Oliver Zaugg: From domestique to winning Il Lombardia
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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Oliver Zaugg: From domestique to winning Il Lombardia

by Bjorn Haake at 2:57 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro di Lombardia
Swiss rider gains new confidence after strong solo move in final Classic of the season

oliver zauggOliver Zaugg has been a domestique with an affinity to do well in mountain stages, but today he got to ride for himself in the Tour of Lombardy. Zaugg delivered for the Leopard-Trek team, winning Il Lombardia with a strong solo move. The Swiss rider launched his attack less than ten kilometers from the line, overcame a non-working radio and saved eight seconds over an elite chase group.

Zaugg has long been valued as a domestique. "I have always been a helper during my career," said Zaugg. "Ever since I started racing, my job has been to help my captains. The team believed that my condition was good, and they gave me a chance today. They designated Jakob [Fuglsang] and me as captains together. I am incredibly grateful that the team gave me a shot in a race like Lombardy."

Fuglsang tried first and was in a promising move with Philippe Gilbert and Vincenzo Nibali. But not many wanted to work with Gilbert, who had won the last two editions of the race. "I was calm when Jakob went away," said Zaugg. "I knew that I needed to stay calm, focused and wait for my chance. I had a plan to time my attack on the final climb, like I did. I knew this was my best hope for victory. When Jakob went, that was his chance, and I would wait for mine."

Zaugg had shown excellent form as of late. In the Giro dell'Emilia, he was in a break with eventual winner Carlos Betancur. "I knew that I was in good shape," said Zaugg. "I remained calm with Nibali off the front. I proved at Beghelli that I had the form. A tactical error cost me the result. It happens often for me that my best form comes at the end of the season. I always come out of the Vuelta really fresh."

One of his best results came in the Spanish Grand Tour, where he finished 11th overall in 2008. He used the mountains to propel himself close to the top ten. On the famous Angliru he finished eighth.

Today, he proved again that he is a rider of the fall. "I knew I could do something here today. I had my attack in mind all week. I simply had to bide my time."

With around seven hundred meters to the top and the pace set by Ivan Basso, Zaugg jumped hard. It was his only chance, not wanting to risk a sprint. "I'm not a big guy. What I did was the only scenario in which I could win the race. The way things played out was exactly what I had planned."

The ride over the top was made harder by a lack of communication. His radio had broken and he had no idea about his gap "I controlled my bike on the six kilometers downhill and then I went all out on the three kilometers of flat road to the finish. I had no idea what my gap was as I headed to the line."

Zaugg started his career in 2004 with the Saunier Duval team and stayed with them until 2006. In his first year he finished a solid 47th in the Giro d'Italia. He spent 2007 and 2008 with the German Gerolsteiner team. He was 15th in the Vuelta a España in 2007 as well as 20th in the Giro di Lombardia.

In 2008 he finished fifth in the hilly GP Triberg-Schwarzwald,along with several top ten rankings in stages of various multi-day events. He was en route to a top ten in the Vuelta that year, but dropped to 11th after the final time trial. He said at the time that he was rather disappointed to not make the top ten.

But his good results saw him get a two-year deal with Liquigas, after Gerolsteiner folded. This season he joined the Leopard-Trek team. His result today should help him get a good contract for 2012.

Zaugg is from the German-speaking part of Switzerland, but has moved to the Italian-speaking Tessino area. It was almost a home game for him today. The result today boosted his confidence and he may cross the line in first more often in his career. "I have had many colleagues and friends believe that I had a big win in my legs," said Zaugg. "I need to thank them for their support. This is a huge, happy day for me."


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