With the 2014 edition of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad running tomorrow, we thought we would celebrate the 2013 winner, Luca Paolini. Here’s a sampling of images of Paolini through the years from the eye of photographer Yuzuru Sunada. The 37-year-old Paolini started his professional career with Mapei-Quick Step (2002). Over the course of nearly 14 years, he has ridden for Quick Step-Davitamon (2003-2005), Liquigas (2006-2007), Acqua & Sapone-Caffè (2008-2010), and currently Katusha (since 2011).
Paolini has had numerous victories: Gran Premio di Lugano, Giro del Piemonte, Coppa Bernocchi, stage wins at the Vuelta a España, among others. When he moved to Katusha in 2011 as a support rider to Filippo Pozzato, it looked as if playing second fiddle would maybe make him fade away. However, in 2013 with Pozzato having poor form and drama off the bike, the gritty Paolini stepped up and finished third at the Giro del Piemonte and then won the 2013 edition of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Not long after, Paolini finished fifth at Milan-San Remo, eighth at E3 Harelbeke and won stage 3 of the Giro d’Italia.
Tomorrow he lines up against the likes of Boonen, Hushovd, Boasson Hagen, Ciolek and Chavanel. He may be on in years, but with his experience, we’re not going to count him out.