Weekly Rap - April 21, 2008Thanks for joining us at The Weekly Rap, your personal professional cycling highlight reel. Catch up to the peloton in Italy (Tirreno-Adriatico), France (Criterium International) and right here in the Golden State of California (Redlands Bicycle Classic). Spring is in full bloom so let’s ride!
Tirreno-AdriaticoHeld March 12-18 in Italy, Tirreno-Adriatico is another early season stage race that many of the best sprinters use to train for the spring classics as the flatter courses are appealing to the fastmen. Rabobank’s Oscar Freire opened the festivities with a sprint victory in the 160-km Stage 1 over luminous speedsters such as Milram’s dangerous duo of Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel, Quick Step-Innergetic’s Tom Boonen and Silence-Lotto’s Robbie McEwen, which was made possible after a 110-km two-man break was caught with four kilometers to go.
Stage 2 was the longest of the race at 203 kms. A pair of riders darted out of the peloton after just four kilometers. Their advantage grew to almost eight minutes over 100 kms later. The teams of Lampre, Milram and Rabobank led the chase, reeling in the break at kilometer 179 when they hit the Belvedere climb. A six-man group formed on the climb after an initial salvo was fired by Niklas Axelsson (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli). He was joined by his teammate Raffaele Illiano, Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld), Linus Gerdemann (High Road) and Saunier Duval-Scott’s Riccardo Riccò and Eros Capecchi. In the final kilometer, Axelsson drilled it again to which Ricco responded. Illiano countered and got away with Gasparotto in the final 200 meters to take 1st and 2nd. Unfortunately Ricco and Gerdemann touched wheels in the finale, sending Ricco to the pavement hard. He remounted and was escorted across the finish line by Capecchi a scant 16 seconds ahead of the large chase group. Freire got caught out on the climb and lost the leader’s jersey to Italian Gasparotto.
The 195-km Stage 3 finished with the uphill assault of Montelupone, a steep 1.78 km climb that rises to 20% in sections that the riders had to ascend twice. Around the 160 km mark, Boonen, Freire and Ricco were involved in a crash, but they were able to continue. A long two-man break was absorbed before the first time up the Montelupone. The lead group was trimmed for the final ascent thanks to the efforts of Danilo DiLuca’s LPR Brakes squad and Axelsson’s Serramenti unit. Italian Road Race Champion Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step) was first to throw down the gauntlet. After he was caught, Spanish Road Race Champion Joaquim Rodriguez (Caisse d’Epargne) said “Adios” and pedaled the final 200 meters solo for the win with a 12-second gap over DiLuca. Axelsson donned the leader’s jersey after his 3rd place stage finish. The finish was so steep that some riders dismounted and walked their bikes across the line.
Team Milram did a stellar job for Petacchi in Stage 4 (166 kms). A trio got away for a while, but they were swallowed up when the racing got serious negating their maximum advantage of 4:35. With less than nine kilometers to go, Quick Step’s Andrea Tonti instigated a move that drew out many of the favorites. The gap grew not more than 13 seconds and Milram was able to lead their captain back into the fold with two kilometers left. Zabel ignited his jets with less than 500 meters to go and Petacchi fired up the afterburner early, but was able to hold on for the victory ahead of Freire.
The general classification shuffled the deck after the 26-km Stage 5 time trial. Two-time World Time Trial Champion Fabian Cancellara (CSC), winner of the Amgen Tour of California prologue, served an ace to take not only the stage win, but the overall lead as well. Slipstream-Chipotle-H30’s David Zabriskie, the U.S. Time Trial Champion, landed in 2nd and benefited from the final 6.6 kms, which were uphill. Gasparotto finished a minute down in 5th place and assumed 2nd place GC, 16 seconds back of Cancellara. Of note was Gerdemann, who crashed, remounted and courageously covered the stage with what was later diagnosed as a broken leg. Amazing.
A baker’s dozen took flight in Stage 6 (196 km) after 25 kms. Their lead peaked at 6:22 at 118 kms before the peloton, driven by CSC, LPR Brakes and Liquigas, gave chase. The race concluded with finishing circuits that took the riders up the Castelfidardo (four kilometers at an average gradient of 4.5%) five times. The break was reunited with the chasers the final time up the climb and with slightly more than a kilometer to go, Gasparotto deployed the inevitable attack to try to take back the GC lead from Cancellara, who had been shadowing his every move. No dice. DiLuca ripped through the last corner, but he was passed by Liquigas’ Filippo Pozzato and Freire in the final approach. Freire utilized the power climb to notch his second stage win.
The race wrapped with a 176-km stage that concluded with seven laps around a rain-slicked 10-km circuit with a flat finish tailored to the sprinters. With CSC policing the front for Cancellara, a significant break didn’t form until the 104-km point when a pair of riders from Euskaltel-Euskadi – Inigo Landaluze and Egoi Martinez – slipped away. Their lead reached 2:41 with five circuits remaining. Lampre and Milram fueled the successful chase. In the sprint, Liquigas’ Francesco Checci dashed to glory ahead of Danilo Napolitano (Lampre) and High Road’s Mark Cavendish, the latter of who was left to fend for himself when teammates Gerald Ciolek and George Hincapie crashed in the penultimate lap. Cancellara celebrated his 27th birthday with the GC win.
Criterium InternationalFrance’s Criterium International is a two-day, three-stage race that some describe as a mini-Tour de France because it consists of a flat stage, a mountain stage and a time trial. The 77th edition took place March 29 & 30 with three-time winner and defending champion Jens Voigt (CSC) eager to add to his palmares. The opening stage was 193 kms and incredibly the winning move was made after just two kilometers when Rabobank’s Laurens Ten Dam and BMC’s Ian McKissick took flight. When their advantage stretched to almost 17 minutes, the peloton began to give chase, which caused the field to split into three groups. McKissick exploded 23 kms from the finish, forcing Ten Dam to go it alone. The young rider from the Netherlands soldiered on and finished a scant ten seconds ahead of the charging chase. Riders in the second and third groups lost nearly seven and 13 minutes respectively.
Two stages were on tap for the second day. Stage 2 was a hilly 98.5 kilometers. The climbing and the fervent attacks commenced early and while you’d expect the peloton to mark any move made in this race by Voigt, he was allowed to flee with Simon Gerrans (Credit Agricole), Sandy Casar (Francaise des Jeux) and Mauro Santambrogio (Lampre) after 15 kms. The quartet worked well together to build a lead of nearly three minutes. Casar and Santambrogio cracked on the ascent of the Cote du Mont Malgre Tout with 13 kms remaining while the lead duo powered their way home. Voigt led the Australian on the uphill finish until Gerrans came around the German with 300 meters left to take out the stage. Voigt claimed the yellow jersey with a 1:14 advantage over Ten Dam in the GC heading into the afternoon time trial.
With the time trial being only 8.3 kms, Voigt’s lead was nearly insurmountable. And it was. Rain made the course slick so the savvy veteran took no risks and still managed to hold onto the overall victory by a comfortable 57-second margin over teammate Gustav Larsson. A man for the future, High Road’s Edvald Boasson Hagen, the young Norwegian Time Trial Champion, won the stage by seven seconds over his teammate, Tony Martin. Voigt’s fourth win at Criterium International equals the accomplishment of legend Jacques Anquetil.
Redlands Bicycle ClassicThe National Racing Calendar finally got underway April 3-6 in California at the often unpredictable Redlands Bicycle Classic with all the top domestic pro teams in attendance. After sharpening their racing legs the previous weekend at the nearby San Dimas Stage Race, the riders tackled the 5 km uphill prologue. HealthNet’s Rory Sutherland snagged the first leader’s jersey ahead of a pair from Toyota-United: Ben Day and Amgen Tour of California stage winner Dominique Rollin.
Making his debut racing on U.S. soil, Rock Racing’s Santiago Botero did it in style on the Stage 1 138-km circuit race. On the second lap of the 20-km circuit, Botero attacked on the KOM climb and was joined by Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United), Burke Swindlehurst (Bissell), Francois Parisen (Symmetrics) and James Mattis (California Giant Farms). On the backside descent, Colavita-Sutter Home’s Sebastian Haedo was able to bridge the gap alone. The six-man break drove the break in tandem, lengthening their lead to five minutes by the third lap. Botero danced away from his compatriots the final time up the hill and the former World Time Trial Champion engaged his skills to solo to victory 52 seconds ahead of Haedo and the rest of the break. The Colombian held a 54-second lead in the GC over Baldwin heading into the Stage 2 criterium.
The Redlands Criterium is fast, technical and known for its tricky chicane. Rock Racing spent much of the 90-minute race monitoring the front for Botero. Thirty minutes in, Colavita-Sutter Home’s Luis Amaran initiated a break. The Argentinean was joined by BMC’s Jeff Louder, Successful Living presented by Parkpre’s Curtis Gunn and Team Type 1’s Shawn Mile. For the next hour, their advantage hovered around 30 seconds. With 20 minutes left, Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast attempted to close the gap for their sprinter, Alex Candelario, but was unsuccessful. Toyota-United tried their hand with ten laps remaining for their sprinter, Amgen Tour of California stage winner Ivan Dominguez, but they only got as close as eleven seconds back. Heading into the chicane on the final lap, Louder darted away from the break with Amaran desperately clawing back. Milne and Gunn canceled each other out with an unfortunate crash. Louder’s move was the stage winner with Amaran taking 2nd. Dominguez won the field sprint while Botero held onto the all-important yellow tunic.
Redlands closed with the Sunset Road Race, a challenging, technical and hilly circuit that the riders traversed twelve times before embarking on five shorter circuits for a total of 146.5 kms. The race of attrition saw the field shrink precipitously, partially due to a large crash. Bissell’s Ben Jacques-Maynes launched a solo missive early on the big loops. Louder hooked up and eventually Peter Stetina (Slipsteam-Chiptole-H3O) latched on as well. The trio held a 30-second gap for six laps while Rock Racing monitored the front of the field. After the break was neutralized, Sutherland leapt alone with two laps remaining, which he held for a lap. Colavita-Sutter Home’s Alejandro Borrajo and Team Type 1’s Chris Jones attempted an escape in the final lap, but they were also shut down. In the finishing circuits, Colavita-Sutter Home drilled it at the front giving Borrajo the pad he needed to launch from to sprint to victory ahead of BMC’s Tony Cruz and Sutherland. Botero collected the GC win with Baldwin and Swindlehurst completing the podium.
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Rick Scott is president of Great Scott P.R.oductions, an entertainment and sports public relations, marketing and management boutique. He can be contacted through www.greatscottpr.com.