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With a powerful attack on the final climb, Clarke rode to solo victory in the GP Industria & Artigianato; Fedi took second and Visconti won the sprint for third

Photo: Sirotti










06.03.2016 @ 17:43 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Simon Clarke got the perfect start to his European racing schedule for Cannondale as he won his first race on the continent for his new team, the hilly GP Industria & Artigianato. With a powerful attack on the final climb of San Baronto, he dropped everybody else and held his chasers off on the descent to claim the win. Andrea Fedi (Southeast) attacked to take second while Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) won the sprint for third.


After several years at Orica-GreenEDGE, Simon Clarke felt that his progress had stalled and he was looking for new challenges and more chance to ride for himself at the end of the 2015 season. He found a new home and Cannondale and after a solid start at the Tour Down Under, he has already proved to his new team that he is ready for more captaincy roles.


Today Clarke made his European debut for the team at the hilly GP Industria & Artigianato race which included four passages of the 12km climb of San Baronto. The Australian turned out to be in a class of his own as he dropped a star-studded field that included the likes of Vincenzo Nibali, Rigoberto Uran, Jakob Fuglsang, Diego Ulissi, Adam Yates and Esteban Chaves on the final climb and rode to a dominant solo win.


At the start of the final lap of the 27.5km circuit, chaos ruled after Movistar had split the group on the previous passage of the climb and the descent. Ramunas Navardauskas (Cannondale) and Pirmin Lang (IAM) were the remnants of an early break. An 18-rider chase group crossed the line 1.24 behind the front duo while a second group included lots of Cannondale riders, Adam Yates and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and was at 1.48 at the start of the final lap. Diego Ulissi found himself in the third group that had sat up.


Esteban Chaves, Valerio Agnoli, Manuele Mori, Jonathan Fumeaux, Tiago Machado, Andrey Solomenikov, Andrea Fedi, Manuel Belletti, Franco Pellizotti, Francesco Gavazzi, Egan Bernal, Giovanni Visconti, Marc Soler, Moreno Moser, Simon Clarke, Davide Ballerini and Nicola Bagioli formed the first group but they were brought back with 23km to go. Movistar again took control as the gap was still 1.26.


Soler set the pace and led the group onto the climb with a deficit of 1.14. Meanwhile, Navardauskas dropped Lang.


The group was whittled down to 40 riders by Pier Paolo De Negri who hit the front for Nippo-Vini Fantini and he slowly reduced the gap to 45 seconds with 15km to go. At this point, Lang was caught, leaving just Navardauskas still on the attack.


As they hit the most difficult part, Navardauskas was only 13 seconds ahead and this is where Clarke made his move. He bridged the gap to his teammate who sacrificed himself for the Australian before sitting up.


Clarke entered the final 10km with an advantage of 25 seconds and had pushed it out to 27 seconds one second later. Meanwhile, Navarduaskas was caught by the peloton.


At the top of the climb with 6km to go, Clarke had opened a gap of 39 seconds but he started to lose ground on the descent. It was down to 32 seconds with 4km to go where Fedi took off in pursuit.


With 3km to go, Clarke had an advantage of 35 seconds over Fedi and it was clear that no one was going to bring him back. He had plenty of time to celebrate his win while Fedi took another second place. Giovanni Visconti beat Rigoberto Uran and Francesco Gavazzi in the sprint for third.


With this weekend’s one-day races done and dusted, the attention in Italy turns to the first WorldTour race, Tirreno-Adriatico, which starts on Wednesday.


A hilly course

The 39th edition of the GP Industria & Artigianato Larciano was held on a course around the city of Larciano. It was split into two parts, with the first part being made up of four laps of a flat 22.3km circuit and the circuit part consisting of four laps of a much harder 27.5km circuit. It included the 12km San Baronto climb whose top was located just 5.9km from the finish. From there it was a difficult descent that led to the final 1.5km that was flat.


It was rainy day when the riders gathered for the start. All riders that had been registered for the start were present as they headed out for their neutral ride.


Four riders get clear

As it is typical for Italian one-day races, it was a very fast start. 8 riders first managed to escape and as the peloton chased, the group split into two. However, it all came back together at a time when Moreno Moser (Cannondale) was forced to chase back from a puncture.


The fast pace made 20 riders move clear and this put Astana on the defensive. While they were chasing, the leaders kept attacking each other and it was Michael Schwarzmann (Bora-Argon 18), Pirmin Lang (IAM), Jasha Sütterlin (Movistar) and Ramunas Navardauskas (Cannondale) who got clear. Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEDGE), Cesare Benedetti, Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Argon 18), Daniele Colli, Eduard Grosu (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Mattia Cattaneo (Lampre-Merida), Simon Pellaud (IAM), Nicola Boem (Bardiani), Maxim Belkov (Katusha), Ivan Savitskiy (Gazprom), Julen Amezqueta, Mirko Trosino, Manuel Belletti (Southeast), Mirko Selvaggi (Androni), Jorge Arcas, Marc Soler (Movistar) and Domingos Goncalves (Caja Rural) formed a chase group 10 seconds behind but they were caught.


The gap grows

The front quartet had an advantage of 25 seconds at the 10km mark and had pushed it out to 50 seconds five kilometres later. The peloton decided to sit up and so the gap had reached 1.38 at the 19km mark.


At the end of the first lap, the gap was 1.30 and it was Southeast that had started to chase. They kept it stable for a while but then again slowed down. It was 3.56 at the 36km mark and at the end of the second lap it was 4.37.


Astana take control

Astana now started to work at the end of a first hour during which 45.2km had been covered but they were not chasing yet. During the third lap, they allowed it to grow to more than six minutes and it was 6.50 at the passage of the line. Luckily it had now stopped raining.


Astana still set the pace at the 70km mark where the gap had gone out to 7.13. That was the maximum advantage as it had dropped to 6.53 at the end of the second hour during where the riders had had an overall average speed of 43.6km/h.


Movistar come to the fore

At the end of the final lap of the flat circuit, Astana had reduced the gap to 6.56 but as soon as they hit the hit San Baronto for the first time, Movistar came forward to lend them a hand. At the top, they had brought the gap down to 6.05.


Schwarzmann was briefly dropped on the descent but was back in the lead as they crossed the finish line. However, the descent was very tricky and it did some serious damage in the peloton which split into three groups. At the same time, Fedi, Visconti, Clarke, Enrique Sanz (Southeast) and Francisco Ventoso (Movistar) attacked.


Schwarzmann is dropped

The Italian national team took control of the chase in the first peloton while Manuel Bongiorno (Bardiani) was desperately leading the second group. The fast pace spelled the end for the five chasers and it was a 40-rider group that gathered. However, Bongiorno managed to bring things back together behind the four escapees.


The riders had had an average speed of 41.5km/h when Lampre-Merida started to chase, 5.34 behind the leaders. As they hit the climb, Schwarzmann was dropped and he had lost 1.50 at the top of the climb.


The peloton splits up

Mattia Cattaneo (Lampre-Merida) set the pace in the peloton until Cannondale and Italy took over. They crested the summit four minutes behind the front trio. They brought Schwarzmann back on the descent where the peloton again split and it was a 40-rider group that crossed the line 3.34 behind the leaders, with the next group following 23 seconds later and including both Adam Yates and Diego Ulissi.


Eduard Grosu (Nippo-Vini Fantini) and Eros Capecchi (Astana) were setting the pace in the first group while Yander Godoy (Venezuela) worked in the second group which managed to rejoin the first group which slowed down and allowed the gap to go back to more than four minutes. Meanwhile, Sütterlin was dropped from the front group.


Movistar does some damage

At the 150km mark, the gap was 4.05 and it was still Nippo-Vini Fantini doing the work. One of their riders even got a small gap as they hit the climb but when Bardiani took over the pace-setting, he was brought back.


The peloton brought Sütterlin back and reduced the gap to 3.20 at the end of the fourth hour where the average speed had dropped to 2.06. Movistar again hit the front with Marc Soler and he made the group split into three, with 35 riders making up the first peloton and 23 riders in the second group.


At the top of the climb, the first peloton was 1.30 behind the two leaders while the second group was only 10 seconds further back. However, the gap went out to 25 seconds on the descent where the first group split again, leaving just 18 riders in the first bunch at the start of the final lap where Clarke made his race-winning move.



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