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Attacking out of a reduced peloton, Ulissi, Visconti and Nibali combined forces to hold off their chasers and make it a clean sweep for the Italian national team at Memorial Marco Pantani; Ulissi won the sprint

Photo: ANSA / DAL ZENNARO - ZENNARO - PERI

DIEGO ULISSI

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GIOVANNI VISCONTI

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MEMORIAL MARCO PANTANI

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UAE TEAM EMIRATES

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VINCENZO NIBALI

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19.09.2015 @ 17:54 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Diego Ulissi got an important confidence boost ahead of the World Championships by taking a big victory in the Memorial Marco Pantani. Riding for the Italian national team, he combined forces with teammates Giovanni Visconti and Vincenzo Nibali and the trio held of the 40-rider chasing group before the Lampre-Merida rider beat Visconti in the sprint.

 

Several months ago Italian national coach Davide Cassani hinted that he intended to build the Italian Worlds team around Diego Ulissi. Since then, he has slightly changed his mind and even though the Lampre-Merida rider will still have a protected role in Richmond, it seems that more riders will have a leadership status.

 

Today Ulissi did a lot to prove his position in the internal hierarchy when he took the win in Memorial Marco Pantani. Riding for the national team, he was the first rider to cross the line in what turned out to be a demonstration of power from the riders in blue as his teammates Giovanni Visconti and Vincenzo Nibali completed the podium after the trio had dropped the rest.

 

The national team had made the race hard on the climb of Montevecchio at the midpoint of the course and the Italian trio found themselves in an 11-rider front group with Enrico Barbin (Bardiani), Marco Frapporti (Androni), Stefan Schumacher (CCC), Miguel Rubiano (Colombia), Andrea Fedi , Francesco Gavazzi (Southeast), Marco Marcato (Wanty) and Sergey Shilov (Lokosphinx) after the second of three passages of the ascent.

 

When the front group had extended their advantage over an 11-rider chase group to 26 seconds, the three riders from the national team Ulissi, Nibali and Visconti took off. They quickly got an advantage of 35 seconds over a new chase group with Barbin, Grega Bole (CCC), Rubiano, Fedi, Gavazzi, Patrick Konrad (Bora), Marcato, Marco Tizza (Uniero) and Primoz Roglic (Adria Mobil)and as they started to climb, it quickly went out to 1.20.

 

Davide Rebellin (CCC), Manuel Bongiorno (Bardiani), Frapporti, Matteo Busato (Southeast), Mauro Finetto (Southeast), Serge Pauwels (MTN-Qhubeka), Francis De Greef (Wanty) and Shilov joined the chasers to make it a 17-rider group before Stefan Schumacher (CCC) also made the junction. Just 20 seconds further back, a 23-rider group had gathered.

 

There was no cooperation in the chase group from which Finetto and Marcato took off. They reduced their deficit to 50 seconds while Rubiano took off in a solo move.

 

The gap came down to 40 seconds before Marcato and Finetto started to lose group. A bigger group led by CCC had gathered 2.30 behind the leading trio.

 

The two chasers decided to give up and it was a big 40-rider chasing group that gathered 2 minutes behind the leaders. While Pierpaolo De Negri (Nippo) crashed out of that group, they failed to make any inroads and the gap was still 2 minutes with 25km to go.

 

Finally, the efforts started to pay off as CCC, Caja Rural, MTN, Colombia and Bardiani were now all chasing. Nippo also came to the fore and they had brought the gap down to 1.25 with 15km to go.

 

With 8km to go, it was only 1.10 and five kilometres later, it dropped to less than a minute. However, it was now clear that the trio would stay away. It came down to a battle between the three riders from the national team and it was Ulissi who took the win ahead of Visconti and Nibali. Kristian Sbaragli (MTN-Qhubeka) beat Bole and Andrea Pasqualon (Roth Skoda) in the sprint for fourth.

 

The series of Italian one-day race continues tomorrow with the GP di Prato which is the final race before many riders cross the Atlantic to get ready for the Worlds.

 

A hilly course

The 12the edition of the Memorial Marco Pantani was held on the well-known 199.5km course from Riccione to Cesenatico. After a flat opening section, the riders got to the main circuit with the Montevcchio climb and another small ascent. They would do two laps of the 35.5km circuit and then tackle the Montevecchio a third time, passing the top with 57.1km to go. The small Longiano climb with 41.1km to go was the final challenge before the riders descended to Cesenatico where they ended the race by doing four laps of a flat 5.3km circuit.

 

The riders had cloudy and nice conditions when they gathered for the start. Unfortunately, defending champion Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) was absent as he had fallen ill just like Mirko Selvaggi (Wanty). Antonio Santoro (MG) and Endi Sirol (Meridiana) didn’t take the start either.

 

Lots of attacks

As expected the race got off to a very fast start with lots of attacks as they left Rimini. MTN-Qhubeka and Uniero were among the most active teams just like Colombia. Bardiani were also involved in a few attacks but no one had managed to escape after 32km of fast racing.

 

The Italian national team was mainly in control and they finally allowed Johann van Zyl (MTN-Qhubeka) to get a 10-second advantage. He was joined by Gianfranco Zilioli (Androni), Michele Gazzara (MG) and Nico Brüngger (Roth Skoda) and as the peloton slowed down, they had built an advantage of 1.40 when they reached the Montevecchio circuit.

 

Italy accelerate

When they hit the climb, the gap had gone out to 3.28 and it was again the Italian national team that took control. They rode very fast up the ascent and made the group split into three parts, also reducing the gap to two minutes when Brüngger led Gazzara and van Zyl over the top. The second peloton was at 2.20 and the third one at 3.00.

 

Several riders managed to return to the first group and finally the second field made the junction to make it 80 riders in the main group. The third bunch also made the junction at the 75km mark.

 

The peloton explodes

The Italian national team kept the gap around 2 minutes for a while before they again accelerated. When Daniel Bedermann (Felbermayr) crashed out of the race with 105km to go, it was down to 1.30.

 

As they approached the climb for the second time, it was Bora-Argon 18 that accelerated hard and brought the gap down to 30 seconds at the 94km mark. As they hit the climb, Giovanni Visconti (Italy) upped the pace even further and he easily brought the break back and whittled the group down to just 17 riders. A second group with Damiano Cunego (Nippo) was just 20 seconds behind

 

A fierce pursuit

The gap stayed around 20 seconds for a while, with a third group trailing at 35 seconds and a main group with Giacomo Nizzolo (Italy) at 1.02. Edoardo Zardini, Francesco Manuel Bongiorno (Bardiani - CSF), Vincenzo Nibali, Diego Ulissi, Giovanni Visconti (Italia), Gianfranco Zilioli (Androni - Sidermec), Stefan Schumacher, Grega Bole (CCC Sprandi), Mauro Finetto, Francesco Gavazzi, Andrea Fedi (Southeast), Johan Van Zyl (MTN - Qhubeka), Cesare Benedetti, Patrick Konrad (Bora - Argon18), Marco Marcato, Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty - Groupe Gobert), Marco Tizza (Team Idea), Primoz Roglic (Adria Mobil), Sergey Shilov (Lokosphinkx) and Miguel Angel Rubiano (Colombia) had made the selection after Schumacher, Fedi and Rubiano had rejoined the group.

 

Enrico Barbin (Bardiani) and Marco Frapporti (Androni) were the next to make the junction but the Cunego group was losing ground. At the 110km mark, they were 38 seconds behind while the Nizzolo group was at 1.16.

 

11 riders get clear

It was a great pursuit and for a long time, the gap between the first two groups stayed around 30 seconds. As opposed to this, the Nizzolo group was losing ground and was trailing by 1.55 when they entered the final 80km.

 

There was no cooperation in the front group from which there were constant attacks. Finally, the group was halved when the very active trio of Nibali, Ulissi and Visconti brought Barbin, Frapporti, Schumacher, Rubiano, Fedi, Gavazzi, Marcato and Shilov along in an 11-rider move. The 40-rider Cunego group was now losing ground and had been distanced by a minute as the action had increased the pace of the front group.  Moments later, Visconti, Ulissi and Nibali took off and started the decisive action.

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