By David Hunter
San Francesco Al Campo – Cirie 185km
After an absence of 2 years, Italian racing has one of it’s biggest races back.
In many ways, this is a classic Italian race. It’s hard enough to encourage the climbers, but easy enough to attract the sprinters. Like so many Italian races, a sprinter and a climber have a good chance of winning the race. That’s what I like about it!
The race is punctuated with two major climbs. Alice Superiore is 7km at 5%, followed by Prascorsano, 8km at 4%. The earlier slopes of this climb is quite demanding, a great place to attack. Previous winners of the race include Rigoberto Uran, Dani Moreno, Phil Gilbert and Daniele Bennati. This list shows you must be a good climber to win, but being quick is a big bonus! The final 20km does provide teams with the chance to bring back the inevitable break, but it won’t be easy.
With 7km remaining, we have a 500m ramp at 6%. It might not sound much, but it’s going to be a crucial point of the race. If the break has a big gap, this is where the final attacks will be launched. If we have gruppo compatto, it provides the puncheurs with one final chance.
If we do get a sprint, the final kilometre contains two tight corners. If the roads are wet, then hold onto your hats!
When picking a squad for this race, you need balance. Teams should really come with a sprinter who can climb a little, domestiques, puncheurs and a few climbers. Look at Lampre:-
Sprinters – Modolo, Cimolai.
Puncheurs – Ulissi, Mori.
Climbers – Durasek, Polanc.
Domestiques – Feng, Xu.
The Italians have got it spot on. If the race is slow, Modolo is good enough to survive. If faster, they have Cimolai. If the group is around 30 riders, Ulissi is very quick. They also have Durasek and Polanc to attack and join the breaks. A very well rounded team.
Sky didn’t get the memo! They arrive with Boswell, Seb Henao, Kennaugh, Kiryienka, Konig, Peters and Porte. It’s clear that their only hope is from a breakaway, such a shame they didn’t bring Viviani.
Katusha did get the message. They have Guarnieri for a sprint, Lagutin for a selective race and Zakarin for the climbs. I cannot stress how important it is to have multiple options.
Movistar look strong and will prefer this race to Milano Torino. In Ventoso and Rojas, they have two riders who can finish very quickly. Visconti has both eyes set on Lombardia, which takes place on Sunday. I would be surprised to see him going full gas and that’s something the other riders will also be concerned about. If you use too much energy, you have no chance on Sunday. Lombardia is a hugely demanding race and you need to be fresh. That might just open the door for a surprise.
Southeast will hope so. With Gavazzi, Belletti and Ponzi, they have three quick riders who can climb well. With crucial Italian Cup points available, they need to produce a good result. They won’t challenge on Sunday, so they can afford to empty the tank. With so many world tour teams here, it’s very difficult to see the win coming from a smaller team.
It’s great to see Etixx here. The Belgians don’t ride in Italy as much as I would like, it will be interesting to see how they approach the race. One thing in their favour is the weather. We are in for a horrible day, with heavy rain throughout. That should make it a very selective race, with a small bunch left at the end. They have Brambilla and Trentin, as their captains. The two Italians are quality riders, with Trentin going through a good spell. He’s a very quick rider, who’s already won a Tour de France bunch sprint. One day races are really his thing, he must be considered as one of the favourites.
Trek have two of the favourites: Nizzolo and Felline. Both were looking great in Tre Valli and the bad weather is good news for them. Trek should ride a conservative race, keeping men back for the closing kilometres. Given his form, Nizzolo is the big favourite. He should be able to survive the climbs, but Trek need to keep the race together. If they feel that this is too much to ask, they’ll send Felline in the break. Much will be expected of Trek and Nizzolo will expect a lot of backing.
After dominating the recent races, Astana will find it hard. Their fastest finisher is Valerio Agnoli, but he’ll need a small bunch, if he is to win. Given their recent form, expect Astana to attack all day long. However, I don’t see it being their day.
Other fast men who will hope to shine are: Montaguti, Chicchi, Gatto, Duque, Bennati and Sbaragli. MTN still haven’t confirmed their roster, but given his ride in Tre Valli, I would expect him to start. The Italian has been sensational form and would like to continue his hot streak. If around at the finish, he should finish on the podium.
The weather will ensure a hard race. The pressure is on Trek to deliver Nizzolo a win. The weather will make it hard, but they will try. I see Trentin as the fastest of the non-sprinters, so Etixx really have to distance Nizzolo. That should be the main battle of the day and I think that Trek will come out on top. Nizzolo to eventually take another win on home soil.
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