Etixx – Quick-Step had another successful season in 2016, with 57 road wins alongside 69 other podium places. Over the next weeks we will look back on the 10 biggest moments for the team in the 2016 season, and today we'll focus on Gianluca Brambilla's perfect day at the Corsa Rosa.
A short glance over his left shoulder, then one more push to the line on the uphill drag to Arezzo and a burst of celebration after a huge effort that took him at the end of the rainbow, where a big reward awaited him. That's how Gianluca Brambilla lived the closing meters of Giro d'Italia stage 8, which we won, taking also the prestigious pink jersey in the process.
Returning to the Corsa Rosa after a one-year absence, due to a broken collarbone, Gianluca set his sight on the stage between Foligno and Arezzo, a medium-mountain one, which incorporated some of Tuscany's famous dirt roads, on which the Etixx – Quick-Step managed to put in a brave performance just two months earlier, at the Strade Bianche, where he finished in third position.
Stage 8 of the Giro d'Italia witnessed a fast and furious start, as many riders sensed an opportunity and were keen on making it into the day's escape. Once things settled down and a large group snapped the elastic, Etixx – Quick-Step found itself with two men there, Gianluca Brambilla and Matteo Trentin. Of the two, Gianluca sat 1:56 down in the overall standings and was a threat for the GC, but the four-minute advantage the 13-man group enjoyed with around 40 kilometers left couldn't be closed.
On Alpe di Poti, the stage's final ascent, attacks flew from the leading group, but it wasn't until the last three kilometers that a rider emerged, and his name was Gianluca Brambilla. The 27-year-old dispatched all his opponents and quickly opened a gap that he increased on the descent to Arezzo; as the road flattened out, it became clear that victory was assured for the Bellano born rider, but the win brought along also a huge bonus, the pink jersey, making of 14 May 2016 the most memorable day of his career.
"To be sincere, I was thinking of this stage ever since I came third in Strade Bianche. At the start, I decided to give it a go and a group of 12 joined me, with Matteo among those riders. It was the perfect situation for us; during the stage I told him that I have good feelings and he gave it his all, especially in the 20 kilometers leading to the climb of Alpe di Poti, where he went full gas", said Gianluca, the 154th Italian rider to don the maglia rosa since its introduction in the race. "I love this sport and I worked really hard each and every day to get where I am today. In the past years, since joining Etixx – Quick-Step, I became more and more confident, the team has always supported me and that victory was also a reward for all their faith."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele