A beautiful 2018 Tour of the Alps found its worthy conclusion today, Friday April 20th, in Innsbruck, capital of Tyrol, where the next UCI Road World Championships will take place in September. Winning the second edition of the new Euroregional project was Thibaut Pinot, the Groupama-FDJ Frenchman that last year, on his debut, saw the overall win vanish for a matter of seconds, to the advantage of Geraint Thomas.
That defeat was hard to swallow. In 2017, after winning the ending stage in Trento, he had said: “I love this race and these places, next year I will be back to win.” Thibaut kept his word, in spite of no stage wins on the occasion, and did it by distancing by 15 seconds Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), both on his sides on the final podium. Overall fourth place for possibly the most expected rider in the race, Chris Froome, the leader of Team Sky, whose team failed the bid of a fourth consecutive win. Generally speaking, the Tour of the Alps showed a competitive Froome, maybe not yet at his best, but certainly eager to show up and test himself and his rivals. Faring slighly below the expectations was Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates), who finished in sixth place, also behind George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo): like at the Alpe di Pampeago, also in Innsbruck the Italian couldn’t hold up the pace of the strongest rivals.
Meantime, the finishing line in Innsbruck brought luck to another emerging prospect: 21-year-old Ukrainian Mark Padun (Bahrain-Merida) celebrated in the fifth stage, Rattenberg-Innsbruck (164,2 km), his first pro win, breaking away solo from the nine-man group that came on top of the three times up the Olympia Climb, the main ascent of the upcoming UCI Road World Championships.
The day had started with a nine-man breakaway – Bidard (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Bagioli (Nippo Vini Fantini), Rodriguez Garaico (Euskadi-Murias), Anton (Team Dimension Data), Gavazzi (Androni Giocattoli), Andreetta (Bardiani Csf), Senni (Bardiani Csf), Guy (Israel Cycling Academy), Mosca (Wilier Triestina Selle Italia) – who opened up to 10 minutes on the chasing peloton before entering the final circuit. But as soon as the leading teams started pushing for good, their advantage faded quickly. Anyway, Spaniard Rodriguez could be happy with the KOM green jersey, whilst Pascal Eenkhoorn (LottoNL-Jumbo) secured the intermediate sprints’ red jersey. The white jersey remained on the shoulders of Ben O’ Connor (Dimension Data), overall seventh and real revelation of this Tour of the Alps.
After the breakaway was reeled in atop the second time on the Olympia Climb, Miguel Angel Lopez tried to surprise the fellow leaders on descent, followed later by Pozzovivo and Pinot. The three leaders of the GC have remained upfront until 5 km to go, when the peloton led by Chris Froome and his key domestique Kenny Elissonde finally managed to bring them back, before the decisive kick by Padun.
“I had been thinking of that in the previous laps,” told the Ukrainian youngster, “I realized there could be some space to go, and I’d rather try and miss than regret not going. It’s just my third race this year, and I am starting to understand what kind of riders I am: short stage races could be my thing. Maybe even the Tour of the Alps, in the future…”
In the present, the trophy realized by Mastro7 is firmly in the hands of Thibaut Pinot: “When I managed to rejoin Lopez with Pozzovivo on the way down, I realized I had made it. The Tour of the Alps is one of the most beautiful and hardest races I have ever taken, and I am delighted to have it in my palmares now.”
“It has been a perfect week, in one of the most beautiful areas in Europe. Last year, I had promised I would be back for winning. Now, I promise I will be back to make a double.”
Great satisfaction also from the three territorial realities that gave life to the Tour of the Alps, Tyrol, South Tyrol and Trentino, together in the Euroregional collaboration. “The Tour of the Alps is already a big reality – told Arno Kompatscher, President of Euregio Tirol-South Tyrol-Trentino – as it’s shown by the level of the riders who put on a great show, the stature of the winner, the way the fans welcomed it in five beautiful stages, all of them blessed by perfect weather. Above all, this Tour of the Alps has been an important statement from this territorial collaboration: now the Euroregion is in the heart of the cycling World.”
In Innsbruck, there was also space for remembrance and emotion, with the commemoration celebrated by Tyrol’s bishop Hermann Gletter for Michele Scarponi, passed away just less than a year ago, with the participation of Giacomo and Flavia Scarponi, Michele’s parents.
“Michele was an example of what cycling should be” – GS Alto Garda President Giacomo Santini said in his emotional speech, “and what becomes thanks to extraordinary human beings like him. Michele was a great rider, but was also joy, energy, generosity, humbleness. A friend, a father, a brother. There is so much more in cycling than classifications, and Michele will be in our heart to remember it forever.”