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In a crash-marred sprint, Chicchi went head to head with stage 1a winner Belletti and managed to beat his rival to take his first win for Androni; Swift defended the lead

Photo: Sirotti

ANDRONI GIOCATTOLI

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COPPI E BARTALI

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DANIELE COLLI

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FRANCESCO CHICCHI

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MANUEL BELLETTI

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TEAM SKY

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28.03.2015 @ 17:43 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Less than a month after signing a contract with Androni, Francesco Chicchi took his first win for his new team when he won a crash-marred bunch sprint on stage 3 of the Settimana Coppi e Bartali. Having gone head to head with Manuel Belletti (Southeast), he emerged as the strongest while Ben Swift (Sky) avoided the crashes and defended his overall lead.

 

At the start of the year, it seemed that the career was over for Francesco Chicchi. The Italian had been unable to find a new team after Southeast decided not to renew his contract and he seemed destined to retire in the early months of the season.

 

However, a sudden opportunity turned up when Androni managed Gianni Savio offered him the chance to become one of several fast finishers on the Italian team and he signed a deal with the team in February. He used the Tour de Langkawi to get back up to racing speed but didn’t manage to make much of an impact in the many sprint finishes in Malaysia.

 

However, the race allowed him to find his legs for his return to European soil and he lined up at the start of the Settimana Coppi e Bartali hoping to take his first win. In the hilly race, he only had one chance which came in today’s flat stage to Crevalcore.

 

Here Chicchi proved that he is still one of the fastest riders in the bunch as he emerged as the fastest in a dramatic, crash-marred sprint. After CCC had tried to lead Grega Bole out, he found himself up against Manuel Belletti in a close duel and he came out on top. Daniele Colli (Nippo-Vini Fantini) completed the podium.

 

Chicchi had nearly missed his chance to sprint as a big 11-rider group threatened to take it all on the flat circuit in Crevalcore. Only very hard work by the Bardiani and Sky teams brought things back together for the expected sprint. While Chicchi turned out to be the fastest, a big crash brought down a dozen riders in the fast finish on the flat roads.

 

One of the riders who avoided the carnage, was race leader Ben Swift and even though he didn’t manage to pick up any bonus seconds, he defended his 41-second advantage over Matija Kvasina (Felbermayr). He takes it into tomorrow’s final stage which is a very tough one. The riders will tackle three big climbs in the second half before they get to the small uncategorized ascent to the finish. The Brit can expect to get under attack as the climbers will try to distance him on the hardest stage of the race.

 

One for the sprinters

After the hilly second stage, the sprinters were expected to get a final chance in the Italian race when the riders tackled the 173.8km third stage from Calderara di Reno to Crevalcore. After a slightly descending first part, the riders reached Crevalcore where most of the stage was held on a 13.2km flat finishing circuit that would be covered 9 times.

 

All 154 riders who finished the rainy stage yesterday, were at the start when the riders took off in much better weather conditions than they had had 24 hours earlier. Right from the start, the attacking started as lots of riders wanted to be part of the early move and almost straight from the gun, a very big 11-rider group got clear.

 

A big group gets clear

Dylan Girdlestone (Drapac), Carlos Galviz (Androni-Sidermec), Giorgio Cecchinel (Southeast), Johann Van Zyl (MTN Qhubeka), Alessio Bottura and Andrea Vaccher (Roth - Skoda), Matteo Malucelli (Team Idea), Gian Marco Di Francesco (MG.Kvis - Vega), Enea Cambianica (Meridiana - Kamen), Omar Mendoza (Movistar CT) and Frantisek Sisr (Dukla Praha) fought hard to build an advantage that was just 13 seconds after 6km of racing. However, Bardiani had missed out and they worked hard to try to reel the group in.

 

At the 10km mark, the escapees had added another 5 seconds to their advantage as Sky now had joined forces with Bardiani. The battle continued and at the 15km mark, the gap was still only 20 seconds.

 

Bardiani lose the battle

The peloton gradually lost the battle and the gap reached a minute after 27km of fast racing. Bardiani were still working hard, with Andrea Piechele riding on the front.

 

When the gap reached 1.38, Bardiani finally gave up and instead the Uniero team took over but they also lost ground to the leaders. At the 44km mark, the gap was 2.10 and at the first passage of the finish line, it was 2.20.

 

Uniero give up

The race had been off to a very fast start as the riders covered no less than 50.4km in the first hour. Meanwhile, Uniero continued to work hard and at the end of the first lap, the gap was still 2.20.

 

They brought it down to 2.05 before they finally have up and left it to Sky to set the pace. While Luca Capelli (Idea) left the race, however, Bardiani again came to the fore and their work paid off as they reduced the gap to 1.25 with 79km to go.

 

Sky and Bardiani start to work

Sky again came to the fore and they joined forces with Bardiani to keep the gap stable at around 1.30 for a couple of laps. With 50km to go, it was still 1.25 and with 39km to go, it was 1.20.

 

Uniero again started to work with Bardiani and Sky and this had a big effect. With 33km to go, the gap was down to less than a minute and as it dropped to 33 seconds, the attacking started in the front group.

 

The break splits up

Van Zyl, Girdlestone, Cecchinel and Cambianica managed to get clear while the peloton started to pick up the remnants of the break. Galviz, Malucelli and Sisr were their nearest chasers. At the start of the penultimate lap, they were 12 seconds behind while the peloton led by Bardiani was at 33 seconds.

 

With less than 20km to go, the front quartet were the only survivors from the early break but their gap as now down to just 20 seconds as Bardiani and Uniero led the chase. The pace was too fast for Cambianica who sat up to wait for the main group.

 

A crash-marred finale

At the start of the final lap, the gap was still 12 seconds and moments later Cecchinel left his companions behind. With 10km to go, however, it was over for the Southeast rider as Nathan Earle and Sergio Henao brought him back for Sky.

 

A crash at the back of the group brought down Sergei Tvetcov (Androni), Miguel Rubiano (Colombia), Davide Ballerini (Uniero) and Bruno Maltar (Meridiana) before CCC took over at the front with 4km to go. Michele Gazzara (MG.Kvis) tried to attack and when he was brought back, Paolo Lunardon (Amore e Vita) made the next move.

 

It was unsuccessful too and as all was set for a sprint finish, a big crash brought down a dozen riders. In the end, it was Chicchi who emerged as the fastest from the carnage.

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