By David Hunter
While most riders are in Belgium and France, we have 3 more races left in Italy. The first of these is the 62nd edition of Coppa Sabatini.
The riders tackle a challenging circuit route, in and around the streets of Peccioli. Diego Ulissi took a narrow victory, in 2013, in a closely fought sprint finish.
There has been a slight change to the route, this year, now totalling 197.9km. We have 3 separate loops.
The finishing green circuit now has to be done 6 times. This includes the 1km, 7% climb, which ends the race. It was only done 4 times, in 2013. This will have an impact on the race, making it more selective and increases the chances of a breakaway success.
Back in 2013, Lampre controlled the race for Ulissi. They knew he had the best sprint and ensured we got one, but this race doesn’t always end in a sprint. In 2012, Fabio Duarte, won from a break, Battaglin won a sprint in 2011. You can’t guarantee what will happen and it all depends on who gets in the break.
The end of the race is challenging.
The riders turn left, under the 1km to go sign and the climb starts. It has 4 hairpin bends, before it opens up for the sprint. Positioning is very important, if you’re outside the top 15-20 riders with 1km to go, you can forget about winning.
The competing teams are Lampre, AG2R, Neri Sottoli, Cannondale, Androni, MTN, Caja Rural, CCC Polsat, Team Colombia, Bardiani, Wanty-Groupe Gobert and Rusvelo. Defending champion Ulissi is banned, so Lampre have to change tactic.
AG2R have Alexis Vuillermoz. 11th in the Giro and fresh from taking his first pro victory, he did well in Milano-Torino, and will like this race. The problem they will have is their small team, only 6 riders.
Lampre have quite a few options: Durasek, Bonifazio, Favilli and Mori are all capable of winning the race. Durasek will like the climbs and is quite explosive. Bonifazio is a sprinter, who can climb well. Favilli and Mori can sprint well, from a small group. Bonifazio is fresh from his win in Coppa Agostoni, where he was climbing very well. He’s a dark horse for the race.
Cannondale arrive with their pack of young riders: Formolo, Mohoric and Villella are outstanding, young riders. Viviani is also here, but I can’t see him challenging.
Androni will pin their hopes on Franco Pellizotti. He was 4th here, in 2013, but has not had a great season. Sella and Rosa, can give them other options, especially for the break.
Bardiani seem to have every option sorted. They have Bongiorno and Zardini, if the race is challenging. They also have Battaglin and Colbrelli for the sprint. They have the best squad and much will be expected of them. The Italian Cup is a two horse race, between them and Neri Sottoli, with a place at the Giro up for grabs. They want to win the race!
Neri Sottoli have Finetto and Ponzi. The finish is good for both men, but I think they’ll try and get Finetto in the break and save Ponzi for the sprint.
Davide Rebellin will be in the top 10, but his days of winning races seem long gone.
Team Colombia have Duarte and Rubiano. Duarte is a former winner and Rubiano was looking good in Il Lombardia. Both men would prefer to arrive in a small group.
MTN have Meintjes and Sbaragli. The young South African, seems to be suffering from his long season and I would be surprised to see him go well, although the course does suit him.
Sergey Lagutin has been riding well. After just 1 season at Rusvelo, he will be returning to the World Tour, with Katusha. He’s another rider that will look to escape in the closing laps.
Baugnies and Seeldraeyers look the best bet from Wanty, but they rarely win.
The race all depends on who makes the break, although, not the first one. With a couple of laps to go, an elite group could escape and not return. If Lampre or Bardiani miss it, they’ll ensure we get a sprint. The increased number of laps of the final circuit, makes me think the break will stay away. The race will be very difficult to control. Lampre will try to get Durasek away, with Bardiani looking to Zardini or Bongiorno. Both of them love a short, steep finish. Although, they won’t be happy if Finetto, Rubiano and Duarte, also make the selection.
I’ll go for the Colombian champion, Rubiano Chavez. His form seems to be picking up and he looked good in Lombardia. If we get a sprint, I think Bonifazio might just surprise a few.
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