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As the lone survivor of an early 8-rider breakaway, Sterbini delivered an amazing solo ride to win the mountainous fifth stage of the Tour of Austria; Hirt covered all the attacks and retained the lead

Photo: Josef Vaishar/














07.07.2016 @ 16:38 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Simone Sterbini continued the great Tour of Austria for Bardiani by claming an impressive maiden professional victory in the second big mountain stage of the race. With a fantastic solo ride, he was the lone survivor of an early 8-rider breakaway and reached the finish with an advantage of 2.02 over David Belda (Roth) who gained a few seconds on the rest of the GC riders. Jan Hirt (CCC) responded to the many attacks and retained his advantage of 1.17 over Guillaume Martin (Wanty).


Going into the Tour of Austria, Bardiani didn’t have too many expectations. The Italian team arrived at the start with a relatively young team and most of them hadn’t raced much recently.


However, the event is developing into a real success story for the Italians. After Nicola Ruffoni took a surprise fourth place in the mountain prologue, they have been on a roll. Ruffoni won the first bunch sprint and today another youngster doubled the tally for the team.


Simone Sterbini hasn’t had much success since he turned pro at the start of the 2015 season but day he proved his huge potential as a climber by winning the second big mountain stage of the race. Having joined an 8-rider breakaway, he turned out to be much stronger than his rivals. While they were all caught by the favourites, an impressive Sterbini was totally unstoppable and arrived at the finish with an advantage of more than 2 minutes to the GC riders.


After yesterday’s queen stage there was no room for recovery for the GC riders as they faced the third consecutive summit finish in stage 5. The 147.3km between Millstatt and Dobratsch were actually some of the easiest of the entire race as they were almost completely flat. However, the stage still had 2286m of climbing and they almost all came in the end. The stage ended at the top of the category 1 Dobratsch climb which averaged 5.7% over 21km. One shouldn’t be fooled by the numbers as the first part was pretty easy while there are several double-digit gradient sections in the second half.


Domen Novak (Adria Mobil) and Wesley Kreder (Roompot) had fallen ill and were both absent when the peloton gathered for the start under a sunny sky. Like in the past stages, they got it off to a very aggressive and fast beginning as there were lots of attacks right from the gun. No one managed to get clear during the first 10km and when the elastic snapped, a strong 8-rider group had gone clear.


Valerio Agnoli (Astana), Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Nick van der Lijke (Roompot), Sterbini, Matthias Krizek (Roth), Gavin Mannion (Drapac), Andi Bajc (Amplatz) and Stephan Rabitsch (Felbermayr) headed out on a long adventure while CCC took control of the peloton and they didn’t give them much leeway. At the 30km mark, the gap was only 1.40 but then they slowed down. During the next 10km, the advantage went out to six minutes.


Krizek beat Bajc and Mannion in the first intermediate sprint at the 55km mark after he won all sprints yesterday too. At this point, Gazprom-Rusvelo came to the fore to work with the CCC riders and with Alexandr Serov and Kirill Sveshnikov riding on the front, the gap started to come down.


Krizek beat Rabitsch and Sterbini in the second intermediate sprint after 79km of racing to move into second in the battle for the green jersey. However, he didn’t receive much opposition and the group worked excellently together. Hence, they still had an advantage of 5.20 at the 90km mark.


The escapees passed through the feed 4.10 ahead of the peloton before Krizek beat van der Lijke and Perez in the final intermediate sprint. That allowed him to take over the green jersey from teammate Andrea Pasqualon.


The escapees still had an advantage of more than four minutes when they hit the final climb and the ascent took its toll immediately. Krizek was the first to get dropped and later Agnoli also had to surrender. The rest of the group entered the final 15km with an advantage of 3.45.


While the front group worked well together to maintain their advantage, the elimination started in the peloton which was whittled down to 40 riders. It was the Wanty team of Guillaume Martin that took control with Frederik Backaert and Marco Minnaard.


In the front group, the attacking started when Perez took off. Van der Lijke and Rabitsch gave chase but the Frenchman was still the lone leader when he entered the final 10km with an advantage of 2.40 over the peloton.


While Drapac started to attack from the peloton, the front group regrouped and then Sterbini made his move. The Italian dropped his companions and did an impressive job to maintain his advantage of 2.40 with 5km. Rabitsch and van der Lijke had joined forces but failed to get closer to the Italian.


CCC took control in the peloton with Sylwester Szmyd and the strong Pole discouraged the rivals from attacking. Meanwhile, van der Lijke dropped Rabitsch but he still lost ground to Sterbini.


Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis) attacked from the peloton but race leader Jan Hirt responded to everything. The aggression was enough to bring most of the early break back but there was no chance to stop Sterbini. The Italian was the only attacker to survive and reached the finish with a big lead to take his first pro win.


In the finale, there were a few attacks and David Belda managed to get clear, crossing the line in second 2.02 behind Sterbini. Markus Eibegger (Felbermayr) also gained six seconds on the rest of the GC riders in third place while Delio Fernandez (Delko) won the sprint of the GC group to take fourth, 2.12 behind Sterbini.


Hirt crossed the line in seventh in the same time as Martin and so retained his lead of 1.17 over the Frenchman. He should have an easier day tomorrow when the riders face a long 203.9km stage from Graz to Stegersbach. The course is mostly flat, only has 1969m of climbing and has a completely flat finale. However, the riders will reach the top of a category 2 climb at the 145.1km and the summit of the category 3 climb of Bernstein with 34.3km to go, meaning that there are some undulations to overcome before the road levels out for the finale.



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