OLBIA, Italy (VN) — ‘Go, Go Lukas!’ were the winning words. When Austrian Lukas Pöstlberger heard that over his earpiece from Bora-Hansgrohe teammate Sam Bennett, he accelerated to a Giro d’Italia stage win in Olbia, the first in the 100th edition, and the pink jersey.
The first stage wrapped its way into Olbia, in the northeast of the island of Sardinia. Pöstlberger led-out but looked back and found he had a gap over the bunch with 1.5 kilometers remaining. He held onto it for the victory.
“It means a lot for Lukas, it’s the biggest success in his career, we have to breathe and enjoy it and take it in,” said team sports director, Jens Zemke.
“He wasn’t normally on the plan to ride the Giro, but Leopold König had his knee problems and we decided to replace him, so we went with a young team. He was super-happy to ride the Giro and the dream came true in the 100th edition of the Giro.”
Pöstlberger had some idea that he could perhaps race the Giro. It was 50-50 that he would, but he still trained as though he was going to participate in his first grand tour.
The German team, this year in the WorldTour for the first time after it signed Peter Sagan, brought him to lead for sprinter Sam Bennett. The situation quickly changed when Luka Mezgec, Orica-Scott lead-out man for Caleb Ewan, unexpectedly eased off Pöstlberger’s wheel. Alone, he slalomed through the corners like a great Austrian skier Benjamin Raich and with more ease than the chasing group.
The 25-year-old became the first Austrian to win a Giro stage and wear the maglia rosa.
With his success, the sprinters lost one of the few occasions they have for stage wins in this mountainous Giro d’Italia.
“Chapeau to Pöstlberger,” André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) said. “He did a strong 1.5 kilometers, and I think he deserved to win.”
The name and even the pronunciation was new to most. Greipel was asked if he knows Pöstlberger. “Yeah, of course, that’s why I say his name!” added Greipel. “He was fourth or fifth in E3 Harelbeke [Pöstlberger was fifth in 2017 -Ed.], so that’s strong. For sure, that wasn’t the plan for them, but sometimes you have to make the best out of the situation and that’s what they did.”
“I don’t know anything about him,” said Orica sport director Matt White. “But good on him.
“It wasn’t that he wasn’t the strongest, he had a good moment and capitalized off of it. You need a bit of luck and he certainly had some, there wasn’t time for teams to get organized, but they can take nothing from him.
“The win is life-changing. The biggest win in his career and he’ll be lucky to win a bigger race ever.”
Pöstlberger began cycling at 10 when his school asked him if wanted to try mountain biking. Three years later, at a race, someone asked if he wanted to try on the road, and it went from there.
He trained as a carpenter. “And I can build you a kitchen if you need one,” he said with a laugh. “I just don’t have time now to do so!”
After today’s result, he may never need to work as a carpenter ever. His place in cycling seems secured.
“For me it’s the biggest result in my career,” he added. “Maybe I need some time and some weeks, and some glasses of wine to realize it. We went for the win today, it wasn’t planned for me, but that’s cycling.
“We have the stage and all the jerseys in the team. It’s the best day for the team and the Giro just started.
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