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After splendid teamwork from Aru, Nibali attacked on the final climb to ride away for a solo win in Tre Valli Varesine; Firsanov and Nizzolo completed the podium

Photo: Sirotti

ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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GIACOMO NIZZOLO

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SERGEY FIRSANOV

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TRE VALLI VARESINE 

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VINCENZO NIBALI

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30.09.2015 @ 17:12 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) marked himself out as the favourite for Sunday’s Il Lombardia by taking a hugely impressive solo win in the Italian classic Tre Valli Varesine. After Fabio Aru had worked hard to set him up, the multiple grand tour winner attacked from the bottom of the final climb and rode way from the peloton to take his fourth victory of the year. Sergey Firsanov (Rusvelo) escaped to take second while Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) won the sprint for third.

 

The 2015 season has been a frustrating one for Vincenzo Nibali whose fourth place at the Tour de France didn’t live up to expectation. Things only got worse when he was expelled from the Vuelta a Espana and many doubted whether he would have the motivation to get into condition for the final part of the season.

 

However, as soon as he returned to competition in the Coppa Agostoni, it became clear that he was on fire for the Italian autumn classics. In the four races he did before the Worlds, he managed to prevent the usual sprint finishes and was clearly the strongest in every event, taking a fantastic win in Coppa Bernocchi as the highlight of a great week.

 

Nibali put himself at the service of the Italian team at the World Championships but is now ready to ride for himself in the final part of the year that includes several tough Italian one-day races. Today he got the campaign off to a perfect start when he rode to a solo win in the opening event, the classic Tre Valli Varesine.

 

The race finished with 9 laps of a 12.8km circuit that included the short Montello climb and a 2km uphill section that led to the final flat kilometre. As it was expected to suit the strong sprinters, Astana knew that they had to make the race as hard as possible if they wanted to set their captain up for the win. Hence, they made things extremely tough right from the beginning.

 

After a 17-rider break had been brought back, the race settled into a steadier rhythm. With two laps to go, a front group with Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ), Alessandro Bisolti (Nippo), Michele Scartezzini (MG), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani) and Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18) had a 30-second advantage over the peloton which was led by Alessandro Vanotti (Astana).

 

As soon as they hit the Montello, Astana played their next card as they launched Diego Rosa off in an attack. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) tried to follow but was unable to match the Italian who flew past Scartezzini and made it up the four attackers. He went straight to the front to make an acceleration while further back a group with Davide Rebellin (CCC), Nibali, Fabio Aru, Kenny Elissonde and Pinot (FDJ) had gone clear.

 

Rebellin attacked hard and only Nibali could follow before Simone Ponzi (Southeast) joined the move. They made it across to the leaders but more riders soon managed to make the junction and it was a 15-rider group that headed down the descent.

 

Trek were chasing desperately in a 20-rider group that was led by Fabio Felline. While Tonelli, Rosa and Benedetti made an unsuccessful attack, they made the junction and it was Rosa who started to ride hard in front of the 30-40-rider group.

 

Rosa led the group across the line to start the finale lap where the fight for position really intensified. As they hit the Montello, Paolo Tiralongo took over for Astana and when he swung off, Aru turned into domestique by riding hard on the front.

 

The Vuelta champion did a lot of damage but it was Andrea Fedi (Southeast) who launched a strong attack to crest the summit as the lone leader. Pinot had tried to follow the move but it was relatively big group that headed down the descent.

 

Felline tried to bridge across but as Aru again took over the pace-setting, he brought the Italian back. With 4km to go, it was also over for Fedi and the scene was set for Nibali to make his attack on the final rise.

 

As they hit the bottom, the Italian champion went hard but Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) stayed glued to his wheel, followed by Pinot, Ponzi, Rebellin and Miguel Rubiano (Colombia). However, as Nibali accelerated again, Nizzolo cracked and immediately a big gap was made.

 

Pinot, Rebellin, Ponzi and Nizzolo formed a chase group before Sbaragli and Firsanov joined the move. More riders got across but were unable to prevent Firsanov from taking off in pursuit. Elissonde joined the Russian while Felline started to chase hard to set Nizzolo up for the sprint.

 

However, no one was going to catch Nibali who had plenty of time to celebrate his win. The chasing duo were caught at the line but Firsanov managed to hold on to take second before Nizzolo sprinted in for third.

 

The series of Italian classics continues tomorrow when the riders line up for Milan-Turin whose finish on the Colle Superga makes it a race for climbers.

 

A lumpy course

The 2015 edition of Tre Valli Varesine was held on a 198.5km course that brought the riders from Busto Arsizio to Varese. First the riders did an 83.3km opening section that had a flat first part and the included two tough climbs near the end. After the first passage of the finish line, they tackled nine laps of a 12.8km finishing circuit which included the short steep Montello climb right from the start. From there, it was mainly descending until the riders again hit a 2km climb that ended at the flamme rouge from where it was flat.

 

It was a perfect sunny day when the riders gathered for the start. Eduard Grosu (Nippo) and Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-Argon 18) were the only non-starters.

 

Lots of attacks

As it is always the case in Italian one-day races, it was a fast and aggressive opening phase. The first riders to get clear were Christian Delle Stelle (CCC Sprandi) and David Ballerini (Unieuro Wilier Treviso) and when they were brought back, Fabio Duarte (Colombia) gave it an unsuccessful try.

 

At the 15km mark, no one had managed to get clear as Astana controlled things firmly, setting a very fast tempo that made it impossible to get clear. However, they also rode aggressively as Diego Rosa was very active alongside Ballerini.

 

17 riders get clear

The attacking continued while Louis Meintjes (MTN) fought his way back from a puncture and the aggressive riding suddenly resulted in the creation of a big 17-ridermbreakaway at the 32km mark. Dario Cataldo (Astana), Thibaut Pinot and Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Eugenio Alafaci (Trek), Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida), Tanner Putt (UnitedHealthcare), Lukasz Owsian and Christian Delle Stelle (CCC Sprandi), Alberto Nardin (Androni-Sidermec), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF), Jaco Venter (MTN-Qhubeka), Juan Pablo Valencia (Colombia), Pierpaolo De Negri (NIPPO-Fantini), Giovanni Pedretti and Lorenzo Rota (Unieuro Wilier Trevigiani) and Nicola Gaffurini (MG.KVis Vega Norda) fought hard to build an advantage of 50 seconds at the 43km mark.

 

Rusvelo and Southeast had missed the move and so chased hard at the end of a first hour during which the peloton had covered a massive 51.7km. For a long time, the gap stayed just below the one-minute mark until it suddenly went out to 1.20.

 

Southeast accelerate

This forced Southeast to accelerate and they had reduced the gap to 1.00 after 70km of racing. It stayed around that mark for a while but was down to 51 seconds at the first passage of the finish line.

 

As they hit the Montello climb for the first time, Putt was dropped from the front group and Valencia tried to attack. The Colombian was chased by Owsian and managed to keep a stable 50-second advantage over the peloton.

 

The break is caught

Under the impetus of Rosa and Southeast, the peloton accelerated dramatically and before they got to the start of the second lap, they brought everything back together. As they hit Montello again, Astana started to ride offensively as they sent Cataldo on the attack and he was joined by Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) and Antonio Nibali (Nippo).

 

Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18) was next to make the junction and later Franco Pellizotti (Androni), Leonardo Duque (Colombia), Valencia, Antonio Parrinello (D’Amico) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) also got across. The 9-rider group managed to put 20 seconds into the peloton from there lots of attacks were launched. Even Fabio Aru (Astana) was active.

 

Jeannesson takes off

Aru, Kenny Elissonde (FDJ), Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ), Fabio Felline (Trek), Edward Ravasi (Lampre-Merida), Adrian Honkisz (CCC), Enrico Barbin, Luca Chirico (Bardiani) and Marco Tizza (Idea) bridged across to make it an 18-rider front group that didn’t work well together. As they were about to get caught, Benedetti, Jeannesson, Chirico and Duque tried again but it all came back together.

 

Jeannesson attacked on the descent and manage to get a small advantage over the peloton that was led by Astana. Bardiani took over the chase before they sent Stefano Pirazzi off in pursuit of the lone Frenchman. At this point, Parrinello hit the deck in a bad crash.

 

Pirazzi bridges across

At the end of the third lap, Jeannesson had a 37-second advantage over Pirazzi and 1.30 over the peloton. Astana was back in control but slowly allowed the gap to go out to 2 minutes.

 

Pirazzi joined Jeannesson and they managed to push their advantage out to 2.47 at the end of the fourth of the nine laps. Meanwhile, CCC had joined forces with Valerio Agnoli (Astana) in setting the pace in the peloton.

 

Pirazzi is dropped

The gap stayed around 2.45 for a while but was down to 2.25 with four laps to go. Colombia and Nippo had now taken over the pace-setting before a single Nippo rider and Sylwester Szmyd (CCC) accelerated further. With 45km to go, the gap was down to 1.45.

 

At the start of the seventh lap, the gap was down to just 1.08 and this forced Jeannesson to ide hard on the Montello. He quickly dropped the fading Pirazzi while the attacking started in the peloton.

 

New attacks

Benedetti and Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani) made the first move but they were quickly brought back by Tiralongo after having passed Pirazzi. Benedetti continued to lead the peloton on the descent before he attacked again.

 

He was quickly joined by Bisolti and later Tonelli also made it across. Finally, Scartezzini made the junction while Astana started to chase with Vanotti.

 

As they hit the final uphill section, the chase quartet caught Jeannesson while Vanotti continued to ride on the front of the 40-rider peloton. Moments later, they started the penultimate lap where the actions reall kicked off.

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