Pierre Rolland knew he had won stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia when he hit the flamme rouge with 27 seconds over his chasers.
The Frenchman had time to savor the victory in Canazei. He flashed a huge smile, pointed to the sponsors on the front of his jersey and threw his hands in the air as he crossed the finish line.
He embraced Cannondale-Drapac soigneur Ricardo Pereira first and then communications director Matthew Beaudin. He hoisted his Cannondale Evo SuperSix high over his head. And then Rolland buried his face in his hands and he cried.
“I don’t have the word in English,” said Rolland. “It’s soulagment [relief]. I worked so hard for this, and I haven’t had the compensation for my work. I have tried to win so many times, and today I finally did. This is the reward for me and all my Cannondale-Drapac teammates.”
Rolland was part of an early breakaway of three riders that slipped away at the start of the 219-kilometer stage. The 30-year-old rode with Matej Mohoric (UAE Team Emirates) and Pavel Brutt (Gazprom) over the first two categorized climbs before opting to drop back to a 40-rider chase group that included Mike Woods.
“Sometimes after a hard stage, I go from the start,” said Rolland. “I didn’t think there would be just three of us. I took the first climb easy, the second climb easy, and then I waited for the big group.
“Those big groups are never easy to manage,” Rolland added. “They’re like a big lottery.”