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Giro d'Italia feature, June 1, 2008

The real King of the Mountains

Sella takes third stage of Giro

By Gregor Brown in Tirano

Another win for Sella
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Coming into this Giro d'Italia few mentioned Sella as a possible stage winner. The man from Vicenza had taken the spotlight during his first professional year in the 2004 Tour of Italy, where he staged with a gutsy solo escape in the stage to Cesena, but in the following three years looked off-target with small attacks that amounted to nothing at the day's end. But Sella put the so-so years behind him in this Giro d'Italia, and made a huge transformation into the real King of the Mountains.

Emanuele Sella lit the Giro d'Italia's mountains on fire this year with flashy solo moves. The 27 year-old Italian of Team CSF Group Navigare scored wins on two stages in the Dolomites, and capped off a impressive race with a solo victory on Saturday in Tirano. Had he not suffered an untimely flat tire on stage seven, he may have gone home with four stages to add to his mountains classification win.

Just as he did in 2004, when the pundits and still mourning tifosi whispered the name Pantani when describing Sella's emotional stage victory, the diminutive climber punched out his hat-trick with lengthy solo moves: 1) An attack from 50 kilometres out to win Alpe di Pampeago, 2) The very next day, he repeated with a 14-kilometre romp the top of Passo Fedaia, and 3) A demonstration that his legs work just as well in the Alps as they do in the Dolomites with a third solo bid to win in Tirano. And let's not forget the near win in the mountain time trial of Plan de Corones and the display on the Monte Pora.

His Alpine win was once again a showing of a little team that can. The Italian Professional Continental team placed Fortunato Baliani and Julio Pérez up the road, allowing Sella options when he went on the attack before Aprica. "I tried my attacks on the Mortirolo, I waited for Baliani and then we had three of use on the descent of Mortirolo," he explained. While Pérez was not able to stay in contact, Sella and Baliani were joined by Domenico Pozzovivo, who had been at Sella's side.

"I hit hard at the start of the Aprica and Simoni was not able to follow. I am a little sorry for him, but..."

-Sella reflects on his winning move..

When the group hit the base of the final climb, Sella jumped away, and none could follow, although Gilberto Simoni tried. "I saw that I had the same condition that I had in the Dolomite stages. I hit hard at the start of the Aprica and Simoni was not able to follow. I am a little sorry for him, but..."

Sella had finished the Corsa Rosa before in 10th, 11th and 12th overall - but with a little better luck, could he have challenged for the win in Milan? After his bad luck flat on stage seven, he was banged up on the same roads that saw his first Giro d'Italia success when he crashed two times on the rain-soaked roads of stage 11 to Cesena. "I did not think of this," he responded. "Maybe it would have been different, who knows. Maybe I would have not had three wins and only one. I think that inside of me and inside my head I knew it was all going well and I just had to keep looking ahead."

He will likely not change his focus over the next year to focus on the overall classification, and continue to focus on stage wins. "I will see how it goes in the crono," continued Sella, who sits in fifth, 2'35" back from Alberto Contador in the overall classification with one stage remaining. "I am happy with the maglia verde and the three stages. I will look at what I did this year and think."

A new Sella

Sella makes his move
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

During the last three seasons he only recorded two wins, all coming in the Brixia Tour. This year, he began the season with a stage win in the Settimana Coppi e Bartali, and it seemed to mark a turning point for the young Italian. "Sella changed," he noted of his rise. "Sella had faith and the Bruno Reverberi family now has faith. They asked that I think only of the Giro over the last winner and that I do the best I can.

"This winter I did my base work and then I found a good situation, with my family and my girlfriend at home. I realised some of my mistakes from the last years. My fear for the future is that I will be a guy that ends quickly."

He does not work with a trainer nor has he in the past. "I don't have a specific trainer and maybe this is my mistake. Maybe this is my problem. I arrived many times tired after a race." He added that sometimes his light weight affects his health, "Being 55kg you have to be careful, it is not like being 70kg."

Team Manager Bruno Reverberi chimed in... "We never had a great champion, just solid riders. ... You saw how we raced today, two riders up front. We have four or five men that are not stars but all strong." If one, like Sella, becomes a star? "It is better to go to a team where they can work for the star."

He explained that the team aimed specifically for the Giro d'Italia, the biggest race on its calendar. "We are not a team of ProTour, we focused on the Giro, it is better this way," Reverberi noted. "Early on, before the Giro, we pre-selected who will do the Giro and ask them to prepare for the Giro. ... It is very important for our sponsor."

A change at home

Sella pops the cap
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Sella promised his girlfriend, Laura, that the two would become married if he won at the Giro d'Italia, and he secured this to her three-times over. The couple will be married one week from the race's final day, June 8. "My girlfriend learned how to be a cyclist's wife... wife she will be my wife next week," Sella beamed. "She saw that it is not easy, sometimes I come home after 150 kilometres in the rain."

Sella will take a break after the Giro d'Italia and the wedding, but the honeymoon won't be until October as he will start to prepare for his next objective, the Brixia Tour.

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