It was, Giovanni Visconti said, the first victory of his second career, but the Movistar rider still faced questions about his past when he met the press after stage 17 of the Giro d'Italia in Vicenza.
If winning on the Col du Galibier on Sunday was simply a relief after a troubled spell that had seen Visconti struggle for form ever since he was beset by a panic attack during last year's Giro, he heralded his victory in the Veneto as something of a new start. "Today was my first win with the knowledge that I could do well again with the same grinta and desire I had before," he said.
Before setting off on new beginnings, of course, one should address the past but – initially at least – Visconti was loathe to discuss the three-month suspension he served last winter after he confessed to being a client of Dr. Michele Ferrari. Michele Scarponi and Filippo Pozzato have also served suspensions for their links to Ferrari, who was last year handed a life ban by the US Anti-Doping Agency for his role in the doping programme at the US Postal Service team.
"Why are you asking questions about the past? I think that when someone makes a mistake you close the page and you move on," Visconti said in response to a reporter who asked why he had frequented Ferrari when it was expressly forbidden by the Italian Cycling Federation.
Mindful, perhaps that such an answer was far from reassuring, Visconti returned to the topic of his own volition before departing the conference, apologising for his initial answer. "Everybody in life makes mistakes. It was right that I paid and I've learned from it," he said. "I've learned to have more faith in my own means and myself without turning somewhere else."
Visconti showed strikingly impressive means to take stage victory in Vicenza, his second win in four days. The Sicilian launched a vicious acceleration on the final climb of Crosara to break clear of the pink jersey group and bridge up to Danilio Di Luca (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) and Miguel Angel Rubiano (Androni-Venezuela).
He kicked again near the summit to go clear alone and then remarkably succeeded in holding off the chasers on the rapid descent into Vicenza to claim victory by 19 seconds.
"The team tactic today was to try and win the stage either with me or with Francisco Ventoso's sprint, as he can hang on well on the climbs," Visconti said. "I thought it was right to take my chance on the climb and I had a target to aim at in Di Luca and Rubiano. Then near the top, I wanted to drop Rubiano because he could have been dangerous in the sprint."
After a listless time at Movistar to date – particularly since his abandon at last year's Giro due to the effects of a panic attack in the rain on the road to Pian dei Resinelli – Visconti has enjoyed a dramatic change of fortunes on this Giro. He followed his solo victory on the Galibier with a finisseur's move on the road to Vicenza and is enjoying his richest vein of form since the summer of 2011.
"My mentality has changed in that I'm back to the rider I used to be," Visconti said by way of explanation. "Winning on the Galibier was a stimulus and I feel more important in the gruppo and bolder too. Today I made a bold move. I just decided with 15km to go to put my head down and go for it.
"Until a couple of afternoons ago, I felt like I was just one among many. I had problems that couldn't be resolved in the space of a couple of months, like an injury or a fracture. People were trying to help me but they didn't know what to do. But the other day on the Galibier, something clicked and my morale has changed now."
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