Strange but true. In this early part of the 2002 season, Tuscan riders have proved able to win everywhere, from Liguria (Milan-San Remo) to the Netherlands (Amstel Gold Race), from Belgian Classics to smaller stage races in France, Spain etc. But during this week-end they were unable to claim victory in their own territory.
Indeed, afer Saturday's first "home race" for Tuscans (Gp Larciano), was won by a Lombard rider (Stefano Garzelli), on Sunday Tuscany's very own Paolo Bettini was surprisingly beaten by a (presumed) darkhorse: Kazakhstan's Aleksander Shefer, who gave the steadily improving Alessio squad another victory.
The Asian rider, winner of a Ruta del Sol stage in Andalusia last February, soloed to victory in Arezzo with a 12" margin on "the Cricket", who led home a 15-strong chasing group ahead of Sicilian Giuseppe Palumbo, Ruggero Marzoli, and another crowd favorite, local rider Rinaldo Nocentini (Fassa-Bortolo's leader for one day, as Casagrande was not part of the game).
It was a very well-deserved triumph for the Kazakh, who launched his attacks and rode clear from the peloton EVERYTIME riders were on the Scopetone ascent. That is FOUR times, three of which proved useless, as while in the following Torrione descent he lost all the advantage he had gained before.
But his fourth try proved to be the good one, as the man finally managed to keep the gap on the peloton and go all the way to the finishing line, where he finally could raise his arms in triumph.
"I really wanted to win this race. I made many tries, and in the end everything went well. I particularly feared (Cage Maglierie-Olmo's Colombian) Cárdenas, so I tried to anticipate him. And facts proved me right" the winner said afterwards. As for Bettini, "the Cricket" didn't sound too disappointed for not winning the race "I'm satisfied with my second place. Shefer truly deserved his victory".
No doubts that both the Italian and the Central Asian will be given the chance to have their say in some stages of the coming Giro, where Mr. Shefer took eighth overall in 1996.
RESULTS - TOP 11 PLACES:
1. Alexander Shefer - Kaz - Alessio. in 4h44'58" (40,868 km/h)
2. Paolo Bettini - Ita - Mapei-Quick Step - at 12"
3. Giuseppe Palumbo - Ita - De Nardi-Pasta Montegrappa - s.t.
4. Ruggero Marzoli - Ita - Mobilvetta-Formaggi Trentini - s.t.
5. Rinaldo Nocentini - Ita - Fassa-Bortolo - s.t.
6. Mirko Celestino - Ita - Saeco-Longoni Sport - s.t.
7. Félix Rafael Cárdenas - Col - Cage-Maglierie-Olmo - s.t.
8. Ruslan Ivanov - Mol - Alessio - s.t.
9. Sergio Barbero - Ita - Lampre-Daikin - s.t.
10. Ruggero Borghi - Ita - Tacconi Sport-Emmegi - s.t.
11. Gilberto Simoni - Ita - Saeco-Longoni Sport - s.t.
Aleksander Shefer born in Alma-Ata, Soviet Union (now Almaty, Kazakhistan) on August 26, 1971, turned a pro in 1993 and rode for: NAVIGARE-BLUE STORM (1993-95), SCRIGNO-BLUESTORM (1996), ASICS (1997-98), RISO SCOTTI-VINAVIL (1999) and ALESSIO (2000-2002).
2001: GIRO DELL' APPENNINO; 1 RUTA DEL SOL STAGE
2002: GIRO DI TOSCANA; 1 RUTA DEL SOL STAGE (Cordoba)
* He also was Overall Champion of the 1990 Regio Tour.