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Giro d'Italia

A carpenter wears the Giro d’Italia’s first pink jersey

Lukas Pöstlberger, a trained carpenter, may be the 100th Giro d'Italia's most unlikely pink jersey wearer.

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OLBIA, Italy (AFP) — If anyone needs a new kitchen installed, Giro d’Italia leader Lukas Pöstlberger can help out — but only when he finishes the three-week Italian epic after carving out a sensational win on his race debut Friday.

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“I trained as a carpenter, so if you need a kitchen then maybe I can help,” Pöstlberger joked after upsetting the big-name sprinters’ plans on the opening stage from Alghero to Olbia in Sardinia. “But right now, I don’t have a lot of time.” In fact, his team is sponsored by two kitchen hardware companies: Bora stovetops and Hansgrohe faucets.

Competing in his maiden grand tour only three weeks after being told he would be packing his bags for the 100th edition of the race for the pink jersey, Pöstlberger promptly seized the day.

A host of top sprinters looked to have set up a bunch sprint after chasing down a five-man breakaway over rolling terrain on the north coast of the island.

But after a sharp right-hand bend caused chaos in the final kilometers, 25-year-old Pöstlberger surged clear, held off a desperate chasing pack and soloed over the line in triumph to claim the first pink jersey of an edition that is expected to come down to a duel between 2016 champion Vincenzo Nibali and 2014 winner Nairo Quintana.

“Before this, my dream was to win solo at a grand tour. Now, I’ll have to find another dream,” said Pöstlberger, whose previous career highlight was a stage win on the Tour of Austria.

Australia’s Caleb Ewan was second, the Orica rider finishing ahead of German sprint star André Greipel as the fast men of the peloton lost a golden chance to vie for the maglia rosa.

Pöstlberger didn’t care: “Every sprinter goes for the victory, but I’m not sorry to be honest. This is cycling.”

And when your teammate is reigning world champion Peter Sagan — the closest a cyclist will ever get to resembling a rockstar — confidence oozes through the team. To make the day even better for Bora, Cesare Benedetti rode in the early breakaway and claimed the lead in the king of the mountains classification, giving the team a clean sweep in all four major jersey competitions.

“From Peter I’ve learned a lot of things about professional cycling,” added Pöstlberger, who turned to road racing after trying mountain biking while at school. “But I also learned that it’s just cycling. You won’t die when you do bad. You should have fun, enjoy it and look on the positive side.

“This is what I’ve taken from him … as a person he’s such a nice guy, and he inspires me. That’s the main message: Stay positive.”

Pöstlberger, who likes to climb and ski-hike in the winter months to maintain his fitness, wasn’t even sure he would be selected. “I had a 50-50 chance … but I’d been training for the Giro in the hope they’d pick me,” he added.

But after creating his own destiny on Friday, the Austrian admitted he might need a few glasses of wine to help him fully realize what he achieved.

He will be the main focus on Saturday when the peloton tackles the 221km second stage from Olbia to Tortoli, the second of three stages on the island.

“I think I will need a few glasses of wine for this to sink in,” he added. “But I believe in destiny. For everything there’s a reason.”