What with all the excitement of Cycle to Work Day and the GP Wallonie on Wednesday, you could be excused for thinking that Freewheeling had missed the start of the Trittico Lombardo. Not so! Here’s our race reports for the Coppa Bernocchi and Coppa Agostoni.
Traditionally held over three consecutive days – although not anymore – the Trittico Lombardo is an important series of events in the Italian race calendar. Last year Vincenzo Nibali took both the Coppa Bernocchi and Tre Valli Varesine, with fellow countryman Davide Rebellin winning Coppa Agostoni. As a staple of the Italian season, you’d be mad to bet against a winner from that country securing victory.
Part one of the 2016 Trittico, Coppa Bernocchi took place this year on 14th September. Founded in 1919 by businessman Antonio Bernocchi, Coppa Bernocchi has seen 85 Italian winners from almost 100 editions. In a sea of green, white and red, Steve Cummings’ 2008 win whilst riding for Barloworld leaps off the page. The 2016 edition, taking place five days before Sunday’s European Championships, was an excellent way for the Italian national side to spin their legs in race conditions. Starting in Legnano, the race took in seven laps around Olona, which included a climb of Piccolo Stelvio, before flattening out, creating perfect conditions for a bunch sprint.
An eight man break managed to establish a 4 minute lead before the Italian national team – featuring Olympic gold medallist Elia Viviani, reeled six of the leaders back into the pack. The two riders still off the front, Riccardo Viela (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Vitaliy Buts (Kolss-BDC Team) were joined by three Italian riders on the last of the seven laps, including Sonny Colbrelli of Bardiani-CSF. Colbrelli launched a surprise attack, which was neutralised when the bunch came back together with 15km to go.
As expected, the race was decided with a bunch sprint, which saw Giacomo Nizzolo secure victory over a brace of Bardiani riders, Ruffani and Simion, in a time of 4:25:53
24 hours later, the riders gathered at the start line for the Coppa Agostoni, a race held in memory of the Italian cyclist Ugo Agostoni, a winner of Milan-San Remo before his death in World War 2. As with the Coppa Bernocchi, the race palmarès is littered with Italian winners. The 2000 victory for the German Jan Ullrich, followed two years later by a French win for Laurent Jalabert, stand out as anomalies in an event dominated by the Italians.
The race saw an early break of thirteen riders, including Alexander Kolobnev riding for Gazprom-Rusvelo. The break almost attained a full 6 minute lead before this was brought steadily down during the circuit of Colle Brianza. As before in the Coppa Bernocchi, the Italian national team were instrumental in closing the gap. The original thirteen man break was whittled down to six with 1 and a half minutes in hand.
As the bunch hit the climb of Lissdo, Fabio Aru of Astana leapt from the peloton with three others, and started the chase. Aru’s attempt was ultimately swept up along with the majority of the leading riders. Benito was the lone leader for the remainder of the race before he was caught in the final kilometre.
Colbrelli won the bunch sprint in a time of 5:05:57, with the lone leader Benito securing 26th. “Yesterday I wanted to try something new by attacking from a distance” Colbrelli explained of his unsuccessful attack in the closing stages of Coppa Bernocchi. “I wanted to fight back today. I was feeling well and after my teammates were second and third yesterday, we needed a win”. Colbrelli has seen a total of five victories this season, and will be joining countryman Vincenzo Nibali at the new team Bahrain Merida for 2017.
The third and final race of the Trittico Lombardo, Tre Valli Varsine, takes place on the 27th of September, four days before another Italian classic Il Lombardia, pegged as ‘the final Cycling Monument of the season’. This year, Il Lombardia; also known as Giro di Lombardia, starts in spectacular scenery at Lake Como, finishing 245km later in Bergano. Look out for our race preview coming soon!