Fabio Felline won the Tour de Romandie prologue and answered his disappointment of Liege-Bastogne-Liege in the best way possible. This season has been a series of frustrations for the passionate Italian whose good form went unrewarded until today.
In his post-race interview, he dedicated the victory to Michele Scarponi, and also a family close to him who went through a similar tragic situation.
"This victory is for Michele Scarponi," said Felline. "I also want to dedicate this to another family close to me who one week before Scarponi went through the same situation. For me, the last 10 days have not been easy."
"On Sunday, a lot of people were asking me what I thought of the story of Scarponi and when I started Liege I thought maybe I could do a good result in his honor," he continued. "In the end, it was not Sunday; it was today."
Felline completed the wet 4.8-kilometer time trial in Aigle in a time of 5 minutes and 57 seconds, two seconds ahead of the day's final starter Alex Dowsett (Movistar) and seven seconds quicker than Alexander Edmondson (Orica-Scott).
Felline was the 52nd rider to start the short but tricky course, and after setting the fastest time at the intermediate split, he sprinted across the line at the top of the leaderboard. With still 100 riders to come, he settled into the hot seat for a long wait.
"As soon as I saw the route with the tight bends and climb, I thought it suited the specialists, but it's also good for a complete rider like me," Felline said. "When I crossed the line, it's the first time I thought to myself at the end of a race: 'I rode that to perfection.'"
With the GC contenders not willing to risk on the slippery course, and others unable to match Felline's strong performance, rider after rider failed to unseat the Italian.
It was a long wait in the hot seat.
When Dowsett, the final rider to start and one favored to win the short race against the clock, passed the intermediate point in the same time as Felline, the first day of Romandie became a nerve-wracking finish.
However, Dowsett stopped the clock two seconds slower, and Felline could finally celebrate his second win of the year (after winning Trofeo Laigueglia with the Italian National Team).
"I never expected this victory," continued Felline. "This is the biggest victory of this season for me, and I needed this win for a lot of reasons. It has been two months that I have always been in the front [of races], always with the good riders, but always I missed the results. This victory is for sure a good present for me, and for the team."
For a rider as focused as Felline was on the small details ahead of the prologue – fine tuning his Speed Concept time trial bike, checking and rechecking the weather, and pre-riding the parcours three times - it all paid off, earning him his first leader's jersey of his career.
"I have never worn the leader's jersey in a race before, so tomorrow I might be able to tell you whether it gives you wings," smiled Felline.
All photos ©Bettiniphoto