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"The Coppi and Bartali is a good race for me to maintain a good level of competitiveness and to keep the race rhythm, but I have to be careful not to suffer from any unexpected incidents and today it would not make sense to take the co...

Photo: Sirotti








28.03.2014 @ 11:34 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

With a poor team time trial performance, Diego Ulissi got his title defence at the Settimana Internazional Coppi e Bartali off to a bad start. Due to bigger objectives later in the season, however, the Italian chose to play it safely on the wet course on a day that also saw his teammate Manuele Mori take second in the opening half stage.


Last year Lampre-Merida completely dominated the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali when Diego Ulissi, Damiano Cunego, and Adriano Malori won three consecutive stages while Ulissi and Cunego made it a 1-2 for the Italian team in the overall standings. This year Ulissi is back in the Italian race to try to defend his title but he got things off to a bad start.


On the opening day, the riders had to do two half-stages. Manuele Mori got the race off to a perfect beginning when he showed his sprinting skills to finish 2nd behind Ben Swift in the morning stage.


In the afternoon, the riders contested an 11.3km team time trial that had an unusual format. Instead of all riders riding together, each team was split into two four-man squads that did the race separately. Ulissi teamed up with Mori, Rafael Valls, and Luca Wackermann but could only manage 15th, 35 seconds behind the winning Sky quartet.


This means that Ulissi now has a lot of ground to make up later in the race as he has already lost time to riders like Damiano Caruso, Vasil Kiriyenka, Dario Cataldo, Peter Kennaugh, Franco Pellizotti, Diego Rosa, Sergey Firsanov, Mauro Finetto, and Matteo Rabottini. With the Ardennes classics coming up, however, the Tour Down Under stage winner chose to play it safely on the slick roads.


"The couse was wet and we did not want to take unnecessary risks," he said. "The Coppi and Bartali is a good race for me to maintain a good level of competitiveness and to keep the race rhythm, but I have to be careful not to suffer from any unexpected incidents and today it would not make sense to take the corners at high speed."


On the other hand, Mori was pleased with his showing in the morning stage where he had gone up against a pure sprinter like Swift in a stage that had proved to be rather selective.


"Being so close to success and not being able to win is always a shame, but I am satisfied," he said. "The team worked very well. I also want to thank Ulissi who was at my disosal. I took the wheel of Swift, I tried to pass him when he started the sprint, but he's a real sprinter and I could not beat him."


Today the race continues with its queen stage.



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