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Having made it into the final 20-rider group, Bonifazio proved his speed by beating Gavazzi and Montaguti in a sprint to win the GP Lugano

FRANCESCO GAVAZZI

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MATTEO MONTAGUTI

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NICCOLÓ BONIFAZIO

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UAE TEAM EMIRATES

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01.03.2015 @ 18:33 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Having missed out in last week’s Trofeo Laigueglia, Niccolo Bonifazio (Lampre-Merida) finally took his first win of the 2015 season when he won the hilly one-day race GP Lugano. Having survived the many climbs, he beat Francesco Gavazzi (Southeast) and Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r) in a sprint from a 20-rieder group to add the prestigious race to his palmares.

 

After an excellent showing at the Tour Down Under and a near-miss in the GP Costa degli Etruschi, Italian sprint sensation Niccolo Bonifazio had gone into his home race Trofeo Laigueglia as one of the big favourites. However, he lost contact on the final climb and had to console himself with the fact that his teammate Davide Cimolai continued Lampre-Merida’s great start to the season by winning the race.

 

Today Bonifazio was back in action at the GP Lugano and he lined up for one of the biggest Swiss one-day races in a determined mood, wanting to make up for last week’s failure. However, he faced a very hilly course in a race that has often been won by climbers and rarely been one for the fast finishers.

 

However, Bonifazio dug deep to stay with the best and as a strong group went clear on the final lap, he made use of his Lampre-Merida team to bring it back. The Italian team also responded perfectly to two late attacks from the Tinkoff-Saxo pair of Ivan Basso and Sergio Paulinho and as they crested the summit of the final climb, Bonifazio was still in the 20-rider group that had made the selection.

 

With only a technical descent and a very short flat section remaining, Bonifazio knew that he had a golden opportunity to win the race. He left nothing to chance and didn’t disappoint his team as he beat Francesco Gavazzi and Matteo Montaguti to take Lampre-Merida’s fourth win in less than two weeks.

 

The win comes after a great debut season for the Italian who won a number of races in Asia last year and got his big breakthrough when he won the tough Coppa Agostoni one-day race. With today’s performance, he has underlined his potential as a perennial favourite for the Italian one-day races that are often decided in sprints from small groups.

 

With today’s race done and dusted, racing in Switzerland is put on hold for a long time as the next major event is the Tour de Romandie which takes place in April. However, many of today’s riders will be back in action just over the border in Italy next Saturday when the Italian racing season continues with the Strade Bianche classic.

 

A hilly circuit

The 69th edition of the GP Lugano took place on a 184.9km course around the Swiss city of Lugano and had a layout that was very similar to the one used last year. It was held entirely on a 34km circuit with 3 short, steep climbs and the riders first did the final half of the circuit which included two of the ascents before they tackled 5 full laps of the circuit. The top of the final climb was located less than 5km from the finish and from there it was a technical descent down to a very short flat stretch along the shores of the Lake Lugano.

 

The riders had the perfect condition for one of the biggest races in Switzerland as it was a beautiful sunny day with barely any wind. 105 riders took the start as Edward Diaz (Colombia) was the only rider who didn’t sign in.

 

A big group

As it is usually the case for this kind of hilly races, the start was very fast with lots of attacks and counterattacks. At the 11km mark, however, the elastic snapped and when the dust had settled, a very big and strong 17-rider group had emerged.

 

Jonathan Monsalve (SouthEast), Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff Saxo), Luka Pibernik (Lampre-Merida), Jerome Coppel and Pirmin Lang (IAM Cycling), Julien Berard and Patrick Gretsch (Ag2r La Mondiale), Nicola Boem (Bardiani CSF), Simone Stortoni (Androni Venezuela), Antonio Nibali (Nippo Fantini), Nick Dougall and Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN Qhubeka), Daniel Martinez and Carlos Quintero (Colombia), Nico Brungger, Yannick Eckmann and Andrea Vaccher (Roth Skoda) were the riders on the attack and at the 15km mark, they were already 3.09 ahead. It reached a maximum of 4.19 after 19km of racing but the peloton was unwilling to let such a big group get too much of an advantage.

 

Novo Nordisk and Rusvelo start to chase

Novo Nordisk and Rusvelo had both missed the move and so those two teams combined forces to lead the chase. At the 30km mark, they had reduced their deficit to 3.28 and for a long time, they kept the gap stable around 3.30.

 

Teklehaimanot beat Brüngger and Martinez in the first KOM sprint of the day before Rusvelo started to accelerate in the peloton. At the 76km mark, the Russians had brought the gap down to 2.35 and when they finished their second full lap of the circuit after 83km of racing, it was 2.28.

 

Teklehaimanot takes off

At the top of the categorized climb, Teklehaimanot was again the first as he beat Brüngger and Coppel in the battle for the points. As they started the descent, the latter two attacked and they quickly distanced their former companions.

 

At the 107km mark, they were 30 seconds ahead of Stortoni who had taken off in pursuit while the rest of the group was at 41 seconds. The peloton had briefly seen the gap go up to 3.05 but now Rusvelo had again reduced it to 2.40.

 

The break comes back together

There was no agreement in the chase group where the many attacks saw Eckmann getting dropped. Later the group was reduced to only Monsalve, Berard, Gretsch, Pibernok, Teklehaimanot, Boem and Lang while Stortoni had now also been left behind.

 

The group worked well together to bring the gap down to 10 seconds while a crash in the peloton saw Miguel Rubiano, Daniel Martinez (Colombia) and Andrea Peron (Novo Nordisk) hit the ground. Meanwhile, a regrouping took place in the lead as all the original attackers except Martinez and Eckmann found back together.

 

The break is caught

At the third KOM sprint, Teklehaimanot was again first, leading McCarthy and Monsalve across the line and the gap to the peloton was still 2.50. On the descent, the Eritrean accelerated and he managed to distance his former companions.

 

At the 142km mark, he was 1.15 ahead of his 14 chasers while the peloton had accelerated and reduced the deficit to 1.57. A chase group with McCarthy, Coppel, Quintero, Pibernik, Lang, Monsalve and Berard was formed and they brought the gap down to 10 seconds. However, Tinkoff-Saxo and Lampre-Merida had now taken control and with 20km to go, they had brought everything back together.

 

Sørensen makes a move

Tinkoff-Saxo contained to ride hard in the group that contained around 70 riders before they sent Chris Anker Sørensen off in an attack. He was joined by a Colombia rider and Monsalve but they were quickly brought back.

 

Ivan Basso took over the pace-setting and he led Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) and Damiano Cunego (Nippo-Vini Fantini) across the line in the final KOM sprint. At this point, the group was down to 40 riders.

 

A dangerous break

With 13km to go, Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani) launched a big attack and he was joined by Sørensen. Yhose two riders got clear before they got joined by Linus Gerdemann (Cult Energy), Matteo Montaguti (AG2R La Mondiale), Jonathan Fumeaux (IAM Cycling), Natnael Berhane (MTN Qhubeka), Elia Favilli (SouthEast), Valerio Conti (Lampre Merida) and Javier Mejias (Novo Nordisk).

 

With 9km to go, the 9-rider group was 18 seconds ahead but moment later Zardini fell off the pace. Behind, the peloton had got organized though and it all came back together as they hit the final small climb.

 

Tinkoff-Saxo took control before they sent Sergio Paulinho and Basso off in two attacks but there was nothing to do. Around 20 riders headed down the final descent to find the winner in a sprint and here Bonifazio beat Gavazzi and Montaguti to take his first win of the season.

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