Giro del Belvedere (Villa di Villa (Cordignano) , Treviso, Italy)
The early portion of the race, which consisted of 10 flat to rolling loops around Villa di Villa, was dominated by an early break of 12, including two of the men that you see above in Stefan Küng (BMC Development) and Mitchell Mulhern (Australia National). The final two laps saw the race go over the Montaner climb but when the peloton rolled through on the first of those two, they were four minutes back, quite a large gap for 35 kilometers. Slowly but surely the gap wore down and riders from the breakaway were being dropped. Mulhern was the impetus of the race; dropping Küng and the others on the climb of the Montaner. Küng, who had been apart of the Swiss team pursuit bronze medal squad at the Track World Championships in Minsk, rejoined on the descent and the duo had a 38 second gap leading into the final ascent.
Once again, Mulhern pushed the pace and dropped Küng and crossed the summit solo, which signaled that only 10 kilometers were left in the race. Unbeknowst to both, Silvio Herklotz (Stölting) attacked the chasing group and set off in pursuit of Mulhern and Küng. The German passed Küng and joined Mulhern on the descent but Küng joined back up. The trio had a sizable gap leading into the final kilometer as Mulhern attacked but was brought back in quickly. The Australian led the sprint out but Küng got the jump and easily won the sprint over Herklotz. The chasing group came in some 30 seconds later lead by Andrea Zordan (Zalf-Euromobil), who has probably been the best Italian sprinter so far this season.
- Stefan Küng (BMC Devo)
- Silvio Herklotz (Stölting)
- Mitchell Mulhern (Australia) +2"
- Andrea Zordan (Zalf Euromobil) +32"
- Damien Howson (Australia) all s.t.
- Davide Villela (Colpack)
- Stanislau Bazhkou (Podenzano)
- Mikhail Akimov (Helicopters)
Küng showed some impressive resilience especially when he was dropped on the climbs by Mulhern, who got what is probably his best result on the road after transitioning from the track. Herklotz was once again impressive after his breakout ride in the Istrian Spring Trophy and you have to remember that this kid is only 18 years old.
GP Palio del Recioto (Negrar, Verona, Italy)
The racing shifted south from Villa di Villa, which sits just south of the Dolomites, to the outskirts of Verona and the village of Negrar. This race is short at 143 kilometers but very sweet and if you look at the list of winners (Bongiorno, Preidler, Locatelli, Brambilla...) you will see that this race will have a worthy winner. A breakaway of four got away after 15 kilometers and was joined by two more shortly after, including former SKY stagiaire Davide Martinelli. The Australian national team was not playing around and forced the pace quite early on, which decimated the peloton and left only a group of 60 going into the final 30 kilometers. A new breakaway was formed that included sprinter Caleb Ewan (Australia) and Slovenian rouleur Luka Pibernik (Radenska). The breakaway began to break up on the day's final climb, which also saw a group of strong riders bridge including Belvedere's 2nd place Silvio Herklotz, Davide Villela (Colpack) and Pierre Paolo Penasa (Zalf-Eurmobil).
In a pre-race interview, Silvio Herklotz (Stölting) said that this race suited him more than Belvedere but he was planning on sticking with the pack and see what he could do in the sprint. Well...that is not what happened whatsoever because after crossing the summit of the final climb, Herklotz attacked the descent. When I say attacked, he literally bombed the descent and was going full out, doing his best Paolo Savoldelli impression. Herklotz was going a bit too fast though and took a tumble on the descent but was able to get back on his bike and continued riding with the leading group.
As the leader's entered the final straight, it was the attacking Herklotz who lead out the sprint and nearly took the win but Caleb Ewan (Australia), last year's World Championship RR silver medalist, passed him and took his maiden U23 win in Europe.
|Ewan takes the win over a bloody Herklotz (left)|
It was the way that Ewan won the race that is remarkable. Touted as a sprinter, Ewan got into the day's final breakaway and then climbed well enough to stay with the leaders who bridged up to the group on the final climb. Then after all of this effort, he was still able to finish it off with a powerful sprint.
- Caleb Ewan (Australia)
- Silvio Herklotz (Stölting) s.t.
- Luka Pibernik (Radenska) s.t.
- Davide Villela (Colpack) s.t.
- Valerio Conti (Mastromarco) s.t.
- Simone Petilli (Eurofeed) s.t.
- Damien Howson (Australia) s.t.
- Davide Formolo (Petroli Firenze) s.t.
- Pierre Paolo Penasa (Zalf Euromobil) s.t.
- Simone Sterbini (Palazzago) +25"
- Silvio Herklotz was awarded the "Corsaro Nera" (Black Corsair/Pirate) by the race jury for his exploits on the descent and the tenacity he showed by leading the sprint out and holding on for 2nd place. After Belvedere and Palio del Recioto, Herklotz is now one of my favorite U23 riders to follow. Power, tenacity and balls will get him a long way in cycling.
- Props need to be given to Luka Pibernik (Radenska), Davide Villela (Colpack) and Damien Howson (Australia) as they were all present in Belvedere and followed it up with front-group performances here.
- This is also the first time in this race that an Italian wasn't on the podium.