That’s the beauty of cycling, period! When, at the dawn of a stage with a seemingly foregone conclusion like today’s – the Enna-Termini Imerese, Stage 3 of the Giro di Sicilia 2023 – a brave group breaks away from the peloton, 99% of the riders know that they will be caught. It’s just part of the game, right? It certainly is! But that 1% chance is what this sport feeds on. Uncertainty, unpredictability, sometimes drama – sportingly speaking, of course -, the will to overturn an already written script; well, today this script has a name on it: Joel Suter.
This 190 cm (6.3 ft) guy from team Tudor, born in Frutingen, Switzerland, outsmarted the whole peloton, completing a feat he is not likely to forget anytime soon. This morning, his name was well mixed with that of the other attackers, namely Pierelis Belletta (Biesse-Carrera), Michele Berasi (General Store-Essegibi-F.lli Curia), Roberto Carlos González (Mg.K Vis-Colors for Peace), Giacomo Garavaglia (Work Service-Vitalcare-Dynatek) and Edoardo Faresin (Zalf Euromobil Désirée Fior). He did not go for points (and cash) at the intermediate sprint and even at the KOM he just looked uninterested. His moment would come several kilometres later.
“Halfway through the stage I thought that the peloton would catch us, but then in the finale I saw that the lead was still good and at that point I gave it my all,” he explained. In fact, the bunch let the attackers’ lead swing between three and four minutes for several kilometres, and only in the last 30 km did they start to seriously come back and try to close the gap. With less than 20 kilometres to go, the gap was still around one minute, and that’s when Suter waved everyone else goodbye and began chasing his dream.
It was only at that point that the peloton realised that the Swiss national time trial champion was still in the lead and all the teams started to pull hard. Suter, imposing and elegant, always kept his composure and never ran out of power, but between himself and the finish line in Termini Imerese was a 1300-metre climb at 5-6%, which would have cut the legs of just about anyone after a 140 km breakaway. But not Suter’s legs! He approached the final climb with a dozen seconds to spare, took advantage of the five hairpin bends to breathe a little, and reached the finish line with his arms raised, four seconds ahead of the peloton, which was led by one of the local lads, Filippo Fiorelli (Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè) ahead of Elia Viviani (Nazionale Italiana).
The 1% chance of winning with which he had launched himself into the breakaway this morning suddenly became 100%. And tomorrow, the breakaway can once again dream of making it all the way to the arrival in Giarre.