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After making it into a 12-rider group on the steep Torre Segalari climb, Bole beat Gavazzi and Ulissi in the sprint to win the Italian season opener, GP Costa degli Etruschi

DIEGO ULISSI

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FRANCESCO GAVAZZI

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GP COSTA DEGLI ETRUSCHI

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NIPPO - VINI FANTINI

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07.02.2016 @ 16:38 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Grega Bole got his time at Nippo-Vini Fantini off to the best possible start as he took his first win in his new colours at the Italian season opener, GP Costa degli Etruschi. Having made it into a 12-rider front group on the steep Torre Segalari climb, he won the sprint and relegated Francesco Gavazzi (Androni) and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) to the minor podium positions.

 

Since it returned to the calendar in a new, hillier format in 2014, the Italian season opener GP Costa degli Etruschi has been the place to reinvigorate a fading career. In 2014, it was Simone Ponzi who got back on track after joining the Southeast team and last year it was Manuel Belletti who left the disappointment of leaving the WorldTour behind by winning the race.

 

This year the race may again mark the return to the top for a rider that has struggled in recent years. Grega Bole is a former winner of the GP Plouay classic and has won a stage in the Criterium du Dauphiné and been second overall at the Tour de Pologne. Nonetheless, he had to drop to continental level at the end of the 2013 season when his career was under threat.

 

Nippo-Vini Fantini threw him a lifeline and after one year at the lower level, he rejoined the professional ranks with CCC in 2015. He won a stage at the Tour of Croatia and took numerous placings for his Polish team and seemed to getting closer to his former level.

 

This year he has rejoined Nippo-Vini Fantini which is now a pro continental team and after showing good climbing form in the Tour de San Luis, he got his return to the team off to the best possible start. Today he won the GP Costa degli Etruschi in typical Bole manner: by winning a sprint from a small group.

 

The hilly race finished with two laps of a 19.3km circuit that included the tough Torre Segalari climb just 9.1km from the finish which set the scene for a selective race that could suit puncheurs or strong sprinters. Nippo-Vini Fantini showed their intentions as they took control as they hit the Torre Segalari for the first time where they were still around 3 minutes behind the early attackers of Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani) and Igor Boev (Gazprom-Rusvelo).

 

The Italian team blew the peloton to pieces and only 50 riders were left one kilometre from the top where they were 2.28. Meanwhile, there were a number of crasked that involved Luis Lemus and Alexander Wachter and forced Michele Gazzara (MG.Kvis), Marco Tecchio (Uniero) and Roman Kustadinchev (Gazprom) to abandon.

 

Androni took over from Nippo and created another selection, reducing the peloton to just 20 riders at the top. However, 10 riders got back on the descent.

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Iuri Filosi (Nippo-Vini Fantini) attacked on the descent but he missed a turn and was quickly reabsorbed by the group which was 2.20 behind the leading pair. Meanwhile, a second group was just 10 seconds further back and a third one was at three minutes.

 

Manuel Belletti was with three Southeast teammates in the second group and they regained contact. The peloton was made up of Belletti, Busato, Fedi, Pozzato, Sanz, Zhupa (all Southeast), Ulissi, Niemiec (Lampre-Merida), Consonni (Italy), Gavazzi, Frapporti, Ratto, Selvaggi, Taliani, Viganò (Androni), Ciccone, Chirico, Sterbini, Bongiorno, Zardini, Rota (Bardiani), Bole, De Negri , Grosu, Filosi, Zilioli (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Savitskiy, Stash (Gazprom), Carboni, Turrin (Uniero), Ficara (Amore e Vita), Eibegger, Rabitsch, Schorn (Felbermayr), Papok (Minsk), Mucelli (Meridiana Kamen), Boivin (Cycling Academy), Di Francesco, Occhialini (MG.Kvis) and Schumacher (Christina Watches) who were 1.30 behind the leaders.

 

Androni set the pace before Southeast took over as they hit the climb again. Here Lampre-Merida hit the front with Niemiec who created a huge selection and brought the gap down to 28 seconds. Meanwhile, Tonelli dropped Boev.

 

While Belletti was among the many riders to get dropped, Boev was brought back and this was the signal for Ulissi to make his move. Three riders followed the Italian before he left his companions behind and caught Tonelli.

 

Busato, Sanz, Boev, Ciccone, Zardini and Rabitsch caught Ulissi before they crested the summit to tackle the final nine kilometres with a small advantage. The rain had stopped but they were still battling a strong wind.

 

Bole joined the front group while Rabitsch and Zardini were dropped, making it a front group of seven with Bole, Ulissi, Sanz, Boev, Busato, Tonelli, and Ciccone. Meanwhile, Boivin who was close behind, suffered a puncture.

 

Gavazzi and Zardini rejoined the group which had an 11-second advantage over Fedi, Rabitsch, Vigano and Schumacher while the rest of the next group was at 25 seconds. The four chasers made the junction with 5km to go where the group was still at 20 seconds.

 

Disaster struck for Southeast sprinter Sanz who punctured with 3km to go, leaving 12 riders to sprint it out for the win as the peloton was still 22 seconds behind at the flamme rouge. Here Bole proved his speed as he came out on top by beating Gavazzi and Ulissi to take his first win as a Nippo-Vini Fantini rider.

 

The Italian season is now officially underway and will continue next Sunday when the riders tackle the hilly Trofeo Laigueglia.

 

A hilly course

As usual, the Italian season kicked off with the GP Costa degli Etruschi but for the third year in a row, it was no flat opener. Instead, the riders tackled a 190.6km course from San Vincenzo to Donoratico and after a moderately hilly first part with a few climbs, the race got tough in the end. The race finished with two laps of a 19.3km finishing circuit that included the steep Torre Segalari climb and after the final passage, it was only 9.1km of descending and flat roads, meaning that the finale was expected to be a big battle between a reduced peloton and late attackers.

 

It was a rainy and windy day in Italy when the riders gathered for the start. One rider was absent as Mattia Cattaneo (Lampre-Merida) suffers from health problems and failed to sign in.

 

Three riders get clear

As usual in Italian one-day races, it got off to a very fast start with numerous attacks. Southeast and Nippo-Vini Fantini were among the most active teams but a strong crosswind made the peloton nervous and made it impossible for anyone to get clear.

 

After 22km of racing, not one had managed to escape and when the riders hit the Campiglia Marittima climb, it was still together. Here Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani), Genki Yamamoto (Nippo-Vini Fantini) and Igor Boev (Gazprom-Rusvelo) managed to escape at the 26km mark and as the peloton slowed down, they quickly built a big advantage.

 

A massive gap

The gap had reached 6 minutes after 40km of racing and when they crossed the finish line for the first time at the 58km mark, it had gone out to 8.55. The peloton was in no hurry and when they reached the 64km mark, it was a massive 11.27.

 

It even reached 11.40 before it started to come down. Lampre-Merida took control and they had reduced the gap to 11 minutes at the 75km mark.

 

Lampre-Merida in control

At the second passage of the finish line after 82km of racing, the situation had stabilized with a gap of 10.50. The riders had set a relatively brisk pace of 43.1km/h during the first hour.

 

The small 5-rider Lampre-Merida team continued to control things and slowly reeled the break in. At the 92km mark, the gap was 10 minutes and now Southeast came to the fore to lend them a hand.

 

Androni start to work

It started to rain as Androni also came to the fore, meaning that three teams were now working together to bring the break back. The gap was down to 9.15 at the next passage of the finish line with 83km to go.

 

Mirko Trosino took some solid turns for Southeast and while David Jabuka (Meridiana) and Fabrizio Galen (GM Europa) became the first rider to abandon, he worked together with Androni and Lampre-Merida to bring the gap down to 8.25 with 65km to go. At the end of the third hour, the average speed was 42.3km/h and the gap 7.30.

 

The gap melts away

At the next passage of the finish line, Samuele Conti (Southeast) set the pace, joined by riders from Lampre-Merida and Amore e Vita and they were now just 6.30 behind the breakaway. Meanwhile, Yamamoto was dropped from the break and he was quickly distanced by more than a minute.

 

Androni again started to work in the peloton which continued to get closer to the escapees. At the 136km mark, they were 5.35 behind while Yamamoto had been distanced by 3.10. Meanwhile, Andrea Fedi (Southeast) rejoined the peloton after a puncture.

 

Yamamoto is caught

Anton Ivashkin (Minsk) and Federico Borella (GM Europa) crashed on the wet roads but that didn’t stop the peloton which was 4.50 behind with 40km to go where Yamamoto was trailing by 3.40. The Japanese was brought back before the peloton started the first lap of the finishing circuit with a 4.30 to make up.

 

While Trosino continued to set the pace, Yamamoto stepped off the bike and moments later the Southeast neo-pro also ended his first day as a professional. Instead, Nippo-Vini Fantini took over as they hit the Torre Segalari where the finale started.

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