Who is Oliver Zaugg?

Oliver Zaugg

Swiss rider Oliver Zaugg won today’s race in Lombardia, taking everybody by surprise. But his win wasn’t a lucky break or a fluke, he made the lead group and attacked on the steepest part of the day’s final climb to Villa Vergano and held off any chasers. In recent weeks he’d taken top-10 places in the GP Beghelli and the Giro d’Emilia but is a discreet figure in the bunch.

Aged 30, he is from near Zurich, Switzerland’s capital biggest city but today lives with his wife and daughter in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland in the canton of Ticino that borders Lake Como, making him almost at home on today’s roads.

His best result until now was arguably 11th place overall in the 2008 Vuelta a Espana with several top-10 placings in mountain stages of races like the Tour de Suisse. He’s a climber, weighing 58kg (128lbs) and had spent all his career in the service of others with no win or even a podium spot, if you exclude team time trials wins earned with Liquigas. Indeed he spent a couple of seasons helping Vincenzo Nibali but today he was the won who profited from Nibali’s efforts after the Siciclian was caught with less 20km to go.

At home in the mountains

Given he’s not a star information is hard to come by. When interviewed by the Swiss media he was asked what animal he would pick if he could be reincarnated as an animal in a second life:

A marmot high up in the mountains, that wouldn’t be bad. They’re cosy, have no stress and are independent. Nobody bothers them during the day

In the same interview he says he prefers red wine over beer but his main focus is on his family and his health, as well as doing his job.

He’s often been in the lead group in the mountains, something that does not happen by accident, you either have it or you don’t. Zaugg’s climbing abilities have seen him animate races, the image above for example was from this year’s Dauphiné where he attacked on the final climb to the ski station of Les Gets, only to get overhauled by Europcar’s Christophe Kern.

Indeed in the recent Giro d’Emilia he was away with eventual winner Carlos Betancur, the two of them got away on the penultimate ascension of the San Luca climb and its 18% gradients but the Colombian jumped away to grab the win on the final ascent whilst Zaugg was caught. Today nobody caught him.

17 thoughts on “Who is Oliver Zaugg?”

  1. It was a very impressive escape today. As soon as he pulled away, it looked as though he had the win. Is he under contract with Leopard-Nissan-Trek-Mercedes-Schleck-Bruyneel for next year, or did he just become a valuable commodity for a number of teams looking for points to stay in the top echelon?

  2. I think Bern is still the capital of Switzerland 😉

    He also got a TTT win with Leopard in the Vuelta this year.

    Do you know what will be his next team?

  3. Good and timely post. I like this rider, but I still think that Contador and Schleck could have beaten him today even at 60% capacity. What a shame they wouldn’t bother.

  4. I agree Martin!!

    As much as I love watching the “heads of state” demolishing the peloton, I think its great to see the devoted domestiques taking home a few trophies this year.

    Van Summeren in Paris-Roubaix and Zaugg’s win in Lombardia are particularly gratifying for me. These guys give 110% for their race-day leaders every time. Its nice to know that when they eventually hang up their bikes, they’ll have a win in one of the great Classics to their names – very fitting and appropriate.

  5. What I find interesting is that whenever these lesser known riders win, they were always part of a “two pronged attack” – it was always part of the teams plan… If Fuglsang won yesterday, or if Hushovd won P-R, would Zaugg or VanSummeren’s names have even been mentioned?

  6. Also agree! Boring when it always the same guys winning! As much as I am a fan of Gilbert and have rejoiced at everyone one of his wins, and hoping he would win Lombardia again, I was extra happy to see an ‘unknown’ win! 2011 has, for a large part, been the year of the domestiques! Fantastic! Too many races where domestiques and unknowns go in a break-away and the big guns think “let them go, we’ll catch them!” Maybe the big guns/grubs will be more animate in the future! After all, they say they love the sport, or do they just love the podium and it is actually the domestiques who actually love the sport!!! Frankly, I am happy to see more domestiques winning! Would have been fun to see a domestique win the Worlds!!!

  7. As the Italian TV commentators said, Gilbert has been the only big star to win any of the 5 monuments this season. Can’t take anything away from the Swiss guy but my heart was for Nibali as we saw him come round the final curve before the summit at Ghisallo.

  8. What a great race, beautiful route and what a great year for the monuments!
    M-Sr: Goss
    RvV: Nuyens
    P-R: van Sumeren
    L-B-L: Gilbert
    il L: Zaugg

    I’d say a favorite, an outsider, two surprises and an outright shocker. Zaugg has to be up there with Gomez (82 M-Sr) or Durand (RvV 92).

  9. Nibali gets a chapeau for a bold, bold attack, but it was unlikely to happen from that far out.

    OZ rode a textbook race, hanging in until he attacked when it was too late to counter. Masterful, actually. Looked like Gilbert in his earlier wins this year, now that I think about it. Chapeau.

  10. “I like this rider, but I still think that Contador and Schleck could have beaten him today even at 60% capacity.”
    sorry but completely disagree… If you are 60% of your top form, you cannot win a Giro di Lombardia, and neither can you finish it. If you ever rode in a bike competition, you understand why. Example? Gilbert won everything this year. He was out of shape yesterday (can you say this? not English mother tongue sorry 🙂 ) and could not keep the leading butch on the final. This means that if you are even at 95% of your best form, keeping the first riders (we are in 2011, not in 1960), is really, really hard. believe me 🙂
    Really happy for Oliver (I am Swiss and of course am happy, but he is a shy boy, never asked anything, always on the front for his captains, and think he really deserves this first career victory! (yes, first) ).
    Even Cancellara, who phoned swiss italian TV when Zaugg was interviewed live, congratulated and was happy for this victory, saying “this is more important, in my opinion, for him rather than for the team”, meaning he was happy he won as a person, rather than (only) as a teammate at Leopard-Trek, being really thankful for his job throughout this year!
    Let’s hope he will get more place within his team!

    (and by the way, Losone is on the Locarno Lake (or Lago Maggiore), not the Como Lake 🙂 )

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