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Matteo Pelucchi wins Mallorca opener

Pelucchi notches IAM Cycling's first European win of the season, out-sprinting Elia Viviani, Nacer Bouhanni, and André Greipel

MILAN (VN) — Italian Matteo Pelucchi (IAM Cycling) won Europe’s first big race of 2015, the Challenge Mallorca’s Trofeo Santanyi, Thursday. He out-sprinted Elia Viviani (Team Sky) and José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar). Top sprinters Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) finished further back in the top 10.

“The other teams tried to break the pack up, but we were vigilant and were always well placed in the front,” Pelucchi said. “I really must thank the team because they had complete confidence in me. Today is a victory for the whole team, not only a victory for me.”

“Everyone had to work for Matteo,” Rubens Bertogliati, IAM Cycling’s director said. “And we saw the results; I think the instructions were followed to perfection. The race took place on a circuit that was covered three times. In the final round, there were gaps in the pack, and I think that helped us to position Matteo. It is ‘easier’ to fight for the win when there are 100 riders instead of 180. Then the team did a great job to get Matteo in the best possible position just before the bend 500 meters from the line.”

Today’s win stands out as IAM Cycling’s first on European soil after becoming a WorldTour team this winter. Heinrich Haussler kicked off 2015 for IAM with the Australian national title.

“Bam!” the team responded on Twitter. “Good Job! Matteo Pelucchi wins the first sprint!”

Pelucchi’s biggest win came at home last year in Italy’s Tirreno-Adriatico stage race. Most remember the sprint to Cascina, near Pisa, thanks to Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin). The Tour de France’s sprint king of 2014 broke his handlebars, crashed, and picked up and slammed his bike down in frustration. Arnaud Démare, André Greipel and Peter Sagan finished behind Pelucchi, while Mark Cavendish was slowed by Kittel’s incident and managed to reaccelerate and placed 17th.

His win in Tirreno-Adriatico was dedicated to a former teammate, Belgian Kristof Goddaert, who crashed after becoming tangled in a tram line while training and died under a bus February 18.

The television cameras in Mallorca, where racing continues tomorrow, did not catch Pelucchi riding a wheelie after his win. Like Sagan, the Lombard from Giussano can do that and more.

Last year at the 2014 Vuelta a España, Pelucchi raced his first grand tour and sprinted to 10th on stage 2 behind Bouhanni. The 26-year-old could have more opportunities this year as IAM Cycling is guaranteed starts in all three grand tours: the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France, and the Vuelta a España.

His dream is to win a stage in a grand tour or Milano-Sanremo. He also likes battling in the wind and cold of the northern classics, from Dwars door Vlaanderen to Paris-Roubaix, where he competed for the first time in 2014.

In the one-day races, he will support Haussler and Sylvain Chavanel, but could also have a chance to lead the Swiss team to victory as he did in Cascina.

Pelucchi will continue in the Challenge Mallorca’s Trofeo Serra de Tramuntanan and Trofeo Playa de Palma-Palma this Saturday and Sunday, and then travel to the Middle East to race the Tour of Oman with team leader Mathias Frank.