Pocket rocket Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago-CSF Inox) took the biggest win of his career – his first for two years – and recorded a prestigious victory and welcome boost for his ProContinental team ahead of the Giro d’Italia, when he emerged victorious to win the 36th edition of the Giro del Trentino. In addition, he won both the third stage and the mountains classification.
With the exception of the team time trial on stage one, won by BMC, this really was a race for diminutive mountain goats – the more diminutive the better. On the queen stage three, we were treated to that rare spectacle, riders in 34×29 granny gears, moving as if in slow motion, up the 15% average gradient along little more than a track to Punta Veleno. Runner-up Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) said it was even worse than the Zoncolan! Sylvester Szymd (Liquigas-Cannondale) rewarded his team’s efforts by hanging onto third place overall.
Marco Frapporti (Team Idea) took the sprints jersey, Carlos Bentancur (Acqua & Sapone) was best young rider and the dapper Gianni Savio’s Androni Giocattoli squad won best team. Here’s how the race unfolded.
Stage 1: Riva del Garda to Arco, 14.3km team time trial
Unsurprisingly with former national time trial champions Marco Pinotti and Taylor Phinney in the team, BMC dominated the opening team time trial on their BMC TMO1s [stop drooling, Sheree – Ed] from Riva del Garda to Arco di Trento. A powerful display of the art of team time trialling, honed by three days of intensive team preparation and reconnaissance of the course, put youngster Phinney into the pink leader’s jersey. BMC finished a full ten seconds ahead of Astana, who also turned in a good performance, with Colnago-CSF Inox a further three seconds back in third.
Liquigas-Cannondale had a bit of mix-up on a left-hand bend which saw Paolo Longo Borghini bunny-hopping over the curb and off the pace line leaving them to finish in sixth place, 19 seconds off BMC. Likewise, Lampre-ISD had both Matt Lloyd and Morris Possoni kiss the tarmac and the team finished 23 seconds down.
Stage 2: Mori to Sant’Orsola Terme/Val dei Mocheni, 152km
Wednesday’s cold and sleeting stage featured four categorised climbs, including a summit finish on which Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) took his first victory of the season. Having been set up by his team mates at the foot of the final climb, he avenged his disappointment in last Sunday’s Amstel Gold by outsprinting promising Colombian climbing talent Carlos Betancur (Acqua & Sapone) and Roman Kreuziger (Astana) – who moved respectively into third and second places overall – while BMC passed the leader’s jersey onto Mathias Frank, the first time he’d ever donned one since turning pro in 2008, who crossed the line three seconds after Cunego. Team mate Marco Pinotti was fourth overall, nine seconds off the lead.
The race had been blown to pieces on the snow-lined descent of the Passo Redebus, with Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), Domenico Pozzovivo and race leader Taylor Phinney (BMC) all in the second group on the road. Afterwards Cunego explained:
I knew I was in fine form and I could count on my team to help me to navigate a course whose characteristics suited me. I’m glad I responded positively to these good conditions, winning a great victory. I thank all my teammates for their generous assistance.
Stage 3: Pergine/Coop Piccoli Frutti to Brenzone/Punta Veleno, 167.8km
The diminutive Domenico Pozzovivo proved he was the strongest rider on a day which concluded with the eyewatering steep and narrow 8.5km ascent of Punta Veleno which, while it has an average gradient of 15%, tips up towards 20% in places. It was a complete contrast to yesterday when the pocket-sized Italian finished behind the leading group. He assumed the GC lead from Mathias Frank, who dropped to fifth, although triple former champion Damiano Cunego managed to limit his losses on the 2½km descent and false flat finish after the summit to take third behind Sylvester Szmyd.
A large group of riders, including most of the favourites for the overall, were together at the foot of the final ascent but after only a few kilometres of climbing were sprinkled over it like so much fallen spring blossom. It’s not often you see professional riders ascending this slowly or using granny gears! Liquigas’ Ivan Basso and Valerio Agnoli, in the company of Danilo di Luca (Acqua & Sapone) compounded their problems by initially taking the wrong route behind one of the race motorbikes.
Just seconds after the finish, Pozzovivo confirmed:
It’s an incredible climb. Fortunately it went well for me. I’m really happy. I managed to stay calm and in control. The team controlled the race early on and then I attacked when I wanted to and I quickly got a gap. The climb was so hard that I had to use 34×29 and I only changed to 34×27 near the top. I hope to do well on the Pordoi. It’s not a difficult climb and so the team will be important, especially on the flat roads before the climb. There will be attacks but I’m on form and ready for a fight.
Here’s how he did it:
Stage 4: Castelletto di Brenzone to Passo Pordoi/Val di Fassa, 177.5km
Darwin Atapuma (Colombia-Coldeportes), 2008 national road race champion, took his biggest career win – and importantly his team’s first win on European soil – when he made a sudden dash for the line in the last few hundred metres on the fourth and last stage which finished atop the snowy 2,239m high Passo Pordoi. His compatriot Carlos Betancur was second, three seconds back with overnight race leader Domenico Pozzovivo happy to trail in a further three seconds behind in third place. He’d already done enough work on the slopes to distance himself from the other contenders and ensure he retained the race lead, taking the biggest victory of his career too.
The fast pace of the racing [I’m sure they were just trying to keep warm! – Ed] on the flat early part of the stage meant it took some while for a break to become established – Brian Vandborg (Spidertech-C10) and Reto Hollenstein (NetApp) – neither of whom posed any threat to anyone. They were subsequently reeled back in on the last climb of the day by the work done firstly by Pozzovivo’s remaining teammates, and then Liquigas led by Ivan Basso.
But before they reached the foot of the last climb, a crash involving BMC’s Alessandro Ballan and Taylor Phinney, Luca Ascani (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), and Davide Frattini (UnitedHealthcare) split the peloton. However, all the race’s main contenders were in the front group.
Despite the high tempo set by the boys in lime-green in the falling sleet, Jose Rujano (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela) jumped away but never managed to put any distance between himself and the leading group which was shelling riders like proverbial peas back down the slope.
After sticking close to both Damiano Cunego and Sylvester Szmyd, in response to an attack by Herbert Dupont (AG2R La Mondiale), Pozzovivo upped the pace and waved goodbye to his nearest challengers, leading both Atapuma and Betancur into the last few kilometres of the stage and himself to certain victory.
While this race is one for the climbers, it has shown that a number of general classification riders are coming nicely into form ahead of the last of the Ardennes Classics, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and, more importantly, the Giro d’Italia. The smaller ProContinental teams will know that, while they may not be able to challenge for general classification in the Giro, they have riders who are more than capable of winning a stage or two, thereby justifying their wild-card places. Take a good look at those that finished in the top ten, you’ll be seeing those names again before the month of May is out.
You may recall we were keeping an eye on youngster Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini), whose dad Luciano won stage one and the overall at Tirreno-Adriatico in 1986. Matteo was the model of consistency, finishing in the top forty pretty much every day to end up 35th overall, 16:20 down on Pozzovivo.
1. Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago-CSF Inox) 12:57:47
2. Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) +0:40
3. Sylvester Szmyd (Liquigas-Cannondale) +1:04
4. Carlos Betancur (Acqua & Sapone) +1:42
5. Jose Rujano (Androni Giocattoli) +2:07
6. Roman Kreuziger (Astana) +2:33
7. Hubert Dupont (AG2R La Mondiale) +2:34
8. Darwin Atapuma (Colombia-Coldeportes) +3:55
9. Marco Pinotti (BMC) +4:01
10. Mathias Frank (BMC) +4:05