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Launching a perfectly timed sprint, Albasini managed to pass Colbrelli just before the line to win Tre Valli Varesine, the biggest race in the Trittico Lombardo race series

Photo: Orica GreenEdge










18.09.2014 @ 18:03 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Michael Albasini continued Orica-GreenEDGE’s recent run of success when he won one of Italy’s oldest and most prestigious stage races, Tre Valli Varesine, in impressive fashion. Launching a perfectly time sprint from the 8-rider front group that had escaped on the penultimate lap of the main circuit, the Swiss passed Sonny Colbrelli (Bardini) just metres before the line while Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) rolled across the line as a distant third.


Michael Albasini added his name to the growing list of outsiders for the World Championships when he won one of the key preparation races for the big battle in Ponferreda, Tre Valli Varesine. On a tough circuit in Varese, the Swiss used a combination of cool tactics, strong legs and a fast sprint to take one of the biggest one-day wins of his career.


Albasini had made it into a strong 11-rider front group that had been created on the penultimate lap of the 12km finishing circuit that was the scene of the main part of the race. Together with defending champion Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida), he had responded strongly to an attack from Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) and when more riders bridged the gap, the small group had formed.


While Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) had failed to made the junction, Bardiani had strength in numbers. With Edoardo Zardini, Francesco Bongiorno and Sonny Colbrelli all in the group, the Italian team sent the former to the front and his fast pace made sure that they constantly increased their advantage over an unorganized chase group that included Nibali. Meanwhile, Albasini, Gasparotto, Davide Rebellin (CCC), Filippo Pozzato, Mauro Finetto (Neri Sottoli), Franco Pellizotti (Androni), Durasek and Damiano Caruso (Cannondale) could sit on, preparing themselves for the finale.


Pellizotti was dropped on the first of the two climbs that characterized the circuit while Bongiorno was unfortunate to slip out on the wet surface in a left-hand turn, bringing Gasparotto down too. Finetto was briefly held up but managed to rejoin the group while Gasparotto and Bongiorno never got back to the front.


That left 8 riders to battle it out for the victory but with Zardini and Durasek setting a brutal pace on the final climb, no one dared to attack. A few metres before the summit, the ceasefire was finally broken when Finetto made a move but Caruso was quick to shut it down.


Durasek, Colbrelli and Zardini were all dropped in the acceleration but as the pace went down after the passage of the flamme rouge, Colbrelli got back in contention. Not content with a sprint finish, Finetto launched a new attack and this time it was Colbrelli who marked him closely.


The pair got a small gap and Colbrelli soon realized that he had to do a long sprint. Watching from behind, Albasini knew that it was time to kick into action and the Swiss launched a strong acceleration as they headed down the finishing straight. The Swiss managed to pass the Bardiani rider just metres from the line to take the win while Pozzato rolled across the line as a distant third.


The Trittico Lombardo race series is now over but it doesn’t mean that the Italian one-day races have come to an end. On Saturday, many of today’s protagonists will be at the start of the Memorial Marco Pantani followed by the GP Prato on Sunday.


A tough circuit

The 96th edition of Tre Valli Varesine took place over a revamped 199km route from Luino to Varese. The first part of the race was made up of three laps of a flat 10km circuit in the starting city before the riders headed into the hills to go up the major Alpe Tedesco climb. After a short descent, the riders reached the finishing city of Varese where they crossed the finish line for the first time after around 75km of racing. The main part of the race consisted of 10 laps of a 12.2km circuit that had two smaller climbs. The first one was the 1.3km Montello ascent that had an average gradient of around 4.8% while the main challenge was a 2.5km climb with an average gradient of 4.4%. The summit was located just 1km from the line and the final section was completely flat.


With Giacomo Nizzolo (Italy) and Matteo Spreafico (Idea) being the only non-starters, the riders left Luino under a rainy sky. As expected, the race got off to a very fast start with lots of attacks but Orica-GreenEDGE was keen to make sure that the early break was not too strong.


Lots of attacks

At the end of the first 10km lap, the group was still all together and the second lap didn’t allow anyone to escape either. On the final lap, a small group got a promising gap as Andrea Palini (Lampre-Merida), Gianfranco Zilioli (Androni), Andrea Fedi (Neri Sottoli) and Fabricio Ferrari (Caja Rural) got clear but Astana shut it down before they headed into the hills.


Emanuele Sella (Androni) and Ruslan Tleubayev (Astana) both tried solo attacks but it was a compact group that reached the bottom of the Alpe Tedesco. Unsurprisingly, Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani) launched the first attack but he was brought back. While the attacking continued, lots of riders were dropped as the selection had started.


The break is formed

Aleksandr Dyachenko (Astana) and Giovanni Carboni (AeroZero) launched the next attack that laid the foundations for the day’s early move. Carlos Galviz (Androni), Thomas Sprengers (Topsport), Marcos Garcia (Caja Rural), Nikolay Mihaylov (CCC) and David de la Cruz (NetApp) joined them to form a strong group of climbers. Galviz was unable to keep up with his companions, leaving just 6 riders to press on.


Luca Paolini (Italy) led the chase in the peloton that was already 30 seconds behind after the first hour of racing and now the peloton slowed down. While Mirko Tedesci (Neri Sottoli) set off in pursuit, the peloton allowed the escapees to build a bigger advantage.


The break splits up

Carboni was dropped from the front group shortly before they reached the summit where de la Cruz led Dyachenko over the line. The pair had a 12-second advantage over Mihaylov, Sprengers, Garcia and Carboni who had rejoined them, but the group came back together on the descent.


At the top, Tedeschi was 1.44 behind while the peloton was at 4 minutes. De la Cruz and Carboni took it easy on the wet descent. Carboni was the first to rejoin the front and after the descent, de la Cruz also got back to the first group.


The chasers are caught

Tedeschi had picked up Galviz but they didn’t gain any ground on the leaders that were still 4 minutes ahead of the peloton.  As they hit the Montello for the first time, Astana and Italy had taken control, reducing the gap to 3.13.


Italy was riding a bit harder as they tackled the first lap of the circuit and while Galviz and Tedeschi continued to lose ground, they brought the gap down to 2.45. The two chasers gave up and were caught by the peloton as they tackled the second lap.


Ivan Basso (Cannondale) now started to make the race hard for his leader Damiano Caruso and the Italian set a fast tempo the next time up the Montelli. At the end of the next lap, Paolini was back on the front and led the peloton across the line with a deficit of 2.30.


Bardiani take control

Italy brought the gap down to less than 2 minutes but apparently decided that it was too early to catch the escapees. As they slowed down, Bardiani took control to make the race as hard as possible for their captains Edoardo Zardini and Francesco Bongiorno and when they hit the Montello again, they had reduced the deficit to just 45 seconds.


The Italian team had now been joined by Orica-GreenEDGE and at the 105km mark, the escapees were just 18 seconds ahead. They responded well and as they upped the pace and extended their advantage to more than 30 seconds but this spelled the end for Carboni and Sprengers.


Pirazzi on the front

The latter was caught by the peloton but Carboni refused to give up. While the peloton allowed the gap to grow to a minute, the Italian fought hard to rejoin the front group.


Bardiani still set the pace in the peloton as they started the fourth lap of the circuit, with Pirazzi doing most of the work. Carboni was caught and at the next passage of the line, the escapees were just a few metres ahead as several riders tried to bridge the gap.


The break is caught

As they hit the Montello the next time, Angelo Pagani came to the fore for Bardiani. Mihaylov sat up and waited for the peloton while the rest of the break tried to press on. It was all in way though and at the top of the climb, the break was brought back.


Diego Rosa (Androni) attacked on the descent after Lampre-Merida, MTN, Italy and Caja Rural had all tried to attack. The Italian was joined by Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Brice Feillu (Bretagne) and they started to build an advantage.


A new group is formed

Pagani bridged the gap and while Astana took control of the peloton with Francesco Gavazzi and Ruslan Tleubayev, Iuri Filosi (Italy) took off in pursuit. Francesco Grijalba (Caja Rural) also made a short-lived attempt to bridge that gap but he was back in the peloton soon after.


While Johann Van Zyl (MTN) and Angel Madrazo (Caja Rural) became the next rider to launch an attack, Filosi ended his pursuit in a successful manner when he closed the gap. As they started the 7th lap, Van Zyl and Madrazo also made the junction to make it a 7-rider front group that was now a minute ahead.


Cannondale start to chase

Cannondale joined forces with Astana as Ivan Basso and Alberto Bettiol started to trade pulls with Tleubayev and Gavazzi. They kept the gap at around a minute as they headed around the circuit for the 7th time.


Going up the main climb, Fabio Duarte (Colombia) attacked from the peloton while Madrazo took off as he entered the finishing straight. On the Montello climb, Duarte joined the chasers and as he went straight to the front, Filosi and Van Zyl were dropped.


The break comes back together

Rosa attacked from the chase group and bridged the gap to Madrazo but it was all in vain. With 30km to go, the front group had come back together while Van Zyl and Filosi still formed a chase duo.


Van Zyl was briefly dropped by Filosi on Montello while Jose Mendes (NetApp) launched a strong attack. Eventually, those three riders combined forces while the peloton briefly slowed down as the main workers had now blown up.


Baugnies joins the front group

Jerome Baugnies (Wanty) used the lull to attack and he quickly passed Filosi and Van Zyl who fell back to the peloton. Moments later, he passed Mendes too before sprinting his way up to the front group.


In the peloton, Paolo Longo Borghini was now working hard for Cannondale and he had brought the gap down to just 20 seconds as they were halfway through the penultimate lap. An impressive Baugnies attacked from the front group and quickly got a gap as he started the descent from the Montello.


Santaromita attacks

Unfortunately, he slid out in a left-hand turn while being alone in the lead but it didn’t play too much of a role. Moments after his accident, Longo Borghini had brought it all back together and he even went so fast down the descent that he got clear on his own.


The Italian started the main climb as the lone leader but now the attacking started. Ivan Santaromita (Orica-GreenEDGE) bridged the gap but they were both passed by a very fast Zardini.


Nibali is dropped

Santaromita managed to rejoin the Bardiani rider while Nibali, Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Durasek tried to bridge the gap. They never made the junction and instead it was Caruso who bridged across.


Suddenly a 15-rider front group had formed from which Gasparotto, Albasini and Durasek launched an attack. Their acceleration spelled the end for a few riders, including Nibali and Santaromita.


The right group is formed

As they crested the summit, the decisive 11-rider group had formed and Zardini went straight to the front to keep the move alive. Meanwhile, Nibali and Santaromita had been caught by a bigger chase group that had no cooperation, with Nibali doing a great down to mark all moves for his teammate Gasparotto.


Pellizotti was dropped from the front group on the Montello while Zardini swung off, having finished his work. Instead, Caruso came to the fore on the descent but it didn’t take long for Zardini to go back to work.


Bongiorno and Gasparotto crash

On the descent, Bongiorno and Gasparotto hit the deck, holding Finetto up in the process. While the latter rejoined the front group and the former never made it back, Gasparotto did his best to get back in contention. He made it to within 20m of the front group but the fast pace of Zardini on the final climb made it impossible for him to make the junction.


Near the summit, Zardini swung off and left the work to Durasek. Moments later, Finetto launched his first move which set the scene for the exciting finale that delivered Albasini to one of the biggest one-day wins of his glorious career.



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