Simoni's ace Bertolini cranks clear

Italian Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni)

Italian Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni) (Image credit: AFP)

Super domestique allowed freedom as mountains loom

By Gregor Brown in Cesena, Italy

Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) claimed victory on the Giro d'Italia's Stage 11, after breaking away with a small group on the 199 kilometre stretch from Urbania to Cesena. Bertolini was allowed the freedom to take his first home Grand Tour stage win by his team leader and general classification hopeful Gilberto Simoni. The 36 year-old made the day's key move, before cranking clear in the final 650 metres to win on the eve of the Giro's mountain stages.

Bertolini's win started to take shape on the first rest day on Monday in Pesaro, when the Italian was out riding with his fellow Trentino-native Simoni. His leader's morale was running high and went further towards the stars in the following day's time trail - something that gave Bertolini a green light to go for victory in Cesena.

"I saw Simoni's morale going up while he previewed the crono; it also changed my morale," said Bertolini of his 157 kilometre escape. "It gave me a lift and the signals were there to go on to the win.

"It was a dream I had in my mind," he added. "It was a long time coming; that I had been thinking of this stage."

Team manger Gianni Savio brought Simoni onboard over the off-season to win the Giro. Bertolini's role was clear; help Simoni top the Corsa Rosa podium for the third time in his career. However, the seasoned professional was given some leeway before the big mountains make their mark starting on Saturday.

"Already this morning I knew that it was tough, the roads were very slick," he explained. "So I was thinking that something good could happen. The plan was to get into an escape, if maybe Gilberto was solo I could be able to drop back and help him."

The day progressed and he did not have to drop back, but was focused on dropping some of his fellow escapees. "I know that I had a chance when we dropped the two Frenchmen [Finland's Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux) and France's Laurent Mangel (AG2R La Mondiale) - Ed.] on the climb, I felt that my legs were going well. We formed our move. [Tiziano] Dall'Antonia was dropped and I knew that with three riders it would be better chance.

"I had freedom in this stage, the team indicated this yesterday," confirmed Bertolini. "Today was the day that I could have my space. I am happy that it worked. The team gave me trust - [team sports director Marco] Bellini, Savio, Simoni. I kept them in my mind, even when I crashed on the descent I kept thinking positive."

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