Italian early season races review

50th Trofeo Laigueglia (16th February)

TrofeologojpgFilippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) won from a four-man break in the Trofeo Laigueglia, the first Italian race of the 2013 season. Francesco Reda (Androni Giocattoli) – third in the recent Tour Mediterraneen – finished second, followed by Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) in third.

For Pozzato, it was something of a homecoming as this was his first professional win ten years ago in 2003. He went on to successfully defend his title the following year and, on the 50th anniversary of the race, becomes the first ever rider to take a trio of victories.

Pozzato wins in Laigueglia from 4-man final break (image courtesy of Lampre-Merida)

Pozzato wins in Laigueglia from a four-man final break (image courtesy of Lampre-Merida)

A five-man break formed in the opening kilometres of the 196.5km race and gained an advantage of around nine minutes before the peloton reeled them in with still 50km remaining. Following the first pass across the finish line, a quartet of riders went clear including Diego Rosa (Androni Giocattoli) who drove the break over the third ascension of the Testico dropping two from the break but gaining a third. Lampre-Merida, controlling the front of the peloton, reeled them back in with 20km left to race.  Others chanced their arm but they too were brought back swiftly into the fray. The team’s pace-setting efforts reduced the lead bunch to just 20-odd riders, including all the pre-race favourites.

Santambrogio made his move, and what proved to be the decisive attack, on the Capo Mele climb only to be joined by Reda, Pozzato and his teammate Diego Ulissi, who gave Pippo an armchair ride to the finish. Job well done for Lampre-Merida, whose plan to avoid a bunch sprint was perfectly executed to give them their third win of the season and Pozzato his first since April 2012’s GP Industria & Artigianato.

A delighted Pozzato confirmed on the team’s website:

I really care about Trofeo Laigueglia, so I’m very satisfied for this victory. My condition was good, I knew I could perform a great race; in addition, I received a perfect support by my mates: [Damiano] Cunego led the group on the climb and [Daniele] Pietropolli did the same; Ulissi was fundamental when Santambrogio attacked. I’ll give them back the help. I got scared when [Colombia’s Johan Esteban] Chaves crashed and hit my bike, forcing me to change it, but everything went on in the best way, so I could give joy to my new team and sponsor.

Result:

1. Filipo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) 5:03:40

2. Francesco Reda (Androni Giocattoli) same time

3. Mauro Santambrigio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) +0:03

4. Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) s/t

5. Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) +0:07

6. Anthony Roux (FDJ) s/t

7. Matej Mugerli (Adria Mobil) s/t

8. Oscar Gatto (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) s/t

9. Elia Favilli (Lampre-Merida) s/t

10. Danilo Wyss (BMC) s/t

Gran Premio Citta di Camaiore (28th February)

GPCamaiorelogoPeter Sagan (Cannondale) powered away from Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) and Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r La Mondiale) in a small bunch sprint to the finish line.

The early six-man break of the day, which included Taylor Phinney (BMC), built a lead of six minutes before the repeated climbs up Monte Pitoro sapped their legs and their will after 167km leaving the race to be decided on the sixth and final ascent. Italian champion Franco Pellizotti (Androni Giocattoli) attacked on the climb followed by teammates Darwin Atapuma and Francesco Reda. Sagan’s teammate Moreno Moser pursued the move and a select group formed over the summit which included Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) and Denis Menchov (Katusha) but they were unable to shake off Sagan, not even on the descent.

Sagan victorious again! (image courtesy of Cannondale)

Sagan victorious again! (image courtesy of Cannondale)

Their efforts were in vain as the young Slovak notched up his third victory of 2013 – the 39th of his career – and a stark reminder of his abilities just before Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo. He confirmed:

It was a win that relied on a great contribution from my teammates. I could feel my condition improve lap after lap, and I took some morale from that. When it all came back together on the last climb, Moser was exceptional in closing down the attacks and bringing it to a group finish. At that point, it was down to me to bring out my best and win.

As a minor footnote, Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard) succeeded in finishing his first race since last year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège as he continues his recovery from last season’s broken sacrum.

Result:

1. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) 4:17:34

2. Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) same time

3. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r La Mondiale) s/t

4. Matthew Busche (RadioShack-Leopard) s/t

5. Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) s/t

6. Miguel Angel Rubiano (Androni Giocattoli) s/t

7. Francesco Reda (Androni Giocattolli) s/t

8. Denis Menchov (Katusha) s/t

9. Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) s/t

10. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) s/t

Roma Maxima (3rd March)

img_romamaxima26-year old Blel Kadri (Ag2r La Mondiale), a last-minute substitute for the race, soloed to the biggest – and only the second – win of his career after a 180km gladiatorial procession around Rome’s cultural highlights.

Proving once again that you have to be in it to win it, Kadri was one of five riders in the break of the day which formed after 53km. The quintet worked well and pushed their advantage out to eight and a half minutes, before Movistar and Cannondale assumed control of the peloton and started to reel them back in. Kadri and Andre Cardoso (Caja Rural) dropped the other two in the latter part of the race and they still had a two-minute advantage over the chasing bunch with about 40km left. Kadri then rode strongly away on the steep Campi di Annibale climb before the fast run in to the finish near the Coliseum where he was able to maintain a sizeable advantage to finish 37 seconds clear.

The victor after 127km spent at the front of the race (image courtesy of official race website)

The victor after 127km spent at the front of the race (image courtesy of official race website)

Behind him, another five riders went on the offensive on the same steep climb, including former Vuelta a Espana winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Francesco Reda (Androni Giocattoli) and Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia). The sprinters’ teams were having none of this and the group were swept up within the final kilometre but, in the absence of race radios, everyone seemed to have forgotten about Kadri.

Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) charged down the cobbled finishing straight and held his arms aloft, thinking he’d just registered victory number two. Red-faced, he soon realised his mistake. It was Kadri who was going to be crowned the new emperor of Rome and he was just making up the numbers on the podium along with third-placed Grega Bole (Vacansoleil-DCM).

Overjoyed to have taken the victory, Kadri explained:

I wasn’t down to ride but Steve Chainel was ill, he couldn’t come, so the team asked if I was motivated to ride. I could have gone home this morning but I spoke to my coach and he said I should ride.

I had to believe I had a chance and just gave it 100%. I said if I blow or not, doesn’t matter! The fast roads to the finish helped me but I was surprised to make it to the finish.

On the podium I thought that, sometimes, you work hard and going for it pays off. Luck doesn’t often smile on you but it did this time. I’m very, very happy.

Result:

1. Blel Kadri (Ag2r La Mondiale) 4:26:27

2. Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) +0:37

3. Grega Bole (Vacansoleil-DCM) same time

4. Enrico Barbin (Bardiani Valvole) s/t

5. Simone Ponzi (Astana) s/t

6. Leonardo Duque (Colombia) s/t

7. Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) s/t

8. Simon Geschke (Argos-Shimano) s/t

9. Sergey Lagutin (Vacansoleil-DCM) s/t

10. Sergey Chernetski (Katusha) s/t

Analysis & opinion

There you have the season so far in a nutshell. One race was won by the favourite after his team pretty much controlled the race, another was won by a rider who’s changed teams and seems to have his mojo back, while the third was won by a rank outsider who in true gladiatorial fashion just gave it a go. Of course, these results bode well for Messrs Sagan and Pozzato ahead of Milan-San Remo and the cobbled Classics. Kadri’s win seems to be just reward for his persistence of the past couple of years. Hopefully this win will give him greater confidence and another one should follow along shortly.

Links: Trofeo Laigueglia website, GP Camaiore website, Roma Maxima website

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