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Young Lampre-Merida sprinter Bonifazio took a breakthrough victory when he beat Bole and Ponzi in 50-rider sprint at the end of the hard one-day race Coppa Agostoni

Photo: Sirotti








17.09.2014 @ 18:02 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Niccolo Bonifazio (Lampre-Merida) continued his rapid rise in the professional cycling world when he won one of the biggest Italian one-day races Coppa Agostoni. Having survived the four main climbs, he was part of the 50-rider group that sprinted for the win and managed to hold off Grega Bole (Vini Fantini) and Simone Ponzi (Neri Sottoli) to take his first professional victory.


All year Niccolo Bonifazio has given plenty of indications that he has the potential to become a future top sprinter. Today he finally turned his many places of honour into a win when he won the Coppa Agostini, the second race in the Trittico Lombardo race series.


Bonifazio had to dig deep to survive the four main climbs that made the middle part of the race a hard affair but he made it into the 50-rider group that emerged on the flat run back to the finish in Lissone. His Lampre-Merida teammates showed full confidence in their young sprinter and led the chase of a 7-rider breakaway to set up a sprint finish.


In the end, Bonifazio paid them back for their hard work in the most beautiful fashion. The Italian held off Grega Bole and Simone Ponzi to take his first professional victory.


The 68th Coppa Agostoni was the second of the three races in the Trittico Lombardo race series and took place on a 199.6km course starting and finishing in Lissone. First the riders did three laps of a flat 29km circuit around the main city and then they headed into the hills for the difficult middle sections. Four tough climbs were set to create a selection but as the final ascent summited 56km from the finish, there was time to get back in contention. The race ended with 3 laps of a flat 9.3km circuit in Lissone.


The riders took the start under a cloudy sky and got it off to a very fast opening phase. An 8-rider group was first to animate the action but it was the next 15-rider group that dominated the early part of the race.


Simone Velasco (Italy), Samuel Spokes (Australia), Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida), Alberto Bettiol (Cannondale), Rodolfo Torres (Colombia), Sander Helven (Topsport), Danilo Napolitano (Wanty), Nikolay Mihaylov (CCC), Alessandro Petilli (Aero Zero) and Eduard Grosu (Vini Fantini) were all part of the front group and they managed to build an advantage of 20 seconds. However, Androni had missed the move and after a long, hard chase, they managed to bring things back together.


This opened the door for new attacks and when the dust had settled, 9 riders had an advantage. Velasco, Andrea Zordan (Androni), Giorgio Cecchinel (Neri Sottoli), Andrea Piechele (Bardiani), Ferekalsi Debesay (MTN), Napolitano, Ricardo Pichetta (Idea) Gianluca Leonardi (AeroZero) and Takashi Miyazawa (Nippo) were 40 seconds ahead after 32km of racing and now the peloton slowed down.


10km later, the escapees had extended their advantage to 3.48 but the peloton was not showing any interest in the chase yet. The gap reached 6.35 before Cannondale and later also Lampre-Merida upped the pace but at the end of the second lap, the advantage had still reached 7 minutes.


The two Italian WorldTour teams had brought the gap down to 5.25 by the time they had finished the final lap of the opening circuit and as they headed into the hills, they upped the pace significantly. As they hit the first climb, it was only 3.45 and this prompted Pichetta to attack.


Cecchinel and later also Zordan rejoined the Italian but the six chasers managed to get back in contentions. Meanwhile, Wanty had taken over the pace-setting in the peloton and with 85k to go, they had brought the gap down to 2.40.


NetApp-Endura hit the front as they wanted to make the race hard and when they hit the Colle Brianza, the gap was only 1.35. Unfortunately, Miyazawa crashed out of the breakaway, leaving just 7 riders to press on as Napolitano had been dropped on the first climb.


On the third climb, Leonardi and Velasco were dropped from the front group which was now less than a minute behind. Astana were now riding on the front, with Paolo Tiralongo trying to create a selection.


Zordan and Checchinel dropped their companions while Pichetta was picked up by Tiralongo, Diego Rosa (Androni), Emanuele Sella (Androni) and Heiner Parra (Caja Rural). Davide Rebellin (CCC) made the junction from behind but as the peloton was riding at full speed, it all came back together.


Rebellin tried again and he crested the summit as the lone leader. Behind, Zordan, Pichetta and Gianni Moscon (Italy) had joined forces while Tiralongo and Ribinson Chalapud (Colombia) were also ahead.


Unfortunately, Rebellin went off course and when he was back on track, he had been passed by Rosa who had done an excellent descent. The veteran Italian rejoined his compatriot and they started the final climb with an 18-second advantage over a small group with Moscon, Tiralongo, Zordan, Francsco Bongiorno (Bardiani), Chalapud, Kevin Seeldraeyers (Wany) and Pichetta that were 10 seconds ahead of the peloton.


Kevin Ledanois (Bretagne) tried to bridge the gap from the peloton that was now a minute behind the two leaders. Meanwhile, the chase group split up, leaving just Tiralongo, Moscon and Bongiorno in the group.


With 60km to go, Rosa and Rebellin wer 33 seconds ahead of the three chasers while Pichette and Seeldraeyers were at 42 seconds. The peloton was next, 55 seconds behind.


The two chase groups merged while the 40-rider peloton tried to keep a second group at bay.  They failed in their mission and while the chasers caught the front group, the two groups merged to form a 60-rider group.


With 40km to go, the peloton was now 1.20 behind and now the chase got organized. At the first passage of the finish line, the gap was only 50 seconds as Lampre-Merida and Neri Sottoli were riding on the front.


Lampre-Merida were soon in complete control and they were now riding really fast. At the end of the first lap, the gap was 24 seconds and at the start of the final lap, it was only 9 seconds.


Rusvelo were now riding on the front while one of the outsiders Jerome Baugnies (Wanty) went down ina crash. With 8km to go, the break was caught and now all was set for a sprint finish.


Androni took control but were passed by Cannondale who led the group into the final 2km. Inside the final kilometre, Lampre-Merida took over and they delivered Niccolo Bonifazio to a breakthrough win.


The Trittico Lombardo race series finishes tomorrow when the riders tackle the hardest and most prestigious race, Tre Valli Varesine. With 10 laps of a tough circuit in Varese, the race is expected to suit the climbers and is a key test for Vincenzo Nibali ahead of the World Championships.



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