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After a 6-rider break had been caught with 1km to go, Nizzolo was given a textbook lead-out and held off Dupont and Pelucchi in the bunch sprint on stage 3 of the Tour of Croatia; the Italian is back in the leader’s jersey

Photo: ANSA-PERI / Dal Zennaro

GIACOMO NIZZOLO

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MATTEO PELUCCHI

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TIMOTHY DUPONT

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TOUR OF CROATIA

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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21.04.2016 @ 17:44 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) again underlined that he is fully ready for the Giro d’Italia as he took a second stage win on the hilly third stage of the Tour of Croatia. After a very hectic finale where a 6-rider break was caught under the flamme rouge, he was given a textbook lead-out by Edward Theuns  and easily held off Timothy Dupont (Verandas Willems) and Matteo Pelucchi (IAM) in the bunch sprint to take the win and move back into the overall lead.

 

The first start of the season was a frustrating one for Giacomo Nizzolo. The Italian was clearly stronger than ever before and impressed by his aggressive riding in the cobbled classics. He was second in the Dubai Tour queen stage and only narrowly missed out on victory in the Arab race.

 

However, as it has so often been the case for the talented Italian, the elusive win was always missing and he had several places of honour in the first part of the year. However, it now seems that both he and his lead-out train have reached peak condition just in time for his big goal at the Giro d’Italia.

 

Two days ago Nizzolo opened his account when he won a very technical sprint on the first stage of his final warm-up race, the Tour of Croatia, and after a frustrating near-miss yesterday where he lamented the wrong information in the roadbook, he again proved that he is currently the fastest in the Croatian race by winning the third stage of the race.

 

After two relatively flat stages, the 190.8km stage from Makarska to Sibenik was significantly harder as the first half was almost all uphill, culminating at the top of a categorized climb. The second half was mainly descending but with a categorized climb and an uncategorized ascent along the way, the stage was generally tipped to be too tough for most of the fast finishers. In the end, they did one lap of a flat 9.8km circuit.

 

It was a sunny day in Croatia when the 158 surviving riders gathered for the start and with such a lumpy course, it was no surprise that things were aggressive in the opening phase. However, the break was established relatively early as 8 riders managed to build and advantage of 30 seconds after the first intermediate where Nicola Boem (Bardiani) beat Kamik Gradek (Verva) and Josef Cerny (CCC) at the 10km mark.Two riders were distanced and it was Josef Cerny (CCC), Nicola Boem (Bardiani), Marcin Bialoblocki (ONE), Artem Ovechkin (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Mark Christian (WIGGINS) and Kamil Gradek (Verva) who started to increase the advantage. Boem beat Ovechkin and Cerny in the first KOM sprint,

 

The gap quickly went out to three minutes and had reached 4.00 at the 50km mark. It reached a maximum of five minutes fifteen kilometres later but as more team started to chase, the situation changed.

 

Sergio Paulinho (Tinkoff), Julien Bernard (Trek) and Jay Thomson (Dimension Data) did the early work to keep the situation under control as they went up the first climb where Boem beat Ovechkin and Cerny in the KOM sprint. They slowly reduced the gap to 3.30 at the 120km mark and it dropped to less than a minute as they entered the final 55km.

 

As they hit the second climb, Gradek had to dig deep to stay with his companions while Boem again beat Ovechkin and Cerny in the KOM sprint. In the peloton, Paulinho, Thomson and Bernard were still working hard and had reduced the gap to 2 minutes when they entered the final 30km. Ovechkin beat Bialoblocki and Cerny in the final intermediate sprint.

 

The gap was no longer coming down as the six escapees went full gas after the climb and even though Nathan Haas (Dimension Data) was now also taking turns on the front, it was still 2 minutes with 20km to go. Elchin Asadov (Synergy Baku) tried to bridge across but it wasa futile attempt.The uncategorized climb made a difference as Julian Arredondo took over for Trek, joining forces with Thomson but the leaders were still 1.30 ahead as they entered the final 15km.

 

Dimension Data took complete control and had most of their team lined out on the front as they crossed the finish line for the first time but the gap was only coming down slowly. It was still 35 seconds when Daniel Ratto (Androni) made a small attack with 7km to go and the escapees still had 20 seconds when a CCC rider made a move two kilometres later

 

Trek went all in with Gregory Rast and Eugenio Alafaci but they had failed to take back any time with 3km to go where a crash split the field. However, the escapees slowly started to lose ground and as the peloton led by Trek and IAM was breathing down their neck, Bialoblocki tried to attack, distancing Ovechkin in the process.

 

Tinkoff hit the front with Juraj Sagan and his massive turn was enough to bring the break back under the flamme rouge after Bialoblocki and Cerny had tried to insist. The Slovakian led his teammate Jay McCarthy but ran out of power when Boy van Poppel  sprinted past him.

 

Verandas Willems hit the front with one rider leading Timothy Dupont into the perfect position. Nizzolo had latched onto the Belgian’s wheel and was quick to jump onto his teammate Edward Theuns who sprinted out of the penultimate turn.

 

Theuns gave Nizzolo the perfect lead-out as Dupont slotted into third ahead of Nicola Ruffoni (Bardiani), and Matteo Pelucchi (IAM) while Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) found himself further back. Nizoolo could start his sprint in the final turn and no one could come around as he easily held off Dupont and Pelucchi, with Cavendish making a good comeback to take fourth.

 

With the 10 bonus seconds, Nizzolo is back in the overall lead with a 10-second advantage over Cavendish. However, there will be no third win tomorrow as stage 4 is the queen stage. After a lumpy start, there is ac category 1 climb at the midpoint and then it all comes to an exciting conclusion on the 22km HC climb of Ucka where the climbers will try to gain time before Saturday’s team time trial.

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