Giro del Trentino: Astana trumps Sky again

Giro del Trentino logoVincenzo Nibali triumphed once more on Italian soil in the 37th edition of this race, which serves as an amuse-bouche for next month’s Giro d’Italia. Nibali’s Astana team nearly made a clean sweep of the final podium with Nibali taking both the overall and King of the Mountains, Astana was named best team and 2013 recruit Fabio Aru won the Best Young Rider competition. The wonderfully named Jarlinson Pantano  took the points jersey for Team Colombia.

The Shark sinks is teeth into stage and overall (image: Giro del Trentino site)

A man who’s accustomed to opening the bubbly, Vincenzo Nibali, Giro del Trentino winner 2013 (image: Giro del Trentino site)

Race summary

Maxime Bouet (Ag2r) outsprinted Josef Cerny (CCC Polsat) and Michael Rodriguez (Colombia) to claim victory as the day’s eight-man breakaway survived on Stage 1a’s 128km benign sortie around Lienz, Austria. Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani) led home the main bunch at 6:51 down, saving their legs for the afternoon’s 14.1km team time trial. This was the Frenchman’s first victory since 2010 when he won Stage 3 of the Tour de l’Ain. Bouet dedicated his victory to his unborn baby, due in August.

Ag2r are having a cracking season as Maxime Bouet wins stage 1a from a break! (image: Ag2r La Mondiale)

Ag2r are having a cracking season as Maxime Bouet wins stage 1a from a break (image: Ag2r La Mondiale)

However, Boeut wasn’t to wear the jersey for long. In the afternoon’s straightforward team time trial, his Ag2r team finished 15th and he ceded the jersey to Cerny. Sky won in a time of 15:20, with second-placed Astana 13 seconds back.

These boys get plenty of practice opening bottles of my favourite tipple! (image: Sky)

These boys get plenty of practice opening bottles of my favourite tipple! (image: Sky)

Illustrating the depth and strength of the Sky squad, Kanstantsin Siutsou resisted Mauro Santambrogio’s (Vini Fantini) late charge to win Stage 2 atop Vetriolo Terme after he’d counter-attacked off the front of the bunch with less than 10km to the summit. Initially, the Belarusian had the company of Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani) and Pierre Rolland (Europcar) but they were unable to resist as he ratcheted up the pace. Bouet moved back into the leader’s cyclamen jersey as Cerny lost time on the final climb. However it was the duel between Sky’s Bradley Wiggins and Vincenzo Nibali that was most keenly observed, with the pair matching one another’s moves and crossing the line together.

The Honey Baer is back! (image: Sky)

The Honey Bear is back! (Image: Sky)

Ivan Santaromita (BMC) beat his breakaway companions Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) to the line on a lumpy Stage 3 to Condino. The trio had been part of the day’s early 11-man break but had dropped the others, on Scarponi’s initiative, on the final climb of the Daone.

It was yet another day when the GC contenders were content to mark one another, all arriving together with race leader Bouet over a  minute down on the Italian, who recorded his first win since taking the overall in the 2010 Settimana Coppi e Bartali. Bouet retained his 3:19 advantage over Siutsou but the team lost defending champion Domenico Pozzovivo, who crashed out early in the stage.

Early birthday present for Ivan Santaromita (image: BMC)

Early birthday present for Ivan Santaromita, he’s 29 at the end of the month          (Image: BMC)

Stage 4 was supposed to be the eagerly awaited Clash of the Titans, with Giro hopefuls Nibali and Wiggins battling it out for supremacy. However, Nibali triumphed atop the final stage to take overall victory ahead of fellow Italian Santambrogio after Wiggins’s challenge was derailed by problems with his electronic gearing at the base of the final climb: cue Pinarello toss.

Astana set out their stall early on with Tiralongo and Aru setting a Sky-like tempo up the lower slopes to take back the remnants of the day’s 10-man break, distance race leader Bouet and whittle the leading group down to a dozen. Tantalisingly, just as Wiggins had almost worked his way back to the leading group, Nibali lit the turquoise-blue touchpaper, with only Santambrogio able to cling for dear life onto his rear wheel. Three kilometres later, The Shark kicked again, soloing across the finish line eight seconds clear of Santambrogio, 44 seconds up on Aru and Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) and, crucially, 4:42 ahead of Bouet.

The Shark sinks is teeth into stage and overall (image: Giro del Trentino site)

The Shark sinks his teeth into Stage 4 and overall (Image: Giro del Trentino site)

After the race, Nibali commented:

Winning on a climb like this is for me the most important reward at this time. From here there is still time until the Giro, Wiggins is the main rival, but I have seen progress in both Evans and Basso. As for me, it’s comforting to know we can count on a very competitive team that here, as earlier in Tirreno-Adriatico, we’ve done nothing wrong tactically. We’ll have to see about Liege on Sunday, I made a major effort today,  the opponents are strong and numerous. We’ll see.

Analysis & opinion

This race has provided us with a snapshot of what it’s going to be like in next month’s Giro d’Italia. Think last year’s Vuelta, but with bells on it! Although we didn’t have an Astana v Sky showdown and Astana has already triumphed twice, at Sky’s expense, on Italian soil this year, May could be an entirely different story. Apart from today’s understandable tantrum, Wiggins has looked tranquillo all week, ridden well within himself and the team were dominant in the team time trial. Astana look to have taken a leaf out of Sky’s book but they also have Alexandre Vinokourov at the helm, which has intensified the team’s attacking instincts.

What of the other Giro contenders at the race? Cadel Evans (BMC) looks to be finding form while Ivan Basso still looked a bit off the pace, but there’s time. There’s probably not enough time for Pozzovivo to get back to form after broken ribs, however AG2R will be delighted with Maxime Bouet’s performance.

Elsewhere it was great to see riders who don’t often get an opportunity to win seizing the moment. Take a bow Messrs Bouet, Santaromito and Siutsou not, of course, forgetting the ProConti teams who animated the race, especially Messrs Santambrogio and Pirazzi.

Classification:

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 17:49:11

2. Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) +00:21

3. Maxime Bouet (Ag2r La Mondiale) +00:55

4. Fabio Aru (Astana) +01:16

5. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) +01:40

6. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) +01:45

7. Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole CSF Inox) +02:15

8. Cadel Evans (BMC) +02:18

9. Stefano Locatelli(Bardiani Valvole CSF Inox) +03:05

10.Pierre Rolland (Europcar) +03:22

Links: Official website

Friday Feature: 2013 WorldTour newbies (part 1)

Here at VeloVoices we’ve been looking back fondly on the careers of some of the riders who retired from the professional peloton in 2012. Equally, we’re now also going to turn our attention to the new boys making the step up to riding in a WorldTour team.

A number are more experienced pros who’ve tasted success at either the Continental or ProContinental level. They’re coming with precious UCI points but have they got what it takes to cut it in the big time? Some are youngsters who’ve made their way up through feeder squads and, after one or two stints as a stagiaire, have been adjudged ready for the biggest stage and races. The former group will be looking to quickly make their mark –  many will only have one-year contracts – it’s now or never. The latter group will be in watch, listen and learn mode on a steep learning curve and generally two to three-year contracts. Few neo-pros strike gold in their first season, however, there are always exceptions. Peter Sagan (Liquigas), Thibaut Pinot and Arnaud Demare (FDJ) are names that spring immediately to mind.

Here’s part one of our non-exhaustive list, in no particular order. Part two follows later today.

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Sky)

A real example of persistence pays dividends. After numerous knockbacks, including three years off the bike with Epstein-Barr virus, he recorded nine wins this season riding for British Continental squad Endura Racing. His tally might have been larger had it not been for a mid-season collarbone fracture. After his early season wins at the Tour du Haut Var and Tour Mediterraneen, he was rumoured to have signed with Sky. This was confirmed after he’d posted strong performances in the Tours of Murcia and Leon, the World Championships and won the overall in the Tour of Britain – the first British winner since 1993.

Have Sky landed another potential British Grand Tour winner? Only time will tell, but the outlook looks rosy for the soon to be 29-year old.

Warren Barguil (Argos-Shimano)

The diminutive 21-year old hails from Brittany, France’s cycling stronghold. He became French junior champion in 2009 and has since enjoyed an upward trajectory collecting plenty of podium places. Despite a stage in 2011 with Bretagne-Schuler, he re-joined his formative club CC Etupes in 2012, finishing the year as a stagiaire with Argos-Shimano, with whom he’s signed for the forthcoming two seasons after taking the overall, a stage, the points and mountains jersey in the prestigious Tour de l’Avenir. His results were recognised with the prestigious Velo d’Or Espoirs.

Inevitably comparisons have been made with Thibaut Pinot (FDJ). Warren is coached by Julien Pinot – Thibaut’s brother – who says Warren has the same excellent powers of recovery and he’s not afraid to attack. Warren becomes the latest French hope carrying the weight of expectation of a nation and the hope that he and others can change the shape of French cycling.

Joe Dombrowski (Sky)

The Americans are hoping that the talented 21-year old will be their next Grand Tour winner. He’s spent the last 2½ years with the Livestrong development squad and this season has recorded some notable victories. On home soil, after finishing third overall in the Tour of the Gila, he took fourth on the steep Mount Baldy stage in the Tour of California, beating established names such as Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp), and went on to take 12th overall. Interest in the rider went stratospheric when he won two mountain stages and the overall at the baby Giro, making him the first American to win the race in its four-decade history.

Sky allegedly secured his and Ian Boswell’s signature as they both wanted to work with Bobby Julich. Both riders will be based in Nice  – presumably to be near Bobby, with whom they will not now be working – having signed three-year contracts. VeloVoices’ Panache, who knows a thing or two about road racing, put Joe in his Tour dream team.

Ian Boswell (Sky)

Boswell is another rider who spent the last couple of seasons with Bontrager-Livestrong and was recently a stagiaire with Argos-Shimano. As part of the national team, Ian helped Joe win the Baby Giro d’Italia and scored some important results of his own, including second in the under-23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

He too is hoping to develop into a Tour rider and was looking forward to working with Julich on his time-trialling and cutting his teeth on some of the smaller stage races. Both young Americans were attracted to Sky because of its culture, focus and system for developing riders. They’re both keen to learn.

Fabio Aru (Astana)

The 22-year old Italian climber has signed a two-year contract after a spell as a stagiaire this season directly from the amateur ranks. He already has an impressive palmares which includes the last two editions of the Giro della Valle d’Aosta and was runner-up in this year’s Baby Giro d’Italia.

The Kazakh Astana squad has a large number of Italian riders many of whom, including young Fabio, will be riding in support of Vincenzo Nibali at next year’s Giro.

Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (Argos-Shimano)

South African time trial champion Reinardt has spent the past three seasons riding for local squad MTN-Qhubeka where he’s racked up an impressive 33 wins, with 14 this season which have included wins in the Tour of Portugal, overalls in Tour du Maroc and Bretagne and a victory over Lars Boom (Rabobank) in the Ronde van Zealand.

His time-trialling ability will be put to good use in the Argos-Shimano sprint train plus, given his impressive showing at this year’s Worlds in Valkenburg before he crashed, he should be able to add to his already impressive palmares for a 23-year old. I should add that current younger teammate Jacques Janse Van Rensburg is no relative.

Marko Kump (Saxo-Tinkoff)

24-year old Slovenian Marko has spent five years with local Continental team Adria Mobil plus an ill-fated year (2011) in the ranks of ProConti squad Geox-TMC. However, a return to his roots this year has seen him record some impressive sprint victories this year including being runner-up in both the Nationals and the Trofeo Matteotti.

He has a one-year contract with his new team who are expecting him to shine in the tougher one-day races, such as the Spring Classics, following his 2010 victory in the under-23 Tour of Flanders.

Larry Warbasse (BMC)

BMC has announced the signing of the talented 22-year old American from their feeder team for whom he has ridden since 2010. This year, Larry finished fifth overall at the mountainous Ronde de l’Isard and, while riding for the US national team, helped compatriot Joe Dombrowski – who’s going to Sky – win the Baby Giro d’Italia.

Warbasse started racing as a teenager after flirting with skiing and quit college to race professionally. He’s been mentored by recent BMC retiree George Hincapie and will make a welcome addition to the young American powerhouse squad.

Ioannis Tamouridis (Euskaltel)

The 32-year old will be the first Greek to compete at the WorldTour level. Tamouridis is a multi-disciplinary, multi-national champion who we’re more used to seeing competing on the track. He’s ridden for local continental squad SP Tableware for the past four seasons and with nine victories and 23 top ten finishes this season, his points haul attracted the formerly all-Basque outfit.

More importantly, he’ll bring the all too sadly lacking from the team discipline of time-trialling. We can therefore expect him to take a lead role in team time trials, enjoy the northern cobbled Classics, and drive the peloton from the front but go backwards – unlike the rest of the Euskies – whenever the road turns upwards.

Marc Goos (team formerly known as Rabobank)

Spells in the Rabobank development squad and as a stagiaire have earned the 22-year old Dutchman a move to the WorldTour team. He’s shown solid progression at the under-23 level which he’ll be hoping to build on in the coming two seasons.

He’s a fine time-trialler and may well shine in the northern Classics where an ability to cope with adverse climatic conditions is often an advantage.

(All images are from Cycling Archives/Wikipedia.)

Watch out for part two of our WorldTour newbies feature later today.