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After joining forces with Colbrelli, Bennati and Aru, Visconti attacked inside the final kilometre before soloing to victory on the first stage of the Giro della Toscana; Colbrelli beat Bennati to take second and Visconti leads overall

Photo: Movistar

DANIELE BENNATI

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GIOVANNI VISCONTI

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GIRO DELLA TOSCANA

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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SONNY COLBRELLI

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20.09.2016 @ 17:24 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) took his second win of the 2016 season when he delivered a classy performance to win a thrilling first stage of the Giro della Toscana. Having made it into a seven-rider group on the penultimate climb, he found himself together with Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani), Daniele Bennati (Italy) and Fabio Aru (Astana) after the final ascent and after the quartet had worked together to keep the peloton at bay, he made a late attack inside the final kilometre to take a solo win and the first leader’s jersey. Colbrelli beat Bennati in the sprint for second.

 

A few weeks ago, it was announced that Giovanni Visconti will leave Movistar and join the new Bahrain-Merida team. Having taken just one victory in the last three years, the Italian told Cyclingnews that his goal is to return to his winning ways with the new team.

 

Today Visconti anticipated what he hopes will come in the future as he came out on top in a very exciting first stage of the Giro della Toscana – the Italian classic which has been turned into a two-day race for the 2016 edition. In a thrilling finale, the Movistar leader attacked from an elite front quartet and narrowly held off both his chasers and the fast-finishing peloton.

 

Both stages have flat finales and as Movistar are in Italy without a sprinter, they had to make the first stage as hard as possible as it was there only real chance to make a difference. That’s what they did and when the peloton exploded on the penultimate climb, they placed their Italian leader in a seven-rider front group that emerged.

 

On the final climb, Fabio Aru and Visconti attacked and after Sonny Colbrelli and Daniele Bennati had rejoined them on the descent, the quartet worked together to keep the peloton at bay. In the end, Visconti attacked less than 1000m from the line and he managed to hold off his rivals by a small margin to take the win.

 

The 88th edition of the Giro della Toscana kicked off with the hardest stage. On the first day, the riders covered 174.4km between Arezzo and Montecatini Terme and they were far from easy. The first 90km were almost completely flat but then the riders tackled the tough climb to Olmo. Another climb ked to the top of the Monte Acuto after 104.1km of racing and then a long descent led to another flat section. With 32km to go, the riders hit the bottom of the Monte Rocchina (4.6km, 5.2%) before they descended to the finish. In the end they did one lap of a 15km circuit that included the climb to Vico (3.6km, 4.4%). The top came with 11.4km to go and then the riders descended to a flat finale.

 

The riders had excellent conditions when they gathered for the start and that inspired a Novo Nordisk rider to attack straight from the gun. Nippo were also very active but in the early phase, Astana controlled things firmly. Androni then took over but they couldn’t prevent a small group from going clear. After 8km of racing, Nurbulat Kulimbetov (Astana), Miguel Angel Benito (Caja Rural - RGA), Florian Vachon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Gianfranco Zilioli (Nippo-Fantini), Jens Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise) and Nicolas Baldo (Roth Team) had a 15-second advantage and as the peloton slowed down, it quickly went out to more than 3 minutes.

 

Matteo Busato (Wilier) both crashed and suffered  a puncture while the escapees worked together to increase the gap to 4.28 at the 25km mark. It went out to five minutes before Dimension Data, Movistar and Bardiani hit the front. Together they reduced the gap to 4.15 after a first hour druing which 44.3km were covered.

 

Carlos Betancur (Movistar), Simone Sterbini (Bardiani) and Daniel Teklehaimanot (Dimension Data) did the early work to keep the gap between the 4- and 5-minute marks. As the race settled into a steady rhythm, the average speed dropped to 41.95km/h after two hours of racing.

 

After 80km of racing, the peloton upped the pace and at the 88km mark, the gap had already dropped to 2.34. That forced the escapees to react and as they increased the speed, Kulimbetov was left behind.

 

The five leaders briefly managed to push the gap out to 3.15 but as Movistar were now trying to make the race hard, it was impossible to keep the peloton at bay. With 50km to go, the gap was only 2.30 and five kilometres later, the escapees only had an advantage of 1.45.

 

Bardiani took over from Movistar and continued to ride hard, reducing the gap to less than a minute. When it was only 24 seconds, Bora-Argon 18 and CCC hit the front as the fight for position intensified and in the chaos, a big crash happened. Luckily, everybody was able to continue.

 

After 145km of racing, the break was caught and so things were back together when the peloton hit Monte Rocchina. Riders were dropped as soon as they hit the ascent as the bunch exploded to pieces.

 

Fabio Aru (Astanaa) launched a strong attack and was quickly joined by Javier Moreno (Movistar). However, Diego Rosa (Astana) turned out to be stronger as he flew past the two leaders. Ricardo Vilela (Caja Rural) bridged the gap but Visconti closed the move down. At the same time, Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) was dropped.

 

The attacking continued and suddenly a seven-rider group with Daniele Bennati (Italy), Fabio Aru (Astana), Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Mirko Selvaggi, Egan Bernal (Androni - Sidermec), Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani - CSF) and Jonathan Hivert (Fortuneo - Vital Concept) had formed. The septet managed to open a 7-second advantage at the top where the peloton had been whittled down to only 16 riders.

 

Vilela and Davide Rebellin (CCC) crashed on the descent, leaving just 14 riders in the chase behind the seven leaders. They were losing ground and with 19km to go, they were 30 seconds behind.

 

Visconti made a solo attack but was soon brought back by his six companions. Further back, Andrea Fedi (Wilier) and Hector Saez (Caja Rural) tried to bridge the gap but they failed and instead a regrouping took place. 40 riders gathered in the peloton but they were now 50 seconds ehind.

 

The chase got organized, with Caja Rural and Dimension Data taking control, and they started to slowly reduce the gap which had dropped to 37 seconds when Aru made the next attack from the front group. Selvaggi joined him but the pair was soon brought back.

 

The relentless Aru tried again as they went up the final climb and managed to open a 7-second advantage. Visconti bridged across and the pair managed to push their advantage over the peloton out to 46 seconds, with Wilier now leading the chase.

 

As they went down the descent, Bennati took off in pursuit of the two leaders and he was soon joined by Colbrelli. The pair was not far behind as they hit the final 10km. Selvaggi, Bernal and Hivert were at 12 seconds and the peloton at 40 seconds.

 

The junction was made and so four leaders had gathered while Wilier were still chasing desperately. Dimension Data took over but they were still 39 seconds behind as they hit the final 5km. At this point, the three chases were at 12 seconds.

 

With 3km to go, Bora was on the front in the peloton and the gaps had dropped to 20 and 28 seconds respectively. The three chasers were brought back as they hit the penultimate kilometre where the gap was down to just 19 seconds.

 

Visconti briefly tried to escape but the quartet was back together as they passed the flamme rouge 14 seconds ahead of the peloton. The Movistar rider tried again and this time he managed to open a 50m advantage. The Sicilian dug deep and just managed to hold off his chasers to take the victory before Colbrelli beat Bennati in the sprint for second, both finishing in the same time as the winner. Sam Bennett led the peloton home to take fifth, 6 seconds behind the winner

 

With the win, Visconti also takes the leader’s jersey but as there are no bonus seconds, he is in the same time as Colbrelli and Bennati. Hence, it will all be decided in the final stage which should be one for the sprinters. After a flat start, the riders will tackle the hardest climb of the race, Monte Serra, whose top comes at the 54.4km mark. Then they will descend to Pisa and in the end they will do two laps of a relatively flat circuit that includes the small climbs to Lari and Santo Pietro Belvedere. As they go around the circuit for the second time, they will make a small deviation to tackle the Treggiaia climb (1.2km, 6.7%) whose top comes with 8.2km to go. From there they will descend to a flat finish that includes a right-hand turn in a roundabout 500m from the line.

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