Lorenzo Fortunato, who else?
For both him, aged 25 and hailing from Bologna, and his team, Eolo‑Kometa, this was a maiden Giro d’Italia – actually, it was their first‑ever major stage race.
Over the first two weeks, he tried to hang in there with the best ones on every mountain stage – and often he succeeded. And then one day, on May 22, stage 14, he eventually decided to go on a breakaway.
The finish was on the top of the Zoncolan.
At the foot of the climb, the break was down to just a few riders, including Bauke Mollema and George Bennett poised for victory. Knowing this, Jan Tratnik tried to clip off straight away, as Fortunato followed.
Perhaps the two favourites had been trying too hard to hold each other back, or perhaps they just didn’t have the legs that day. Whatever it was, Tratnik and Fortunato kept on gaining ground, until it was clear that they would be jostling for the final shoot‑out over the last, gruelling 3 kilometres.
The young Italian climber pulled away in the steepest part of the climb, when the road felt like a sharp and endless driveway, and his fellow breakaway partner Tratnik, a stayer by trade, followed. In the meantime, Alberto Contador – one of the two founders of Eolo-Kometa along with Ivan Basso – was following the race on TV, on live social stream, in a crescendo of anticipation, hope and amazement, feeling even more anxious than when he himself was racing. “If Lorenzo wins, I will ride all the way to Milan”, he promised.
And finally, when his rider soloed over the finish line on the top of the Kaiser, in the mist, he burst into tears, screaming with joy. Lorenzo Fortunato was on his debut at the Giro d’Italia, and so was his team.
He took his first professional win by conquering a legendary climb – one of the hardest and most dreaded ascents worldwide. Could he be the new‑found star of Italian cycling?
What is sure is that, for all these reasons, he is the well-deserved winner of the award as the Best Revelation Rider of the 2021 Giro.