The Italian climber: 'I was competitive on a course that wasn't suited to my characteristics'
In a treacherous, rain-soaked ending, Giulio Ciccone saw opportunity, seized the moment, and nearly stole victory in a stage not favored for the lanky climber. Ciccone crossed the line inches behind notable fastman Davide Ballerini (Quick-Step), who claimed his second sprint win of the race in a closer sprint than expected.
“It wasn’t a really hard stage if we look to the route, but it was nervous, and the rain complicated everything. Honestly, at the start of the stage, I wouldn’t have imagined to be so competitive in a finale like this. And I wouldn’t even think I’d be so close to the win,” admitted Ciccone.
Staying upright was key on the greasy roads to the finish, the white-painted lines like ice. Ciccone successfully avoided the crashes that took down favorite Julian Alaphilippe with 1.5kms to go and a second crash, meters from the finish. You have to be good to be lucky, and Ciccone had the legs and acuity – and team support – to be at the front.
“Kilometer after kilometer, however, my feelings improved, and I said to myself, ‘let’s see what the final circuit is like and try to do something,'” Ciccone continued. “The climb to the line was tricky but not too hard; I was expecting the final climb to be steeper to make more difference.
“Bauke [Mollema] did a great job driving me in the last two kilometers and keeping me out of the crash that put Alaphilippe out of the game. I was in a perfect position, but the final straight was too flat, and in the sprint, Ballerini was hard for me to beat.”
I'm on my second day of racing of the season; yesterday I made a great effort and today I was competitive on a course that wasn't suited to my characteristics. All this gives me morale and confidence.
Most Tour de la Provence stages are suited to the punchers and sprinters, and Stage 3, with the climb up Mont Ventoux, pegged for the likes of Ciccone. But don’t tell him that: the Italian climber is motivated to make amends for a frustrating 2020 season, and two days into his season, is quickly making his point.
“When you get so close to success, there is regret. But I also want to see the positive side, which is the performance, the feeling. I’m on my second day of racing of the season; yesterday I made a great effort and today I was competitive on a course that wasn’t suited to my characteristics. All this gives me morale and confidence,” said Ciccone, then added: “And tomorrow, there’s the Ventoux.”