 and said that quitting was not an option.
“I had pain in my foot, but I have good condition and with good condition I won’t go out of the race,” he said. The change in Guardini from the morning to the afternoon was tangible. The Italian could hardly contain his smile as he spoke to the waiting journalists on the finish line. It seems like the pressure has finally been lifted from the 24-year-old’s shoulders.
As Guardini’s contract with Astana runs out at the end of the year, he may find himself under similar pressure if he cannot add to his victory in Langkawi.