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A few weeks after his crash at the Vuelta, Lopez bounced back by claiming a solo win at Milan-Turin in a great battle with Woods; the Canadian was second and Uran made it two from Cannondale on the podium

Photo: ANSA - Peri / Bazzi

ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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MICHAEL WOODS

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MIGUEL ANGEL LOPEZ

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MILANO-TORINO

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RIGOBERTO URAN

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28.09.2016 @ 16:54 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

A few weeks after crashing out of his maiden grand tour at the Vuelta a Espana, Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) bounced back in the best possible way by claiming an impressive solo victory on the Colle di Superga climb at Milan-Turin. Having anticipated the favourites with an attack in the flat run-in to the ascent, he fought it out in a battle with Michael Woods (Cannondale) whom he dropped with a big attack inside the final kilometre. Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) was the best of the pre-race favourites and rounded out the podium.

 

After his great victory at the Tour de Suisse, Miguel Angel Lopez went into the Vuelta a Espana, his first grand tour, as one of the big outsiders. However, it all came to nothing as he crashed already on the third stage and after a few days, he threw in the towel and left the race.

 

Since then, nothing has emerged from Lopez and nobody knew how he was going when he returned to action this weekend at the Coppa Sabatini last Thursday. As he abandoned his first four races, nothing suggested that he was on form and he was not even mentioned as an outsider for today’s Milan-Turin.

 

However, Lopez has apparently hid his condition well as he turned out to be on fire in the oldest classic on the calendar. The race finishes on the Colle di Superga climb and is one of the select few classics that the climbers can realistically aim for. With an impressive solo ride, Lopez emulated what his teammate Diego Rosa did last year as he made use of the fact that many were watching his leader Fabio Aru and emerged as the best rider on the climb.

 

Lopez anticipated the favourites as he joined an 11-rider break that escaped in the short flat section in between the two passages of the climb. The group hit the climb with an advantage of 10 seconds and that turned out to be enough for Lopez and Michael Woods to fight it out for the win. Having initially been dropped, Lopez made it back to his companion whom he dropped with an attack less than one kilometre from the top. Rigoberto Uran won the battle of the pre-race favourites but had to settle for third.

 

The 97th edition of Milano-Torino was held on a 186km course. It started in the Milan suburb of San Giuliano Milanese and from there the riders headed west along completely flat roads in the Po Valley. That changed completely with 23.8km to go where they hit the bottom of the Colle di Superga (4.9km, 9.1%, max. 14%). The first time they skipped the final 600m and with 19.5km to go, they started a technical descent that led back to Turin. A short flat section then led back to the bottom of the climb which they tackled for a second time, going all the way to the top.

 

As forecasted, the riders had excellent sunny weather when they gathered in Milan, where they kicked the race off at high speed. First 11 riders, Cyril Gautier (Ag2r La Mondiale), Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Eduard Prades (Caja Rural - RGA), Toms Skujins (Cannondale - Drapac), Alexander Evtuschenko (Gazprom - RusVelo), Mattia Cattaneo (Lampre - Merida), Eduard Grosu (Nippo - Fantini), Michal Golas (Sky), Davide Ballerini (Tinkoff), Julien Bernard (Trek - Segafredo) and Cristian Railenau (Wilier - South East), escaped after a little more than four kilometers, and it evolved into a tough battle as Astana and Movistar had missed the move. After 11km of racing the gap was seven seconds but the escapees managed to increase it to 15 seconds. Androni also started to chase, and after 18 km of racing, things were back together.

 

Moments later, Eduard Grosu (Nippo - Fantini), Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) and Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) took off and they immediately got a gap of 15 seconds. Gazprom-RusVelo chased briefly but quickly gave up. Matteo Draperi (Wilier) tried to bridge across but his attempt failed and then the peloton slowed down. After 27 km of racing, the leaders had an advantage of 1.12 and after 36km, the gap was a massive 6.50.

 

The riders covered 50.3 kilometers during the fast first hour, and the gap had now grown to 9.30. 10km later it was 10.54 and it quickly reached 11.35. Movistar and Astana led the peloton but they were not chasing yet.

 

Finally, the peloton increased its speed under the impetus of CCC, Gazprom-RusVelo and Movistar, and with 100 km to go, the gap was only 8.37. In the feed zone, it had dropped to 7.00, but then the gap again started to grow. With 75 km to go, it was again 8.40 and now Movistar was isolated on the front.

 

Gazprom-Rusvlo took over responsibility again and increased the speed. At the 122 km mark, they had reduced the gap to 7.32. Dario Cataldo (Astana) took over the pace-setting and while he continued to reduce the gap, a crash split the field. Michele Scarponi (Astana), Ruben Fernandez and Adriano Malori (Movistar) was worst off and had to abandon the race.

 

Gazprom-Rusvelo and Cannondale came to the fore to lend Astana a hand and especially the American team was very active. Matti Breschel, Toms Sjulins and Kristoffer Skjeriping did a huge job for the squad together with Cataldo, Alessandro Vanotti (Astana), Artem Ovechkin and another Gazprom-Rusvelo rider.

 

With 30km to go, the gap was down to just three minutes and now Lampre-Merida were also contributing to the chase with Manuele Mori. Tinkoff then took full control with Roman Kreuziger and Davide Ballerini and as the fight for position intensified, Bardiani took over.

 

The front trio hit the Super climb with an advantage of 1.55 before Riccardo Zoidl (Trek) led the peloton onto the ascent. He made the peloton explode to pieces and led the group for most of the first part of the climb.

 

Kennaugh quickly dropped his companions and took off in a solo move. However he was quickly losing ground and was only 1.05 halfway up the climb where Grosu was caught.

 

When Zoidl swung off, Zardini attacked and he quickly passed De Marchi. The Italian quickly got a solid advantage before Tanel Kangert took over the pace-setting fo Astana.

 

Kennaugh reached the top with an advantage of 30 seconds over Zardini while the 20-rider peloton arrived 10 seconds later, still with Kangert on the front. Lots of good climbers like Egor Silin, Davide Rebellin and Rafal Majka had been dropped.

 

Kangert kept riding hard on the descent and brought Zardini back with 15km to go. As he finished the descent with 10km to, Kennaugh was only 7 seconds ahead and less than 2km later he was brought back.

 

Kangert maintained the speed until 8km remained. When he swung off, Hubert Dupont (Ag2r) attacked in what turned out to be the race-winning move. Lopez, Matvey Mamykin (Katusha) and Michael Woods joined him, Mikel Landa (Sky) also bridged across and a little later Sam Oomen (Giant-Alpecin), Javier Moreno (Movistar), Zardini, Angel Madrazo (Caja Rural), Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) and Alessio Taliani (Androni) also made the junction. Hence, 11 rider had gathered and as the peloton hesitated the gap soon grew.

 

The 11-rider front group hit the climb with an advantage of 10-15 seconds and it was again Astana that was forced to chase. Diego Rosa set the pace and started to close the gap.

 

As soon as they hit the climb, Zardini attacked hard but he was soon passed by Woods who dropped his companions and soloed towards the top. Further back, the group split to pieces and it was Mamykin, Lopez and Dupont who gathered to form the nearest chase group.

 

There was no control in the peloton from which Manuel Senni (BMC), Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) and Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r) all tried to get clear. However, they never made it and instead Rui Costa started to ride tempo for Lampre-Merida.

 

Lopez dropped his companions and took off in lone pursuit of the leader. With 3km to go, Woods had a 5-second advantage over the Colombian while Taliani, Dupont and Mamykin had gathered a little further back. The rest of the break had been caught.

 

Lopez gradually got closer to Woods while Taliani dropped his companions. In the peloton the attacking started again when Barguil took off and together with Sergip Pardilla (Caja Rural) and Franco Pellizotti (Androni) he passed Dupont and Mamykin.

 

While Lopez caught Woods with a little more than 2km to go, Pierre Latour (Ag2r) sacrificed himself for Romain Bardet and his fast pace brought all the chasers back. When he swung off, Bardet made his big attack and initially inly Daniel Martinez (Wilier), Uran, Rodolfo Torres (Androni) and Daniel Moreno (Movistar) could follow. However, gradually a bigger group gathered again after Martinez had blown up and Fabio Aru (Astana), Pardilla and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) had been the first to make it back.

 

Further up the road, Lopez set the pace until Woods made his first acceleration. The Colombian lost a few metres but managed to get back and went straight to the front.

 

Passing under the flamme rouge, Bardet attacked again but Torres, Uran, Moreno and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) stayed with the Frenchman. Instead, Uran countered and he managed to make the difference.

 

With a little less than 1km to go, Woods attacked again but Lopez stayed glued to his wheel and as soon as the Canadian sat down, the Colombian made his move. He accelerated immediately and as Woods had to response, he got a big gap.

 

From there, the outcome was never in doubt. Lopez maintained the speed all the way to the finish to claim the biggest one-day win of his career before Woods crossed the line 9 seconds later. Uran took third 14 seconds behind the winner while Moreno and Ulissi completed the podium. Pre-race favourites Aru and Bardet had to settle for 6th and 9th respectively.

 

With Milan-Turin done and dusted, the attention turns to Thursday’s GranPiemonte which is a completely different affair suited to strong sprinters.

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