Brambi pinches the overall victory of the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var with a daring solo attack.
Heading into the final stage, one-second separated the top two in the overall classification: Bauke Mollema and race leader Michael Woods seemingly set a thrilling battle between them for the queen stage after Stage 2, but cycling is not always so predictable. And Trek-Segafredo had an ace up its sleeve.
When a breakaway set off in the first part of the short 136-kilometer Stage 3, and Julien Bernard and Gianluca Brambilla were represented, the team threw more cards on the table and created a captivating finish to the three day Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var. ‘Brambi’ then stole the show with a bold attack 11 kilometers from the end.
The slight Italian climber magnificently held off a feverish chase from the rest of the breakaway, keen on a stage win, and from Michael Woods, determined to win the overall. In the end, he grabbed the stage and the general classification – his first professional GC victory.
For Brambilla, whose last win came in 2016 (stages in the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana), and who has worked hard to find back his golden touch, the victory held a deeper value.
“It was a long time, since 2016, that I was waiting for a win. I want to thank the people in the team who have supported me in these times, especially when things have not gone as expected. I want to say thanks to John Burke (CEO Trek) and Luca Guercilena (GM Trek-Segafredo) that in the past year, they always believed in me. Even if something difficult happened, I always gave 100% and always 100% did my job. I think this was a way to pay them back,” said Brambilla.
“I know my role in the team is to be a domestique; this win does not change this. Today was an opportunity for myself, and the team, and we did a perfect job,” he added.
It was a captivating race that had everyone on the edge of their seats. While Woods’ team chased, Mollema took a backseat and waited. Perfect tactics. The up-and-down parcours did the rest.
The breakaway pared to 11 riders by the time they started the notorious Col de la Madone, and by the crest, the two strongest emerged: Valentin Madouas and Brambilla.
“It was a really hard and tough day. I managed to be in the first breakaway. I played my cards well there, I was smart, and of course Groupama, with three really strong guys, did most of the work,” explained Brambilla.
“I had a problem with my radio, I was without radio, so I had no info in the finale for time gaps. Then (director) Greggy Rast came to me in the car and told me ‘you have to give everything; you have to drop everyone if you want to go for the stage and GC.’ I was thinking of the stage, not GC,” said Brambilla.
Brambilla’s attack left a cramping Madouas behind, and the Italian hit out for home. With 11 kilometers remaining, and a furious pursuit behind, it was touch and go until the final meters.
“In the final k, I was really suffering,” admitted Brambilla. “I knew behind they were pushing really hard to catch me. In the end, it worked out for the win and overall.”
Bauke Mollema crossed the line with Michael Woods, 18 seconds after Brambilla. Woods dropped to second overall and Mollema to third; it gave Trek-Segafredo two on the final podium, an even sweeter ending than anticipated. Mollema also took home the green points jersey.
“I was expecting it could be a real crazy day,” said Mollema. “It’s nice to begin the season like this – two out of three stage wins, two on the podium for GC, points jersey, yellow jersey – it was a perfect stage race for us and hopefully we continue like this in the next races as well. “