The start of the cycling season in Italy has been dominated by those boys in eye-catching lime green – Liquigas – Cannondale – who have a fairly formidable roster whatever the terrain.
We’re going to be taking a quick look back at the GP Costa degli Estruscha, Giro della Provincia di Reggio Calabria, Trofeo Laiguelia and, expanding into the Italian speaking region of Switzerland, the GP di Lugano. These races showed who’s got early-season form and who’s just warming up for the later, bigger races.
Early-season races are typically where young guns get an opportunity to show what they’re worth, while second division teams – with points to prove to race organisers – want to animate races and prove worthy of consideration for invitations to subsequent races. These races were no exceptions and even though they are only European Tour races, they form the launch-pad for many teams’ early training and racing preparation, particularly the Italian ones.
GP Costa degli Estruschi: winner Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale)
After victory on his Argentinean season debut, Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) sped across the finish line in Donoratico to successfully defend his 2011 crown at the weather-shortened Tuscan race, which has been run since 1996, at the start of February.
Thinking Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) – who’s won the race six times (2005-2010) – would be the man to watch, Viviani rode his wheel for much of the last 3km of the race, only switching in the final few hundred metres to that of Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF Inox) before kicking to sail past him and across the line to claim another victory which he dedicated to his friend Alessandro who’d been recently knocked over and killed by a car.
1. Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) 4:25:00
2. Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF Inox) same time
3. Filippo Baggio (Utensilnord-Named) s/t
4. Giorgio Brambilla (Leopard-Trek Continental Team) s/t
5. Ariel Maximiliano Richeze (Team Nippo) s/t
6. Marco Frapporti (Team Idea) s/t
7. Manuel Belletti (AG2R-La Mondiale) s/t
8. Krisztian Lovassy (Hungarian Team) s/t
9. Danilo Napolitano (Acqua & Sapone) s/t
10. Enrico Rossi (Meridiana Kamen Team) s/t
Giro della Provincia di Reggio Calabria: winner Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale)
The Liquigas-Cannondale sprinter followed his stage wins in the Tour de San Luis and the GP Costa degli Etruschi with victory on the first stage of the Giro della Provincia di Reggio Calabria – a race which began life back in 1920 – 170.2km from Melito di Porto Salvo to Chiaravalle Centrale. His powerful kick carried him several bike lengths ahead of Daniele Colli (Team Type 1) and Elia Favilli (Farnese-Vini). The race was animated by various attacks with an initial breakaway of three being replaced by one of five riders who were finally absorbed back into the peloton with 30km to go.
Leading on general classification, Viviani needed his team to protect him on the following and final stage, 191km from Lamezia Terme to Reggio Calabria. It did exactly that, totally bossing the stage while Viviani did the same on the final sprint, beating Daniele Colli again and fellow San Luis competitor Maximilian Richeze (Team Nippo). Viviani explained afterwards that:
Today’s goal was to be one of the first over the line and more importantly bring home the general classification. Winning the second stage was the icing on the cake, which I did thanks to the incredible work of my teammates.
1. Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) 8:31:28
2. Daniele Colli (Team Type 1) +0:08
3. Elia Favilli (Farnese Vini) +0:16
4. Maximilian Richeze (Team Nippo) same time
5. Roberto Cesaro (Meridiana Kamen) +0:20
6. Filippo Baggio (Utensilnord Named) s/t
7. Marco Frapporti (Team Idea) s/t
8. Georg Preidler (Team Type 1) s/t
9. Davide Cimolai (Lampre-ISD) s/t
10. Federico Rocchetti (Utensilnord Named) s/t
Trofeo Laigueglia: winner Moreno Moser (Liquigas-Cannondale)
Neo-pro Moreno Moser (Liquigas-Cannondale) displayed his fine pedigree when he claimed his maiden professional victory after literally putting his head down and going for it 3km from the finish line. It’s a race which has been on the calendar since 1964 and which no one, not even Eddy Merckx, has won more than twice.
It had been a hard day’s racing for the peloton, whittled down over the many climbs to a leading group of 20 riders, who were led in four seconds back by Miguel Angel Rubiano (Androni Giocattoli) and Mateo Montaguti (AG2R-La Mondiale). At the finish, Moser said:
I just went. I pushed as hard as I could and never looked back: it was right to have a go, either it would work or it wouldn’t. Which helped the most, legs or courage? I’d say legs, you never win without those. I’d add teammates to that as well: I couldn’t have done it without their work and support.
For Liquigas-Cannondale, Moser’s (nephew of Francesco Moser) success was the perfect end to the perfect day which started with Vincenzo Nibali winning stage five at the Tour of Oman to bring the team’s tally to eight victories so far this season.
1. Moreno Moser (Liquigas-Cannondale) 4:58:15
2. Miguel Angel Rubiano (Androni Giocattoli) +0:04
3. Matteo Montaguti (AG2R-La Mondiale) same time
4. Gianluca Brambilla (Colnago-CSF Inox) s/t
5. Francesco Gavazzi (Astana) s/t
6. Marco Frapporti (Team Idea) s/t
7. Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) s/t
8. Edoardo Girardi (Utensilnord Named) s/t
9. Francesco Reda (Acqua & Sapone) s/t
10. Daniele Pietropolli (Lampre-ISD) s/t
GP di Lugano: winner Eros Capecchi (Liquigas-Cannondale)
Eros Capecchi (Liquigas-Cannondale) scored his – but not his team’s – first victory in the GP di Lugano. He attacked near the summit of the final climb with 4km remaining, and quickly opened up a 10-second gap on the best of the rest. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) led the chasers on the final descent before taking a tumble and probably unintentionally hindering the pursuit of Eros who was pegged back, but not by enough. Damiano Cunego profited from Scarponi’s and his team’s hard work by taking the sprint for second place ahead of neo-pro Enrico Battaglin (Colnago-CSF Inox).
Capecchi’s victory means back-to-back wins in this event for Liquigas-Cannondale whose defending champion Ivan Basso started the day feeling unwell and abandoned the race halfway through not wishing to compromise later, more important races.
1. Eros Capecchi (Liquigas-Cannondale) 4:32:02
2. Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) +0:04
3. Enrico Battaglin (Colnago-CSF Inox) same time
4. Matej Gnezda (Adria Mobil) s/t
5. Miguel Angel Rubiano (Androni Giocattoli) s/t
6. Mauro Santambrogio (BMC) s/t
7. Gianluca Brambilla (Colnago-CSF Inox) s/t
8. Francesco Reda (Acqua & Sapone) s/t
9. Fabio Felline (Androni Giocattoli) s/t
10. Matej Mugerli (Adria Mobil) s/t
Four races and four wins for Liquigas-Cannondale, building on their successes in the Tour de San Luis and Tour of Oman (nine in total). The boys in lime-green have come out fighting after what was most probably perceived by them as a disappointing 2011 season following the heady highs of 2010, which included Grand Tour wins for Ivan Basso (Giro d’Italia) and Vicenzo Nibali (Vuelta a Espana). Importantly, the results above show that the team is capable of nurturing and developing its younger riders and building it’s own future. Let’s look more closely at the winners.
The oldest is 25-year old Eros Capecchi, a former Italian junior champion, who started his career at Liquigas before spending a couple of years in the wilderness with Saunier-Duval and returning last year to the lime-green outfit. A very stylish bike-rider, he repaid the team’s faith in him by winning last year’s stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia. This year’s win in Lugano will have delivered a further boost to his growing confidence.
Elia Viviani’s five wins for the 2012 season put him ahead of both Omega Pharma-Quick Step Tom Bonnen’s four and reigning world champion (Sky) Mark Cavendish’s three victories. But is that by itself significant enough? It’s possible that this could be the 23-year old’s season – his third with Liquigas – although for 2012, he’s aiming for a gold medal on the track in London in the omnium as well as working towards greater success in races of a higher calibre, such as Paris-Nice.
Meanwhile, 21-year old Moreno Moser claims that his famous family name is an inspiration not a burden. Just as well, given how many in his extended family have ridden or are riding professionally. Expect him to pop up soon in our Cycling Families series.
Having amassed an impressive palmares as a junior, Moreno found it much harder to make his mark in the ranks of the Espoirs (under-23s). But he persisted in his dream of becoming a professional bike racer, spending three years at the under-23 level. I recall him animating the Under-23 World Road Race Championships in Melbourne in 2010. He rode as a stagiare last year with the team and his results persuaded the team to offer him a contract. He’s already repaid their faith with this first win. It won’t be his last.
Finally, keep an eye on Enrico Battaglin, a neo-pro with Colnago-CSF Inox who won last year’s Coppa Sabatini while still a stagiare with the team.
Links: GP Lugano preview, Liquigas-Cannondale official website
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