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MILAN (VN) — Mark Cavendish has come up against a number of Italians wanting to take his crown. Manuel Belletti and Andrea Guardini beat him in the past, and this week, Sacha Modolo struck in Argentina.
The 25-year-old Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox rider burst onto the radar when he beat Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) in an uphill sprint at the Tour de San Luis, but he had already won the 2011 Coppa Agostoni and 2012 Coppa Bernocchi one-day races. Those events rank higher than the second leg of the Tour de San Luis on Tuesday, but this time Modolo was up against the former world champion and his Omega Pharma men. And he won.
“Fantastico!” Modolo said in a press release of the uphill sprint to Terraza del Portezuelo. It wasn’t only Cavendish he beat; Peter Sagan (Cannondale) was fifth and Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Merida) sixth.
The finish suited him. In fact, on Monday Omega Pharma sports director Davide Bramati asked Modolo if he had looked at it in the race book. Modolo nodded his head yes, having had the time on arrival in Argentina when he was waiting for the airline company to deliver his Cipollini bike. As it was, with the bad weather in Italy and lost luggage, he spent five days off his bike planning his win.
“Wins in this way ahead riders like Cavendish is an incredible emotion,” said Modolo.
Cavendish won his first grand tour stage in Modolo’s home country, Italy, at the Giro d’Italia. He also won Italy’s big one-day classic, Milan-San Remo. He grew up training there and knows the Italians well.
After winning the 2009 San Remo in his debut, he would have taken note of the Trevigiano the following year. He had technical problems, but Modolo placed fourth in the sprint behind Oscar Freire. It was Modolo’s debut year in the pro ranks and he was just 22 years old.
“I know I can win this race one day,” Modolo said proudly at the time. He lost Freire’s wheel in the sprint along the seaside. “One day,” he added, “these champions are going to be seeing me win from behind.”
Terraza del Portezuelo to San Remo? There is a big difference, but Modolo has his ticket to ride.
‘Un biglietto per Sanremo, per favore’
Over the winter, Modolo thought about his wife and four-month-old daughter. He had to make a tough decision. He had an offer from first division team Lampre, but it was nothing concrete and a possible risk, especially given the team’s involvement in the Mantova investigation.
Roberto and Bruno Reverberi’s Bardiani Valvole team was going through some changes. It lost Colnago’s sponsorship and riders Gianluca Brambilla (to Omega Pharma) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale). Reverberi wanted to hang on to his sprinter, though. Modolo wanted the team’s security for his family.
The team is one of Italy’s top five squads, but races in the second division and must fight even to have a chance for Modolo to face-off with Cavendish. On January 8, it received good news. Though RCS Sport overlooked the team for Tirreno-Adriatico and the Giro, the race organizers confirmed the team to race in Milan-San Remo.
Modolo says that San Remo suits him the best out of all the big classics. Instead of Tirreno, he will have to plan another attack on la “Classicima.” After Argentina, he heads to the WorldTour’s Tour of Qatar, February 3 to 8, and the Tour of Oman, February 12 to 17.
Cavendish, according to a report today by France’s L’Equipe newspaper, is also racing in Qatar. The two will go head to head again, allowing Modolo to get a feel of where he stands heading to their March 17 date in San Remo.