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Having created an initial selection on the descent, Nibali attacked less than 2km from the top of the final climb of Colle Superga to defend his Italian road race title; Reda and Ulissi completed the podium

Photo: Sirotti

DIEGO ULISSI

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FRANCESCO REDA

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NATIONAL CHAMPIONSSHIPS

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VINCENZO NIBALI

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27.06.2015 @ 16:51 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) proved that he will be a formidable candidate for another Tour de France victory when he repeated last year’s excellent performance at the Italian championships by making it two in a row in the fight for the tricolore. Having escaped alongside Francesco Reda (Idea) and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) on the final descent, he dropped his rivals with a strong attack 2km from the top of the Colle Superga climb, taking a solo win ahead of Reda and Ulissi who completed the podium.

 

History has a tendency to repeat itself. If that’s true, Vincenzo Nibali will again stand on the top step of the podium in Paris when the Tour de France comes to a conclusion on July 26 after he defended his Italian road race title with a splendid performance on the famous Colle Superga climb outside Turin.

 

Last year Nibali had a poor spring season and was off the pace in the Criterium du Dauphiné. It was his win at the Italian Championships that turned things around for him before he went on to claim a maiden yellow jersey in France.

 

This year Nibali’s season has been almost an identical copy of the one he had last year. Again he was far from his usual level in the spring and he didn’t look too strong in the Dauphiné either. However, today’s performance was similar to the one he delivered 12 months ago and proves that he has peak condition just in time for his big goal.

 

The course for the road race could not have suited Nibali any better as it was an almost exact copy of the Milan-Turin semi-classic. After a long flat run, the riders went up the steep 5km climb of Colle Superga twice inside the final 25km, with the finish line being located at the top of the 9.4% ascent.

 

After his teammate Dario Cataldo had whittled down the front group and he had launched a first attack himself, Nibali found himself in a 9-rider front group with Francesco Reda, Diego Ulissi, Gianfranco Zilioli, Fabio Taborre (Androni), Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r), Davide Rebellin (CCC), Mauro Finetto (Southeast) and Davide Villella (Cannondale) as he crested the summit for the first time. However, he was vulnerable to attacks on the subsequent descent and flat sections and so he preferred to ride aggressively.

 

Nibali attacked almost straight after the summit but was quickly brought back by his attentive rivals. However, when he went again, only Reda could follow him before Ulissi quickly bridged the gap.

 

As the chase group hesitated and Nibali went full gas on the front, the trio quickly got a big advantage that was 25 seconds before the chasers started to cooperate. Their progress was even set back when Taborre crashed out after going too fast into a turn.

 

Nibali briefly distanced his companions but they came back together and collaborated until they again hit a tricky section. Here Nibali made use of his excellent descending skills to get clear while the chase group constantly dangled 20 seconds behind.

 

Several riders, including Taborre, Manuel Bongiorno (Bardiani), Simone Stortoni, Franco Pellizotti (Androni), Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida) and Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep) rejoined the chase group on the descent and they started the final climb with a deficit of around 20 seconds to Nibali. As soon as they hit the ascent, the group exploded as Rebellin, Pozzovivo and Zilioli rode away from the rest.

 

Further up the road, Ulissi dug deep to both distance Reda and make it back to Nibali who seemed to have hit out to early. Nibali briefly tried to attack again but he was unable to distance his companion and soon after, Reda was also back in contention.

 

The chasing trio had now been distanced by 32 seconds as Nibali was doing all the work in the front group while Ulissi was clearly suffering. The Astana captain tried to attack again but as Reda responded strongly, the trio stayed together.

 

Ulissi got dropped and Nibali also briefly managed to distance Reda before it all came back together. Apparently, Reda was feeling strong and so he launched an attack but that turned out to be a bad decision. Nibali immediately countered the move and quickly got a big advantage.

 

From there, it was a time trial for Nibali who had plenty of time to celebrate his win. Reda was more concerned by Ulissi than Nibali and clearly held off the Lampre-Merida rider to take second. Zilioli managed to drop Rebellin and Pozzovivo and even though the former made a strong sprint in the end, he managed to take fourth.

 

Tomorrow the road race championships continue in most of the European countries before the attention is turned to the Tour de France. The next major Italian race is Trofeo Matteotti which is held during the third weekend of the Tour on July 19.

 

A mini Milan-Turin

The 2015 Italian championships were held on a 219km course that brought the riders from Legnano to the top of the Colle Superga climb on the outskirts of Turin and closely mirrored the Milan-Turin semi-classic. The first part of the race was completely flat but it all came to exciting conclusion with two passages of the 6km Superga ascent that had an average gradient of more than 8%. The riders went reached the summit with around 20km to go before they descended to the bottom of the climb for the second time.

 

It was a beautiful day in Northern Italy when the riders left Legnano to head out for their rider on the plains. 106 riders took the start and they got it all off to a very fast opening phase. After 6 riders had briefly gone clear, Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff-Saxo) was the next to try but he was also brought back before Luca Muffolini (MG Kvis) won the first intermediate sprint.

 

Lots of attacks

The attacking continued for a long time before a group with Giorgio Cecchinel (Southeast); Riccardo Stacchiotti (Nippo), Adriano Brogi (D’Amico), Davide Vigano (Idea) and Boaro got clear. It seemed to be a solid move but they were also brought back.

 

After 27km of racing, Luca Sterbini (Bardiani) attacked and he was joined by Filippo Fortin (GM), Marco Frapporti (Androni), Checchinel, Antonio Nibali (Nippo) before the peloton slowed down. The gap quickly went out to 3.15 as they finished the first lap of the flat circuit around Legnano.

 

The chase gets organized

The gap stabilized around the 3-minute mark before it started to come down. At the 83km mark, it was only 2.35 and at the 120km mark it was 2.28.

 

The riders did the first three hours at an average speed of 45.3km/h before the peloton started to accelerate bringing the gap down to 1.45 and was down to 1.25 before the peloton again slowed down. It went out to more than 2 minutes and when they entered the final 60km, it was still 1.50.

 

A fight for position

The gap again went out to 2.12 before Lampre-Merida, Astana and MG Kvis upped the pace. With Davide Malacarne (Astana), Roberto Ferrari, Matteo Bono and Niccolo Bonifazio (Lampre-Merida) working hard on the front, it started to come down and as the fight for position intensified, the escapees rapidly lost ground.

 

Lampre-Merida, Astana and Southeast went head to head on the front and it was the former team that won the battle. While Bono and Filippo Pozzato set the pace, the break was almost caught and this prompted Checchinel to attack.

 

The break is caught

Sterbini immediately dropped back to the peloton while Fortin and Frapporti quickly rejoined the front. Nibali also made the junction and followed Frapporti when he made the next attack.

 

The front quartet briefly came back together before they were brought back and instead Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) took off. The Italian dangled a few metres ahead but Diego Rosa (Astana) quickly brought him back.

 

Cataldo does some damage

When Rosa swung off Etixx-QuickStep hit the front with Fabio Sabatini before CCC Polsat took over with Christian Delle Stelle. However, it was a Nippo rider who led the peloton onto the climb.

 

Astana went straight to the front with Valerio Agnoli who made the peloton explode to pieces. Cataldo took over after a little while and he quickly whittled the group down to just 13 riders.

 

Michele Scarponi (Astana), Stortoni and Bongiorno were the next to get distanced, leaving just Cataldo and the 9 riders that would later decide the race in the front group. Moments later, Nibali launched his first attack but Pozzovivo and Rebellin quickly brought it back together as only Cataldo dropped off. Moments later, Nibali led the group over the top, setting the scene for the finale.

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