Riding in the service of others during his three-year stint at BMC Racing did little to add to results list for Mauro Santambrogio but the Italian appears to be flourishing at his Vini Fantini - Selle Italia team this season and has finally cracked the victory drought just in time for the start of the Giro d'Italia. Santambrogio took a solo win in the 200km GP Industria & Artigianato - Larciano and is now pinpointing the same result at the Italian grand tour with the possibility of focussing on the general classification.
Santambrogio had been one of Cadel Evans' mountain-men during his three seasons at the US ProTeam despite missing taking part in the Australian's Tour de France winning team in 2011. While he enjoyed his time as a domestique, 2013 signalled the right moment for the 28-year-old to focus on himself.
Signing for the Professional Continental squad Vini Fantini may have appeared to be a step in the wrong direction by some but Santambrogio has demonstrated that he is more than just a worker. Before the weekend's race he had picked up six podium placings in one-day races and tours along with a top-ten overall at Tirreno-Adriatico and second at the Giro del Trentino - often seen as the final warm up ahead of the three-week Giro.
Now, with the Giro's start less than a week away on 4 May in Naples, the seemingly born-again rider is targeting a stage win and perhaps a proper attempt at contesting the general classification.
"It was time," said Santambrogio to La Gazzetta Dello Sport after his win at GP Industria & Artigianato - Larciano.
"To be able to stand on the podium to shake hands and smile at people serves to make up for all the sacrifices and has finally unblocked my [victory] abstinence.
Santambrogio's most recent victory had been at the one-day 1.HC Tre Valli Veresine in 2009 and despite some strong placings in the year's since, he could show only limited personal results in the time since - compared to what he had already achieved this year. While never having contested the general classification at a three-week race in the past, Santambrogio believes this season may present the opportunity to not only attack for a stage but also ride alongside Giro contenders Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), last year's winner Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin Sharp) and the rest.
"The win [at GP Industria] has given me confidence for the Giro d'Italy where I will ride with the aim of taking a stage win then the overall classement will be looked at along the way."
The Vini Fantini - Selle Itaia line-up for the 2013 Giro d'Italia is yet to be released but the signing of former Giro champion Danilo Di Luca suggests the controversial Italian may be there to support his younger teammate Santambrogio during the race.
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