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Which Slovenian?


It was a classic Milano Torino. After 122 kilometres, the breakaway of six had a comfortable two minute lead. Then, at Livorno Ferraris, named after Galileo Ferraris, one of the pioneers of AC power system and an inventor of the three-phase induction motor, a current ran through the race. With teammates around them, five of the big favourites – the repeat World Champion Alaphilippe, the Vuelta a España and Giro dell’Emilia winner Roglič, the Tour de France champion Pogacar, plus the in-form Woods, and Valverde, – had stolen away, despite the flat terrain.

The first time race radio mentioned the split in the peloton, it was already up to 18 seconds. Despite the efforts of Ineos and Arkea, among others, the gap reached, at its widest, 56 seconds, before it began to close, as the logic of numbers dictated.

On the gruelling slopes of Superga, Yates and Nairo Quintana bridged across to the leaders, but the effort may have been decisive. Quintana, who has been riding well in recent weeks, would only finish ninth. Yates, in scintillating form, was lacking a final acceleration on the second ascent. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

As his teammate, the World Champion, blocked behind, the youthful Mauri Vansevenant, 22 and full of future, set off alone on roads weighed down by almost too much history. After all, the tramlines on the Corso Casale, where the climb begins, are where Fausto Coppi’s brother Serse crashed on 29 June 1951 during the Giro di Piemonte. He picked himself and made it to the finish line, only to die during the night, meaning that the rivals Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali both lost brothers to racing incidents.

Vansevenant’s lead stretched to 14” before the chase got organised. It contracted to 11” before, as the the chasing group ran out domestiques, extending again to 25” with 5 km to go.

On the final climb, Pogačar’s ally Rafał Majka rode away from the favourites with Alaphilippe on his wheel. The effort was too much for both of them. That left a leading group of Yates, Pogačar, Roglič, Almeida, Woods and Valverde – and the rest of us playing the usual guessing game of “Which Slovenian?”

But it was an Englishman, Adam Yates, who hit the front at a pace that eliminated first Valverde and Woods, and then Almeida and Pogačar. Roglič let Yates go, checked that there was no bluffing by his compatriot, then darted easily across the gap. Yates stuck admirably to his task, but when the Slovenian danced past before the final corner, he had no answer.

Primož was super happy with eeverything: the weather, the route, the resut, his performance and his team: “We started working early, keeping the break under control, and then there also three of us in the echelon, so it went good.”

As for Saturday, “I don’t want to think about it now.” But he will start as the outstanding favourite.

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