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Having made it into a 37-rider group on the final climb, Nizzolo was the fastest in the uphill sprint at the GranPiemonte; Gaviria bounced back from a crash to take second and Bennati completed the podium

Photo: ANSA - PERI / DI MEO / ZENNARO

DANIELE BENNATI

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FERNANDO GAVIRIA

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GIACOMO NIZZOLO

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GRAN PIEMONTE

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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29.09.2016 @ 16:13 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Riding for the national team, Giacomo Nizzolo proved that he is ready to lead Italy at the World Championships when he powered to victory in the uphill sprint at the 100th edition of GranPiemonte. Having made it into a 37-rider group at the end of a very fast race, he beat Fernando Gaviria (EtixxQuickStep) who had been involved in a crash earlier in the race, and Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff) to take his second win this month.

 

At the moment, a lot of national coaches are considering which one of their two star sprinters they want to support at the World Championships. In France, Nacer Bouhanni and Arnaud Demare both want to lead the team and in Germany, it seems that André Greipel has come out on top in the battle with Marcel Kittel.

 

In Italy, national coach Davide Cassani is trying to figure out whether it’s best to back Giacomo Nizzolo or Elia Viviani and today both riders had a chance to prove themselves at the 100th edition of the GranPiemonte. After a very fast and selective edition of the Italian semi-classic, Nizzolo again showed that he is the in-form sprinter at the moment as he came out on top while wearing the national team’s colours.

 

The mostly flat race turned out to be a brutal affair as a strong 38-rider group forced the peloton to chase hard for more than two hours during which they averaged more than 50km/h. After a brief lull, the pace went up again on the final climb with 30km to go and when the dust had settled, only 37 riders had survived. While Viviani was left behind, Nizzolo was still there and in the uphill sprint, he beat Fernando Gaviria who had crashed earlier in the race, Daniele Bennati, Juan Jose Lobato and the in-form Sonny Colbrelli.

 

The 100th edition of GranPiemonte covered 207km between Diano d’Alba and Aglié and as most of the day was spent in the Po Valley, it was an almost completely flat run. However, it was a pretty tough start as the first 10km are uphill before the riders descended to the long, flat section.  With 33.7km to go, the peloton hit the main challenge, the Alice Superiore climb (7km, 5%). The top came with 27.9m to go and they wer almost all slightly descending. However, the road gradually started to rise with 5km to go. At first, it was barely noticeable but in the final kilometre, it got harder, with the final 500m averaging 4.2%.

 

Jaime Roson (Caja Rural) and Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r) were the only non-starters when the peloton gathered on a beautiful sunny day. With a tough climb right from the start, it was a brutal opening phase where the peloton split immediately. Ag2r were very active but no one had managed to get clear when they reached the top of the climb. However, the group had been whittled down to around 50 riders.

 

Laurens De Plus (Etixx-QuickStep) crashed on the descent but he was able to continue. Meanwhile, Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis), Ian Stannard (Sky) and Tiago Machado (Katusha) tried to get clear and thet were soon joined by Diego Rosa (Astana), Mirco Maestri (Bardiani - CSF), Sylwester Szmyd (CCC Sprandi), Kristijan Koren (Cannondale - Drapac) and David Arroyo (Caja Rural - RGA). Unfortunately, they had no luck and a 40-rider group gathered in front.

 

Cofidis made a double attack with Romain Hardy and Rudy Molard and Salvatoe Puccio (Sky) and Zhandos Bizhigitov (Astana) took off in pursuit. They managed to build an advantage of 43 seconds over a 28-second chance group while the main group was 1.03 behind as they passed through the city of Alba. However, it was all in vain as both duos were brought back.

 

The peloton had now been split into three, with the first group having a 43-seconds advantage over their nearest chasers and another 50 seconds on the main group. Only 38 riders had made it into the first bunch and Benoit Cosnefroy, Axel Domont (Ag2r La Mondiale), Francesco Gavazzi, Alberto Nardin (Androni - Sidermec), Diego Rosa, Zhandos Bizhigitov (Astana), Mirco Maestri (Bardiani - CSF), Philippe Gilbert ( BMC), David Arroyo, Angel Madrazo, Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural - RGA), Kristijan Koren, Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale - Drapac), Maciej Paterski (CCC Sprandi), Romain Hardy, Rudy Molard, Anthony Perez, Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis), Matteo Trentin (Etixx - QuickStep), Mattia Cattaneo, Kristijan Durasek, Rui Alberto Costa (Lampre - Merida), Andrey Amador, Jorge Arcas (Movistar), Filippo Ganna (Italian national team), Pavel Kochetkov, Tiago Macado, Alberto Losada (Katusha), Vasil Kiriyenka , Michal Kwiatkowski, David Lopez, Salvatore Puccio, Ben Swift (Team Sky), Daniele Bennati, Manuele Boaro, Michael Gogl and Davide Ballerini (Tinkoff) managed to push their advantage out to 1.10 while the two groups further back merged.

 

The gap had gone out to 1.34 before the Italian national team managed to organize a chase but they failed to reduce the gap. At the 40km mark, Nippo-Vini Fantini took over but the gap still went out to 1.50. The national team and Wilier-Southeast then came to the fore to lend a hand after a first hour during which 48.9km had been covered.

 

After 50km of racing, the gap was 2.04 and now Etixx-QuickStep were also contributing to the chase. With four teams now working hard, the gap started to come down. At the 63km mark, it was 1.34 and now Bardiani also invested some manpower in the chase.

 

The gap was coming down steadily and dropped to 59 seconds after 69km of racing. The escapees managed to push it out to 1.20 again as Bardiani were now the only team doing the work. For several kilometres, the gap stayed around that mark but slowly the peloton won the battle. After two hours at 48.950km/h, the gap was again less than a minute and it was only 48 seconds at the 100km mark.

 

Wilier and Nippo again started to work with Bardiani and when Etixx-QuickStep also returned, the gap again started to come down. In the feed zone, it was only 41 seconds and here riders started to sit up. Lopez was the first to surrender and Rosa even abandoned.

 

When the gap had dropped to 21 seconds, the attacking started and it was Hardy and Rossetto who made the first move. Hardy soon sat up but his teammate continued. The rest of the big group was brought back and at the 110km mark, only Rossetto was still in front.

 

Matteo Montaguti (AG2R La Mondiale), Paolo Simion (Bardiani - CSF), Toms Skujins (Cannondale - Drapac), Fernando Gaviria (Etixx - QuickStep), Marco Coledan (Trek - Segafredo) and Ian Stannard (Sky) tried to bridge the 30-second gap and they got to within 20 seconds before the peloton reacted and shit the move down. At this point, Rossetto was only 18 seconds ahead but finally, after 125km of very fast racing, the peloton slowed down. That allowed Rossetto to increase his advantage and with 70km to go, he was 4.30 ahead of the peloton.

 

The gap reached a maximum of 4.40 before the peloton got going again and when he hit the final 50km, the Frenchman was only 3.30 ahead. Bardiani had taken control in the peloton and with 36km to go, they had reduced the gap to just 2.30.

 

Rossetto hit the Alice Superiore climb with an advantage of 2.02 and now it was the Italian national team that set the pace with Edoardo Affini. A few riders tried to attack before BMC hit the front with Damiano Caruso who made the peloton explode.

 

Caruso’s fast pace made the gap melt away and at the top of the climb, the reduced bunch was just 35 seconds behind Rossetto. A Cannondale rider crashed on the descent but BMC didn’t slow down, maintaining control and reducing the gap gradually.

 

Only 37 riders had made the selection, with riders like Sonny Colbrelli, Jan Bakelants, David Arroyo, Damiano Caruso, Alberto Bettiol, Tom-Jelte Slagter, Toms Skujins, Giacomo Nizzolo, Francesco Gavazzi, Kristijan Durasek, Simone Petilli, Filippo Pozzato and Fernando Gaviria all riding comfortably in the bunch which was only 12 seconds behind with 20km to go. Impressively, the Frenchman managed to push the gap out to 19 seconds and the situation remained stable as he hit the final 10km.

 

At the 5km to go banner, Rossetto still had an advantage of 12 seconds but now he started to lose ground. 2km later he only had 6 seconds and as Etixx-QuickStep were chasing hard, he had to surrender just after the 2km to go mark. In the end it all came down to an uphill sprint from the reduced bunch and here Nizzolo turned out to be the fastest as he held off Gaviria and Daniele Bennati. Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) and Colbrelli completed the top 5.

 

With the GranPiemonte done and dusted, attention turns to the final monument of the season, Saturday’s Il Lombardia, that should see the climbers come to the fore.

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