Starting his career with a Swiss-American team at BMC Racing before moving into the Swiss IAM Cycling team, Larry Warbasse confirmed his affinity for the European country at the Tour de Suisse with his debut professional victory. Warbasse took his win via a day in the breakaway, holding off BMC's Damiano Caruso by 40 seconds.
The American's previous best result at the Tour de Suisse was third on stage 2 of the 2014 edition of the race. Despite just one top-ten result in 2017, Warbasse explained in winner's post-stage interview that he was confident of winning the hilltop finish at Villars-sur-Ollon from the moment he made it into the breakaway.
"As soon as I got in the breakaway (I knew I could win) - I told everyone yesterday, I worked really hard the whole last season - I always give 110%, I'm just so happy it finally paid off," an emotional Warbasse said.
Not only was the win a breakthrough for Warbasse, but it was also the first for his Aqua Blue Sport squad at WorldTour level. The first year Pro-Continental team have been active since its racing debut in January at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race but hadn't converted its chances into victories. In a toast at the team hotel after the stage win, Warbasse thanked the team for giving him a lifeline last year and proving the opportunity achieve a personal dream.
"I want to say thank you to everyone. All you guys, all the riders, this is really an awesome group of guys to be a part of, and I have had more fun this year then I think any year I have been a pro so far and we are only halfway through the season," he said. "It's really just a group of riders, staff and everyone. I know I can't thank everyone enough. I know everyone here worked so hard and I know it's not easy but I know everyone is giving it their best. It has really been awesome.
"There was a point last year where I didn't know if I was still going to be a professional bike racer this year and this team gave me a life line. I am so happy that I am able to be here and be riding with you guys and for you guys. I really couldn't be happier. I shed more tears today than maybe another day of my life, and it really means a lot."
Chief sports director Nicki Sorensen and team owner Rick Delaney were both in the team car following Warbasse for the stage. For Delaney, the stage win was the culmination of the team's tactic of aggressive racing. Capping off the day for the team owner was Lasse Norman Hansen holding onto his lead in the king of the mountains classification.
"We started in January and the goal was to get race starts and then the objective was to perform as best we could in as many prestigious races as we could," Delaney said. "Firstly to be invited to the Tour de Suisse was a great honour and as the week started we took the mountains jersey with Lasse. We have been in almost every break in every race we have started but to get one to stick on a day like today on a climb like today. For Larry it is an amazing moment to take his first win. His focus and determination and phenomenal work ethic – he had clear emotion today and it was magnificent to be there to share it with him."
Sorensen added that having seen his riders come close to a win, it was a special feeling to play a role in breaking through for a debut win and believes it can be a "turning point" for the season.
"This is a great moment for the team and for Larry. It is fantastic and a great, great relief to be able to say that we have our first victory," Sorensen said. "We have had a lot of challenges and a lot of tough times and some great times. This is our greatest moment – I just want to congratulate Larry and the whole Aqua Blue Sport team, riders and staff on this victory."
The team have secured an invitation to the Vuelta a Espana later this year which is its only other confirmed WorldTour race for 2017.