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The Colombian escapes with Sinkewitz on the final climb of the day, holds off the pursuit from a 25-rider group and finally beats his companion in the sprint

Photo: Sirotti

ANDREA PASQUALON

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JOSE RODOLFO SERPA PEREZ

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PATRIK SINKEWITZ

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TROFEO LAIGUEGLIA

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UAE TEAM EMIRATES

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21.02.2014 @ 19:32 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Lampre-Merida continued their very good start to the season when Jose Serpa won today's Trofeo Laigueglia, the second race of the Italian season. Having escaped with Patrik Sinkewitz (Meridiana) on the day's final climb, he held off a fierce pursuit from the Colombia team before beating his companion in the final sprint.

 

Sacha Modolo and Diego Ulissi have already made it a fantastic start to the season for Lampre-Merida and today the team took another win when Jose Serpa opened their account on home soil. In the second race of the Italian season, the Trofeo Laigueglia, the Colombian emerged as the strongest.

 

A revised course saw the riders tackle four hard climbs during the 181.2km but a flat run-in to the finish meant that most expected a sprint from a reduced peloton. However, Serpa had different plans and so he went on the attack right from the bottom of the day's final climb.

 

The Colombian was joined by Patrik Sinkewitz and Matteo Rabottini (YellowFluo) and while the latter was unable to keep up with his companions, Serpa and Sinkewitz were flying. When they crested the summit of the climb, they were 30 seconds ahead of the peloton which had been whittled down to just 10 riders.

 

While the peloton took some time to regroup into a 25-rider group, the gap grew to more than a minute. Colombia finally organized a chase and started to bring back the escapees but it was too late.

 

With 5km to go, Serpa and Sinkewitz were still 30 seconds ahead and as they still had a similar gap with 1km to go, it all came down to a two-rider sprint. Serpa proved his background on the track by holding off Sinkewitz while Andrea Pasqualon (Aero Zero) led home the peloton 12 seconds later.

 

The Italian season continues on March 6 when the GP Camaiore takes place as a warm-up event for the weekend of the first RCS races, Strade Bianche and Roma Maxima.

 

A hilly race

The course for  51st edition had been changed but it remained a hard race with four major climbs, the Passo Balestrino, Testico and the Cima Paravenna which was to be climbed twice during the 181.2km race starting and finishing in Laigueglia. From the top of the final passage of the latter, however, more than 30km remained and as they were all downhill and only slightly rolling, many riders were a bit uncertain about what to expect.

 

As it is often the case in Italian one-day race, the start was extremely fast as many rider were keen to be part of the early action. Several riders tried to get clear but no one had any success for a long time. Davide Ballerini (Idea), Roman Maikin (Rusvelo), and Julian Kern (Ag2r) all made failed solo attempts while Androni-Venezuela and YellowFluo patrolled the front to make sure that no dangerous move slipped clear.

 

The break is formed

The riders got to the bottom of the Passo Balestrino after 30km of racing before the break was finally formed. Robinson Chalapud (Colombia) and Simone Petilli (Aero Zero) attacked while Songezo Jim (MTN Qhubeka) set off in pursuit. The South African made it across and a little later Christophe Laborie (Bretagne) also joined the move.

 

The peloton decided that it was time to slow down a bit, allowing the break to build up a gap that reached 3.40 at the top of the Balestrino. The Bardiani team was keen to set up a sprint for an in-form Sonny Colbrelli though and they brought the gap down to 3.18.

 

The gap grows

It was too early to catch the break and so the Italian team again slowed down. The gap grew to 7 minutes by the time the riders started to climb the Paravenna for the first time.

 

YellowFluo had stated their intention to make the race hard and they did so when they hit the ascent, upping the pace significantly by putting riders on the front. At the top of the climb, Laborie beat Jim, Petili and Chalapud in the battle for the KOM points.

 

YellowFluo ride hard

YellowFluo rode hard on the front, stringing out the peloton and bringing the gap down to 5.05 after 74km of racing. They were joined by Bardiani who went back to work and at the first passage of the line, the advantage was only 4.07.

 

Lampre-Merida now took over the pace-setting, tightening the screws for their captain Diego Ulissi. The chase was briefly interrupted by a crash that involved Antonio Santoro, Marco Tecchio, Marco Bandiera, and Martin Wesmann, with the latter unfortunately being taken to hospital.

 

YellowFluo back on the front

When the riders hit the Testico climb inside the final 70km, the gap was brought down to 2.25. Again YellowFluo decided that they needed a hard race for their captain Mauro Finetto and so they pushed Lampre-Merida away from the front of the peloton.

 

As the gap dropped to less than 2 minutes, the escapees had to ride harder and this was too much for Jim who fell off the pace. Before reaching the top, the South African was back in the main group.

 

The break is caught

With 53km to go, YellowFluo had brought the gap down to just 27 seconds. 5km further up the road, the three escapees were swallowed up by the main group.

 

Impressively, Laborie and Petilli managed to give it another go, just as they were caught. However, the move was a short-lived one and when the peloton hit the bottom of the Paravenna for the final time, things were back together.

 

The decisive attack

The fast pace saw the peloton split into three groups but as things slowed down a bit, it practically came back together. This opened the door for the decisive attacks when Matteo Rabottini (YellowFluo), Jose Serpa, and Patrik Sinkewitz attacked.

 

While Colombia started to chase behind, Rabottini was unable to keep up with his companions and lost contact on the steep slopes. The peloton had now been whittled down to just 40-50 riders as they were 30 seconds behind the two leaders.

 

Formolo leads the chase

Cannondale took up the chase with Davide Formolo setting the pace and he kept a stable 30-second gap all the way up the climb. Just before the top, Rabottini was caught while Damiano Cunego kept a watchful eye to protect his teammate Serpa in the break.

 

At the top, the peloton had been whittled down to just 10 riders but 30km from the finish they were 1.07 behind. More riders rejoined the peloton and a larger 25-rider group formed in pursuit of the two attackers while a second group was 1.58 behind.

 

Colombia organize a pursuit

Colombia led the chase with Carlos Quintero and Jarlinson Pantana but as they finished the descent, they had only reduced the advantage to 58 seconds. On paper, the long flat run-in should favour the chase but 9km from the finish, the gap was still 48 seconds.

 

Colombia was still responsible for the chase and with 4km to go, they had brought the advantage down to 30 seconds. When they passed the flamme rouge, the front duo were still 32 seconds ahead, meaning that the race would be decided in a sprint between them.

 

Serpa proved his track background when he held off Sinkewitz in the dash to the line, taking an impressive win for Lampre-Merida. 12 seconds later Andrea Pasqualon beat Sonny Colbrelli and Diego Ulissi in the sprint for 3rd.

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