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" hope that today's win will give me a berth in the Giro d'Italia next year, because there are a lot of sprint stages there. We start in the Netherlands, so it will be a bit like 2012, when we started in Denmark."

Photo: Muscat Municipality/Paumer/B.Bade

ABU DHABI TOUR

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ANDREA GUARDINI

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ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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08.10.2015 @ 20:21 Posted by Emil Axelgaard
 

Andrea Guardini (Astana) got his season back on track at the very end when he came out on top in the bunch sprint at the end of a shortened first stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour. After heat had forced the organizers to skip the 14.8km finishing circuit, the Italian positioned himself perfectly on Daniele Bennati’s (Tinkoff-Saxo) wheel and then rounded the veteran to take a comfortable print victory and the overall lead.

 

At the start of the season, it looked like Andrea Guardini was destined for a big year as he rode extremely well in the Arabic races. During the Dubai Tour and Tours of Qatar and Oman, he took no less than 9 top 10 results, with a stage win in Oman being the highlight. He went on to dominate the sprints in the Tour de Langkawi yet again as he left Malaysia with four stage wins in his pocket.

 

However, the success in Europe never materialized. He was set back by a crash in Scheldeprijs but still managed to win stages in the Tour de Picardie and the World Ports Classic. Nonetheless, those results were not enough to earn selection for any of the grand tours and the second half of the year has been a string of disappointments.

 

Now he has travelled to the Abu Dhabi Tour hoping to end the season in the way it started and apparently the Middle East is a happy hunting ground for him. Today he took a hugely comfortable victory in the bunch sprint at the end of the first stage of the new race.

 

"I remember that, with 250m to go, I was on Bennati's wheel, and I saw Sagan call out to Bennati to pull him, because they were too close to the front," he said. "When I was at 250m, I heard my name over the loudspeakers in the race commentary, and it was really incredible. I knew that I had the legs to do a really powerful sprint. I moved over to the left side, and I went. At that moment, I remembered what it was like to win the stage in the Giro d'Italia.

"This was the hottest day of my career and, I am sure, of that of most of the other riders. We started in the desert in 53 degree heat, and it was special because it was the first time in my career. I have raced in Malaysia, in Adelaide at the Tour Down Under, and once I trained around Adelaide in 50 degree heat. I felt really hot, but when I saw the faces of the other races, I tried to remember that, even if I was suffering, the others were suffering more than me. 

 

"Other riders suffer in the heat, but I like these conditions and I knew that I could do a really good job today. The first hour was really slow because of the strong headwind. Coming into the final kilometre, there was confusion in the peloton. The last curve was at 500m, and I went around it in third position. I knew that I was too near the front, so I held back. Luckily I was close to Bennati. When Peter [Sagan] kicked, he pulled Bennati with him at around the 250m mark. Peter sportingly left the corridor along the barriers open, and I came through.

 

"Of course it was nice to see him, 250m out, pulling for Bennati, and to pass him at 200 or 150m on the left side. I'm really happy because he was very sporting with me. He didn't close me into the barrier. He saw me on the left and he kept to his line in the centre. I am really happy that he won the World Championships  because he's a really powerful rider and a good World Champion for everyone.

 

"I like these places, and when I saw, last year, that RCS was organising this race and that we were going to do it, I was really interested. I saw that there were a lot of sprint stages, and I am simply interested in visiting these places. For example, I like F1, and I will really enjoy seeing the Yas Marina Circuit. It will be really special for me to race there.


"We are one of the strongest General Classification teams, especially since Fabio Aru has stepped up and built a group of riders around him, effectively creating a second GC team. We have a lot of riders to work these goals. I know that I am a sprinter who can work alone, but it is not at all easy to win a place in a Grand Tour. I hope that today's win will give me a berth in the Giro d'Italia next year, because there are a lot of sprint stages there. We start in the Netherlands, so it will be a bit like 2012, when we started in Denmark. It would be nice to do the Giro d'Italia again."

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