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With a well-timed sprint, Bennett beat Cavendish and Bennati in the bunch kick on the final stage of the Giro della Toscana; Bennati took the overall win ahead of Colbrelli and Visconti by the tiniest of margins

Photo: A.S.O.

BORA-HANSGROHE

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DANIELE BENNATI

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GIOVANNI VISCONTI

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GIRO DELLA TOSCANA

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MARK CAVENDISH

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SAM BENNETT

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SONNY COLBRELLI

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21.09.2016 @ 17:17 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) proved that he will be one to watch at the World Championships as he beat Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) in the bunch sprint on the second and final stage of the Giro della Toscana. Daniele Bennati (Italy) finished third and so took the overall win ahead of Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) on a countback.

 

After he fell ill at last year’s edition of the race, Sam Bennett was hoping to finally find some success at the Tour de France. However, the 2016 edition of the race ended in a similar disappointment as he crashed in the sprint on the first stage and even though he managed to contest a few sprints late in the race, he was never close to the victory.

 

After the Tour, Bennett took time to recover and he was far from his best condition when he returned to racing at the Arctic Race of Norway. However, like so many others, he seems to have benefited from getting through a first grand tour and when he won the bunch sprint behind the escapees in the hard first stage of the Giro della Toscana, he proved that he is back on form.

 

Today Bennett marked himself out as an outsider for the Worlds as he again turned out to be the fastest in a field that also includes Mark Cavendish. On the final stage of the race, the Irishman beat the Brit in a bunch sprint to take his first win since the Criterium International in March.

 

While Bennett took the stage win, the real drama was about the overall win. Giovanni Visconti, Sonny Colbrelli and Daniele Bennati started the stage equal on time and with no bonus seconds in the race, it all came down to a countback.

 

Bennati finished third ahead of Colbrelli, with Visconti rolling across the line in 7th. Hence, the sum of the stage placings for both Bennati and Colbrelli was 6 but as he was best in the final stage, Bennati took the win with the tiniest of margins. Visconti slipped to third.

 

After yesterday’s hard stage, the sprinters hoped to get their revenge in stage 2 which brought the riders over 185.3km from Montecatini Terme to Pontedera. After a flat start, the riders tackled the hardest climb of the race, Monte Serra, whose top came at the 54.4km mark and then they descended to Pisa. In the end they did two laps of a relatively flat circuit that included the small climbs to Lari and Santo Pietro Belvedere. As they went around the circuit for the second time, they made a small deviation to tackle the Treggiaia climb (1.2km, 6.7%) whose top came with 8.2km to go. From there, they descended to a flat finish that included a right-hand turn in a roundabout 500m from the line.

 

The riders had nice conditions when they gathered for the start and as expected, they got the stage off to a fast beginning. There were attacks straight from the gun and it was Diego Rubio (Caja Rural) who got the first small advantage. However, he was brought back at the 5km mark.

 

The many attacks finally stopped when 8 riders got clear after 8km of racing. Davide Ballerini (Italy), Zhandos Bizigitov (Astana), Merhawi Kudus (Dimension Data), Mirco Maestri (Bardiani), Miguel Angel Benito (Caja Rural), Andrey Solomennikov (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Manuel Belletti (Wilier) and Nico Brüngger (Roth) managed to build an advantage that reached 3.30 after 34km of racing.

 

The peloton took a wrong turn and was suddenly ahead of the breakaway. The group was asked to slow down and the situation was back to normal when the escapees hit the Monte Serra with an advantage of 3.44.

 

Visconti’s Movistar team took control but they allowed the gap to grow as they went up the climb. Suddenly, they even stopped their work and so the gap had gone out to 5.50 at the 49km mark.

 

The escapees reached the top of the climb with an advantage of 6.30 and that allowed Solomennikov to easily rejoin the group after a mechanical. At the same time, Diego Rosa (Astana) crashed out of the race on the descent and the incident briefly allowed 25 riders to get an advantage. However, the group was back together as they returned to flat roads.

 

The peloton upped the pace under the impetus of Bardiani that had reduced the gap to 4.56 at the 82km mark. Movistar then joined them and CCC also came to the fore.

 

Ballerini and Maestri had a disagreement and suddenly they were distanced from the break. They quickly lost time and as they failed to cooperate, they were soon caught by the peloton. Meanwhile, the three hard-working teams continued to reduce the gap which was 4.37 after 95km of racing. At the same time, rain started to fall

 

At the 100km mark, Movistar was in full control 3.40 behind the leaders and then CCC again took over. After three hours at an average speed of 40.6km/h, they had reduced the gap to just 2.540.

 

The Poles stopped their work and so Bardiani stabilized the situation before they again increased the pace. With 50km to go, the gap had dropped to less than 2 minutes and shortly after the first passage of the line, it was less than a minute.

 

Bardiani and CCC were chasing hard and so Bizhigitov, Benito, Solomennikov and Belletti sat up, leaving Kudus and Brüngger to press on with a 30-second advantage. The Eritrean soon dropped his companion who fell back to Benito and with 34km to go, he was 19 seconds ahead of his chasers and 48 seconds ahead of the peloton.

 

The peloton didn’t want to catch the break too early and so Kudus managed to push the gap out to 1.15 before CCC again started to chase. Movistar then took over as they hit the late climbs, the Spanish team trying to make to race hard.

 

Benito and Brüngger made it back to Kudus and the trio had a 51-second advantage as they passed the 160km mark. Here Benito tried a solo attack but he failed to distance his companions.

 

Movistar kept the gap at 50 seconds before they again increased the pace. When the gap was only 20 seconds, Kudus again took off in a solo move and with 20km to go, he was the only rider still in front, 26 seconds ahead of the peloton which was led by Bardiani.

 

With 15km to go, it was over for Kudus and Bardiani continued to ride on the front for the next five kilometres. While rain still fell, Bora-Argon 18 took over and riders started to drop off in the wet conditons.

 

Five riders briefly managed to get clear but they were brought back with 5km to go. Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data) then tried a move but after being joined by a Fortuneo rider, the peloton was back together with 3km to go.

 

Bardiani and the Italian national team were lining up their trains but they couldn’t prevent Bennett from taking the win. Mark Cavendish had to settle for second while Bennati finished third ahead his key rival Cobrelli which was enough to take the overall win with the closest of margins.

 

With the Giro della Toscana done and dusted, the attention will turn to tomorrow’s one-day race Coppa Sabatini which is traditionally one for puncheurs.

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