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Despite repeated attacks, Nibali is unable to drop Formolo but in the final sprint the Astana rider earns himself his first ever tricolore jersey that he will wear during the Tour de France

Photo: Sirotti

ASTANA - PREMIER TECH

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DAVIDE FORMOLO

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MATTEO RABOTTINI

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NATIONAL CHAMPIONSSHIPS

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VINCENZO NIBALI

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28.06.2014 @ 17:18 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has taken his first ever Italian road race title by winning the 2014 edition of the championships after an exciting duel with the talented Davide Formolo (Cannondale). Despite repeated attacks on the final climb, the grand tour star couldn’t get rid of the youngster but in the final sprint he emerged as the strongest and will now wear the tricolore jersey in the Tour de France.

 

The 2014 season definitely hasn’t panned out the way Vincenzo Nibali was hoping but now he finally seems to have reached his best condition, just in time for his biggest goal at the Tour de France. In his final road race ahead of the French grand tour, the 2013 Giro champion won his first ever Italian championships by beating Davide Formolo in a dual on the final climb.

 

With the hilly course being slightly less selective than last year, Nibali knew that he had to make the race as hard as possible and was in the fortunate position of having several Italian teammates at his side. Early on, Astana took control of the situation to make things tough for the faster finishers and brought back the early break as they started the penultimate lap of the 28km finishing circuit.

 

Here Nibali played his first card when he sent Michele Scarponi into a strong breakaway that contained defending champion Ivan Santaromita (Orica-GreenEDGE). On the final climb to the finish, the captain bridged the gap himself to make it two Astana riders in the 6-rider front group that emerged after Scarponi had set a hard pace to whittle it down.

 

On the descent, a strong 10-rider chase group joined the move to make it 16 riders that were set to decide the race. Again Scarponi went to the front to whittle down the group until the captain himself kicked into action inside the final four kilometres.

 

First he responded to a number of attacks before he launched his decisive move. At first he got clear on his own but an impressive Formolo managed to bridge the gap to make it a front duo.

 

Nibali tried to get rid of his rival with another hard acceleration but Formolo was unshakable. Instead, the youngster attacked the country’s leading rider but as he failed to get clear, it came down to a sprint.

 

Paying the price for his lack of experience, Formolo did all the work inside the final kilometre before launching the sprint from the front. Nibali had no trouble passing the youngster and took a clear victory while 6 seconds later Matteo Rabottini (Neri Sottoli) rolled across the line to take the final spot on the podium.

 

Nibali will be back in action tomorrow when he lines up at the Italian time trial championships which will be his final test ahead of the Tour de France. Being up against a specialist like Adriano Malori (Movistar), however, it will be very hard for him to make the double before he lines up at the Tour de France in a week.

A hilly course

Like last year, the Italian championships road race was held on the course of the Italian one-day race Trofeo Melinda but the course had been slightly modified to make it less selective than last year's very tough affair. The race brought the riders over 220.5km from Male to Fondo and the first part consisted of a pretty hilly run between the start and finishing citites, with some of it made up of three laps of a circuit.

 

After 134.4km of racing, the riders crossed the finish line for the first time and then they took  on three laps of a hard 28.7km finishing circuit. The first half consisted of a decent while the second half was  a long gradual uphill section that gets steeper near the finish. Even though the ascent was not overly steep, a total of 3655m of altitude made for a pretty hard race.

 

A fast start

124 riders Italian professionals from a lot of different teams took the start under a cloudy sky, with rain having been forecasted for later in the day. A lot of them planned to be part of the early break and so the race was off to a fast beginning as a lot of riders tried to get clear.

 

The first riders to get a significant gap were Omar Bertazzo (Androni) and Fabio Chinello (Aero Zero) and they were joined by Matteo Belli (Nankang) to form a promising trio. However, the escape was neutralized and the subsequent 7-man move didn’t get clear either.

 

The break is created

The next riders to attack were Nicola Testi (Androni), Silvio Giorni (Aero Zero), Enrico Franzoi (Marchoil) and Matteo Gozzi (Nankang) and they were joined by Alessandro Malaguti (Vini Fantini), Giorgio Cecchinel (Neri Sottoli) and Giacomo Forconi (Nankang) to form a 7-rider group. The peloton was content with the situation and after 13km of racing, they had an advantage of 1.57.

 

The gap continued to grow and reached 5.36 at the 24km mark. Meanwhile, Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida) fought his way back to the peloton after a crash while Adriano Malori (Movistar) abandoned to be ready for tomorrow’s time trial.

 

Astana and Cannondale lead the chase

Cannondale took control of the peloton and started to reduce the gap which went down to 4.05. For some time it was kept stable between the 4- and 5-minute marks but suddenly started to grow and reached 6.28 at the 64km mark.

 

Astana now joined Cannondale on the front and brought the gap down to less than 5 minutes. Again the situation stabilized before the Kazakh team, led by Jacopo Guarnieri again upped the pace and brought the gap down to 3.00 shortly after the 100km mark.

 

The break splits up

The advantage was back up to 4.27 after 120km of racing but on the run-in to the first passage of the finish line, Astana increased the speed. As they hit the climb to the finish for the second time, Malaguti and Forconi started to suffer and the gap was now down to 1.50.

 

Valerio Agnoli, Enrico Gasparotto (Astana), Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) and Moreno Moser (Cannondale) set a brutal pace in the peloton that was now blowing to pieces. Meanwhile, the selection in the front group continued, leaving just Gozzi and Cecchinel to press on.

 

The break is caught

Near the top, Gozzi also fell off the pace and as he crossed the finish line to start the penultimate lap, Cecchinel was almost caught by the group that was led by Cannondale. Shortly after the passage, it was back together and the attacking could start while Ivan Basso (Cannondale) was one of several riders that had been dropped. At one point, Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) was also behind but he rejoined the group.

 

Alessio Camilli (Vega) launched the first attack and was joined by Matteo Bono (Lampre) and Emanuele Sella (Androni) to form a small group. Scarponi, Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff-Saxo) and De Marchi were some of several riders to bridge the gap before it was brought back together.

 

A new break takes off

On the descent, Gianluca Brambilla (OPQS), Ricardo Pichetta (Idea), Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r) and Elia Viviani (Cannondale) got a gap while behind Agnoli continued to set the pace for Astana.

 

As soon as the road ramped upwards, Scarponi attacked and he quickly passed Pichetta who had been dropped on the final part of the descent. De Marchi also went on the attack and Viviani dropped pack to pace his teammate up to the front group.

 

Nibali bridges the gap

With Astana and Cannondale now in the front group, Bardiani took over the pace-setting in the peloton while Santaromita and Gianfranco Zilioli (Androni) became the next riders to join the front group. For a long time the gap stayed around 15 seconds but as it went up to 24 seconds, Bardiani added more firepower to the chase.

 

As the road got steeper near the top, Viviani was dropped while behind Nibali launched his first move. Only Rabottini could follow him and the duo quickly bridged across to the leaders.

 

Scarponi sets the pace

Formolo and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) also joined the group while Scarponi went straight to work to set a brutal pace. At the top, only the Astana duo, Formolo, Rabottini, Santaromita and Pozzovivo were left while behind Daniel Oss (BMC) and Damiano Caruso (Cannondale) had picked up Zilioli, De Marchi and Montaguti.

 

Mauro Finetto (Neri Sottoli) was the next rider to join the chase group before Giovanni Visconti, Eros Capecchi (both Movistar) and Salvatore Puccio (Sky) also made the junction. On the descent, they worked excellently together and started to get close to the front group while behind Bardiani and Lampre both gave up the chase after a short try.

 

Back together

Trentin tried to bridge the gap on his own but it was hard work by Capecchi that brought the two groups together with 19km to go. On the descent, however, Nibali, Formolo and Santaromita got clear and were joined by Trentin a little later. At the bottom, Capecchi brought it back together and the Movistar rider continued to set a hard pace.

 

Scarponi took over and this caused De Marchi and Trentin to fall off as the first riders. With 12km to go, Visconti launched an attack but Formolo and Nibali responded immediately and soon after, Pozzovivo also joined the move.

 

The group is whittled down

Nibali made the next attack but was unable to get rid of Formolo. Pozzovivo also bridged the gap but with 11km to go, they were caught.

 

Rabottini launched an immediate attack but as Scarponi went back to work, the group came back together. At this point, however, only Scarponi, Formolo, Santaromita, Rabottini, Pozzovivo, Nibali, Oss, Puccio, Caruso, Visconti, Finetto were left.

 

Brutal pace by Scarponi

Scarponi continued to set the pace until he passed the 3km to go mark when Rabottini launched the first attack. Again Nibali and Formolo bridged the gap and soo after, Pozzovivo, Oss, Santaromita, Puccio and Caruso were also back in contention.

 

Santaromita launched the next attack but it was the subsequent acceleration by Nibali that did the damage. Rabottini and Formolo stayed with him for a while but when the latter cracked, the youngster had to bridge a gap.

 

Formolo rejoins Nibali

He did so in impressive fashion while Rabottini and Pozzovivo were now their nearest chasers. Under the flamme rouge, Nibali tried again but as he was unable to get clear, the game of cat and mouse started.

 

Behind, Oss, Caruso and Visconti had joined the chasers but there was no way they were coming back. Formolo tried to make an attack inside the final kilometre but as he failed to get clear, it came down to a sprint.

 

Formolo did all the work in the final part before launching his sprint from the front. However, Nibali was clearly the fastest and took a convincing win while Rabottini finished 6 seconds later in third.

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