Diego Ulissi insists his first-ever UCI WorldTour triumph was the perfect way to end the 2017 season and will spur him on to work harder for even greater success next season.
The 28-year-old Italian claimed victory at the Tour of Turkey on Sunday, producing a thrilling ride to win the Queen Stage (Stage 4), with sixth place sixth on the final stage good enough for him to emerge as the overall winner.
The Cecina native finished safely in the bunch on the final day in Istanbul to claim the General Classification 12 seconds ahead of Astana’s Jesper Hansen, with Androni Giocattoli’s Fausto Masnada third, with Ulissi clinching his first WorldTour victory and 29th win of his career.
Ulissi began and ended the season tasting success, adding the WorldTour victory to his Gran Premio della Costa Etruschi win in Tuscany in February.
And, having finished second on Stage 15 of the Tour de France behind Trek–Segafredo’s Bauke Mollema in July, Ulissi is content with his 2017 campaign – UAE Team Emirates’ WorldTour debut.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to have my first WorldTour win, it was my goal for this race to win the General Classification and I’m so pleased to have done it,” Ulissi told Sport360.
“I couldn’t have done so without the team’s efforts, it’s them that helped me get this win so a big thank you to them.
“I’ve closed out my season in the best way possible with a WorldTour win, the first of my career. To finish on a high is fantastic and it helps me focus on next year with a great motivation.
“I’ve managed to stay in good form at the end of season which really helped me to be competitive throughout this tour.”
Ulissi, who finished second in the Italian National Road Race Championships in June behind compatriot and new UAE teammate Fabio Aru, claims that as a rider he always strives for better, but he can be pretty content with his efforts – which also saw him claim victory at September’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal in Canada.
“Every rider would always like to achieve better, I feel the same because I always want the best,” added Ulissi, winner of six individual stages at the Giro d’Italia.
“However, I feel my season was pretty good, starting from the top five in the GC of the Tour Down Under which I obtained in January and ending in October with the win in Turkey.
“I would have liked to obtain better results in the Ardenne Classics and, of course, I would change the second place in the stage of the Tour de France for a victory.”
The rest period for professional cycling has shortened dramatically over the years, with thoughts already turning to the 2018 campaign which begins in under three months.
But Ulissi says he will now recharge his batteries and spend some time with his family before focusing on more success come January.
“I’ve had a good season and it’s been a big change for the team with us representing a nation on the jersey,” he said.
“I want to do even better for 2018 and hope to get people in the UAE inspired by my performance and the team’s so they get cycling.
“Sponsors and the management have continued to explain to me and the team that the efforts and achievements of the riders are helping to increase the awareness and the passion toward cycling in the UAE which for me is a great success and it gives me great satisfaction, making my season even better.
“Compared to the past, the off-season is very short in cycling now. Some years ago, the first race appointments were scheduled in February, nowadays most of the team’s riders will be flying to Australia or Argentina by early January.
“In my downtime I’ll rest for a couple of weeks, I’ll spend them with my wife and daughter, then I’ll start to do some gym practice, then it’s back to work.”
UAE are set for a modest 12th place finish in the WorldTour team standings out of 18 teams on debut. They will be aiming for more success next year with the addition of Italian champion Aru, who will join fellow new signings Dan Martin and Alexander Kristoff on an overhauled roster.
And Ulissi is excited for the new campaign ahead, adding: “It’s been a big development for the team, it was a real breakthrough moment for professional cycling with such big sponsors coming on board.
“We’re now building on our roster with world-class riders which is an exciting time for the whole squad.”
UAE Team Emirates have officially announced the signing of Fabio Aru, who is no doubt a major coup for the outfit.
The Italian national champion has agreed a three-year deal with the Emirati team.
“We are happy to welcome a champion like Fabio Aru,” said team manager, Carlo Saronni.
“His skills perfectly match the ambitions of the team. Besides highlighting Aru’s enormous potential, I’d like to point out that he is a rider who can stir up excitement amongst the fans and he is well-loved because of his generosity on a bike.
“With his performances, he will contribute to promoting an ideal team image and he will likely help us achieve important, competitive results.”
The 27-year-old Aru won the Vuelta a Espana in 2015, the Young Rider classification at the Giro d’Italia that same year, and this season, he claimed his first Tour de France stage.
He had been with the Kazakh outfit Astana since he turned professional in 2012.
“I’m honoured that the UAE Team Emirates management and their sponsors want to unite our cycling endeavours,” said Aru.
“I thank them for the faith they’ve placed in me and I hope to live up to their expectations. I would also like to thank everyone who has been with me up to now in my career, they’ve all been important to my development.”
UAE Team Emirates’ Diego Ulissi successfully claimed victory at the Tour of Turkey.
The Italian won Stage Four and placed sixth in the final stage emerging as the overall winner to clinch his first World Tour victory and the 29th win of his career.
He produced a thrilling ride during the Queen Stage as he powered across the finish line to first place.
The victory elevated the 28-year-old to the top of the General Classification standings, setting him up for the overall win on Sunday.
Commenting on his win, Ulissi said: “Today was another day where my teammates showcased their spectacular efforts in supporting me and ensuring I remained in the front of the pack as we approached the final leg of the race.
“The final part of the race was the most critical and as a team we did well ensuring it went smoothly. I preferred to expend energy to remain in the front of the pack rather than run the risk of lagging behind.
“I came to Turkey with the intention to win the General Classification and here I am! It was a challenging goal that my teammates and I worked hard on all week. I would like to thank the entire team and our sponsors, I’ve closed out my season in the best way possible.”
RESULTS STAGE 6
1 Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) – 3:24:32
2 Matteo Pelucchi (Bora-Hansgrohe) – 00:00:02
3 Francesco Gavazzi (Androni-Sidermec-Bottecchia) – “”
6 Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) – “”
FINAL GENERAL CLASSIFICATION
1 Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) – 26:32:15
2 Jesper Hansen (Astana) 00:00:12
3 Fausto Masnada (Androni-Sidermec-Bottecchia) – 00:00:24
📸: Bettini pic.twitter.com/iNt6ttyxo4
— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamUAEAbuDhabi) October 15, 2017