RadioShack’s Portuguese strongman Sérgio Paulinho started this Tour as a faithful lieutenant to Lance Armstrong, assigned to protect and defend the team’s GC hopes without thought of personal glory.
Wednesday, he was set free from that role, jumping into an early six-man break that quickly gained time on an unmotivated field. Pualinho shed all but one of his breakaway companions up the final uncategorized climb, and then out-foxed his lone challenger, Caisse d’Epargne’s Vail Kiryenka, to take The Shack’s first stage victory of this Tour.
The victory is Paulinho’s 15th since turning pro with Liberty Seguros-Würth in 2005. Before Wednesday, his palmares was highlighted by a silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in the road race, which was won by Italian Paolo Bettini, and awin in stage 10 of the 2006 the Vuelta a España.
Paulinho signed with Discovery Channel in 2007, riding the Tour as a domestique. Paulinho was implicated in the Operación Puerto doping scandal prior to signing with Discovery, but was subsequently cleared of all wrongdoing by Spanish officials.
In 2008 he followed most of the Discovery riders and management to Astana, and won the Portuguese national time trial title. He stayed with Astana in 2009, helping the team win the stage 4 team time trial in the 2009 Tour.
This year, Paulinho once again stuck with Johan Bruyneel, moving to the RadioShack squad despite being good friends with Astana star Alberto Contador.
“My relationship with Alberto was very good and it still is very good,” he said when asked about the move. “We talk a lot. He knows I am his friend, and I remain his friend. But when I decided to leave Astana it was because I received a very good offer from RadioShack, and I had to think about my future.”
Today’s win marks the most prestigious of Paulinho’s career, and he was understandably enthusiastic after the finish.
“I have dreamed about this since I was a little kid,” he said. “Today my dream came true. This victory is more important to me than my Olympic silver medal.
“I decided when I crossed the line that I wanted to dedicate the victory to my daughter, who is just eight years old.”
The victory was the first Tour de France stage win for Team RadioShack. After the team’s recent general classification disappointment, Paulinho’s stage victory is especially significant as a morale boost for the entire squad.
“There will be a big feast within the team (tonight). This victory is very important for us; it is the first for the whole team,” Paulinho said.