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.


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

Tour de France: Stage 3 review

Stage 3: Orchies to Boulogne-sur-Mer, 197km

The ‘Tourminater’ aka Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) easily triumphed once more on a stiff ramp and celebrated with a new Forrest Gump-style victory dance. He insouciantly sailed over the line ahead of runner-up Edvald Boassen Hagen (Sky). Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was third, while Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) finished fourth to retain the maillot jaune.

Ruben Plaza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) initiated the day’s five-man breakaway, which was never allowed more than a five-minute advantage. Andriy Grivko (Astana) and mountains jersey wearer Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) – the latter in his third consecutive breakaway, earning him today’s most combative rider prize – were the last to be taken back. By then the race had already imploded with around 30km remaining, after a series of crashes and punctures on narrowing roads split in the peloton.

French housewives’ favourite Sylvain Chavanel (OPQS) launched his attack 5km from the finish on a course where last year he won his national road race. After almost coming to grief at a roundabout, he was reeled back in by the decimated, BMC-led chasing pack whose trajectory was halted in the final few hundred metres by a Vacansoleil rider falling in their midst.

As the final climb ramped up, Sagan jumped away and powered to his second win in three days, emulating a feat – two wins in a debut Tour – last achieved by Tom Boonen. He now has a firm hold on the green jersey, while Cancellara‘s still looking imperious in yellow.

VeloVoices rider of the day

This was a tricky one. In the end I went for Saxo Bank’s Michael Morkov. This is the third consecutive day he’s been in a breakaway, hoovering up King of the Mountains points to consolidate his hold on the jersey. A smart move, as his leader-less team needs both points and exposure.

Like Sagan, he too is a Tour virgin but, as his super smooth pedalling style reveals, he’s one of Denmark’s many, and probably most decorated, track stars. I’m hoping Saxo’s kit provider is finally going to spring for some spotted shorts and socks to go with the shirt, helmet and matching handlebar tape. At this stage, a spotted bike would be totally over the top – although team chef Hannah Grant has obviously been busy:

Morkov is also clearly a fan of the film Mary Poppins because in the post-race interview below (audio only) he described Sagan’s victory today as “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”.


With about 20km of the stage remaining, it looked as if Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), escorted by a handful of his teammates, had punctured but it was instead a problem with his derailleur. His team car couldn’t get up to him so he resorted to the Mavic neutral service vehicle which was visibly ‘tangoed’ by the excitable orange-clad posse all shouting instructions in Spanish and Basque to the French-speaking mechanic. Fortunately, he rapidly resolved the problem and Samu and his boys shot off in pursuit of the leading group.

The various crashes in the final hour produced the first three abandons of the race: Kanstantsin Siutsou (Sky) fractured his left tibia and Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) broke a collarbone, while Maarten Tjallingii withdrew after making it to the finish with a fractured hip.

Tactical analysis

Event director Jean-Francois Pescheux warned that today’s stage contained potential perils and that the Tour could be lost here. After a few seemingly innocuous spills and punctures in the first 100km of the race, it all blew apart in the final 30km. Those with the wit or luck to be up the front of the peloton took advantage of the crashes, punctures and narrow roads to decimate the bunch. So who were today’s losers?

Despite crashes, punctures and mechanicals, none of the GC contenders lost any time on today’s stage. Three riders – Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) – all of whom might have hoped to be in contention for today’s stage win, were distanced by the crashes and didn’t figure. Voeckler finished nearly 7½ minutes down complaining about the injured knee which nearly kept him out of the Tour.

More significantly, Sky have lost a valuable workhorse in Siutsou which puts team leader Bradley Wiggins at a disadvantage. Similarly Robert Gesink’s chances are diminished by the loss of Tjallingii. Garmin-Sharp’s Ryder Hesjedal may be in a similar situation if Tom Danielson’s shoulder injury prevents him from taking the start line tomorrow.

Conversely, who were today’s winners? One word: Sagan, who cemented both his growing reputation and his grip on the green jersey, extending his lead over Sky’s Mark Cavendish to 43 points.

VeloVoices will bring you previews of each day’s stage every morning, live coverage of every stage on Twitterreviews in the evening and in-depth analysis after selected stages.

Link: Tour de France official website