Settimana Ciclistica internazionale Coppi e Bartali tends to be viewed as the ideal warm-up race for those taking part in May’s Giro d’Italia and, as might be expected, features many of the Italian ProContinental and Continental squads. It’s obviously not as prestigious a race as this week’s Volta a Catalunya but it still provides a varied terrain plus a safe haven for those that come out in hives at the mere mention of cobbles.
What kind of race is it?
This year sees the 14th running of Settimana Ciclistica internazionale Coppi e Bartali which takes place in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, the capital of which is the industrial town of Bologna. It’s named after the two Italian cyclists – Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali – whose rivalry lit up the world of cycling pre- and post-World War II. Since 2005, it’s been a category 2.1 event on the UCI Europe Tour. It’s considered one of the more important stage races in Italy and is organised by Gruppo Sportivo Emilia. Since 2010 it’s clashed with the more prestigious Spanish race – Volta a Catalunya – and, as a consequence, there are only three ProTeams taking part this year.
In 2004, the race organisers famously retired the number 145, worn by Marco Pantani in 2003 when he placed tenth and finished second in one stage thereby allowing him to stand on the podium for the very last time. Also, at the start of the race, a flock of white doves was released in his memory.
The most recent winners are:
2007: Michele Scarponi (Acqua & Sapone)
2008: Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto)
2009: Damiano Cunego (Lampre-NGC)
2010: Ivan Santomarito (Liquigas – Doimo)
2011: Emanuele Sella (Androni-Giocattoli)
What happened last year?
Emanuele Sella (Androni-Giocattoli) won the overall. He assumed the race leader’s jersey after his team claimed the team time trial, and cemented his victory by winning the queen stage to Gaggio Montano to open a gap on his closest rival, Diego Ulissi (Lampre-ISD).
Manuel Belletti (Colnago-CSF Inox), racing on his home roads, won the opening morning’s circuit race in a sprint ahead of Andrea Grendene (Team Type 1) and Volodymyr Bileka (Amore & Vita). Androni Giocattoli then won the team time trial ahead of Lampre to put Sella into the leader’s jersey. Liquigas had a nightmare event with five of their six riders hitting the deck, effectively ending their ambitions in the overall.
Stage two was won by Claudio Corioni (Acqua & Sapone) after a well-timed attack inside the final kilometre to finish ahead of Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini) and the appropriately-named Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli). The latter assumed the leader’s jersey before giving it back to his team leader after the following day’s queen stage where Sella soloed to the win in Gaggio Montano, having distanced the competition with 17km remaining.
The under-23 time trial world champion from Varese 2008, Adriano Malori, registered his first professional win for Lampre in the 14.3km individual time trial in Crevalcore but Sella did just enough to hang onto the leader’s jersey. On the ultimate day’s racing, won by Italian champion Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini), Sella’s team controlled the race and ensured their man remained atop the podium. That stage win secured the points jersey for Visconti, Jose Rujano (Androni-Giocattoli) was the mountain kingpin and Diego Ulissi was the best young rider, while Colnago-CSF Inox landed the team prize. Team Type 1 hit the headlines on the final day, when they were forced to withdraw because thieves had taken all of their bikes and equipment.
1. Emanuele Sella (Androni-Giocattoli) 14:57:34
2. Diego Ulissi (Lampre-ISD) +0:30
3. Stefano Pirazzi (Colnago-CSF Inox) +0:32
4. Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini) +0:38
5. Adriano Malori (Lampre-ISD) +0:43
6. Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) +0:56
7. Gianni Meersman (FDJ) +0:59
8. Stefan Schumacher (Miche) +1:05
9. Angel Vicioso (Androni Giocattoli) +1:08
10.Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago-CSF Inox) +1:11
This year’s race
The format is similar to last year’s race and again features a split day’s racing, an individual and a team time trial, a queen stage in the Apennines and plenty of circuits to attract the punters.
The race starts in the home of the world-famous Misano Moto GP circuit which has been renamed in honour of the recently deceased Italian Moto GP rider, Marco Simoncelli. The first stage comprises a 13.8km circuit, with an 800 metre hill, – 600m at 9% and 200m at 11% – which is ridden ten times. This is likely to finish in a bunch sprint.
Wednesday features a split day’s racing with another circuit in the morning and a team time trial in the afternoon. The morning’s circuit, which is raced twice, is short but lumpy and should again finish with a bunch sprint. The team time trial’s gentle undulations should allow those teams harbouring ambitions of the overall to start to seize control of the race.
Stage three again features two circuits giving the riders a total of seven passages across the finish line. After a short warm-up the riders will twice race the larger and more testing circuit, featuring the climb to Ricco at 583 metres, before completing six turns around an 11km circuit that’s rather more undulating and includes a short, technical climb followed by a steep descent to the finish line. Nonetheless, this’ll be a tiring day’s racing ahead of Friday’s queen stage.
The fourth, most difficult and longest stage of the event features the Apennines hills. It starts with three loops of a 4.3km circuit, before heading off to tackle those hills by way of Prignano Secchia. Here the road climbs again for some 40km before the most challenging section of the stage on narrow roads. It starts with a short and rapid descent to Sassostorno followed by a 3km climb to 1,137m including hairpin bends and gradients at times reaching 17%-18%. Riders then face, at 40km from the finish line, the ascent to Gaiato located less than 10km from the finish.
The event concludes with a pan-flat, and not particularly technical – apart from the start – individual time trial.
Who to watch
From the three ProTeams taking part in this year’s event, worthy of note are Liquigas’s Elia Viviani [isn’t that the rider you followed up Col d’Eze? – Ed] who’s already won a number of Italian races this season, neo-pro and winner of Trofeo Laigueglia Moreno Moser and climber Valerio Agnoli. Lampre are fielding time trial specialist Adriano Malori and last year’s runner-up Diego Ulissi. Astana are bringing Alexandre Vinokourov, most probably, riding in support of former mountain biker Fredrik Kessiakoff.
Turning next to the ProContinental teams, last year’s winner Sella will be well supported by Androni Giocattoli team mates Jose Rujano and Jose Serpa. Acqua & Sapone, still smarting from their Giro snub, are bringing their A-team with veteran Stefano Garzelli, former stage winner Claudio Corioni and Colombian climber Carlos Betancur. Multiple Tour de Langkawi stage winner Andrea Guardini will be eyeing up the sprint stages for Farnese Vini, as will new gun Enrico Battaglin for Colnago. Endura Racing have their stage racing star Jonathan Tiernan Locke hoping to add to his wins this season in the Tour Mediterraneen and Tour du Haut Var plus ex-Sky sprinter Russell Downing.
Other teams taking part include Colombia-Coldeportes, Utensilnord-Named, Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator, Spidertech-C10, NetApp, UnitedHealthcare, Nippo, Miche, Idea, Oster Hus from Norway, Itera Katusha (Katusha’s feeder team) and Swiss-based Adria Mobil. These teams will be looking to animate the race and possibly just sneak a stage win.
At VeloVoices Towers, we’ll be keeping a watchful eye on number 41, Colnago-CSF Inox neo-pro Enrico Battaglin, who’s been there or thereabouts in a number of one-day races already this year, including third in GP Lugano. Prior to turning professional, he racked up 15 wins, including a number of prestigious ones last year while still a stagiare.
March 20th: Stage 1 – Misano Adriatico to Riccione, 140.8km
March 21st: Stage 2a – Gatteo to Gatteo, 99.5km
March 21st: Stage 2b – Gatteo, 14.9km team time-trial
March 22nd: Stage 3 – Fiorano Modenese to Levizzano, 151km
March 23rd: Stage 4 – Pavullo to Pavullo, 159km
March 24th: Stage 5 – Crevalcore, 14.3km individual time trial
Settimana Ciclistica internazional Coppi-Bartali starts on Tuesday 20th March and concludes on Saturday 24th. Daily highlights will be shown on Rai 2 at 7 0’clock in the evening (CET). For possible live coverage check cyclingfans.com.
Link: Official website