Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Herklotz's Redemption: GP Palio del Recioto

Streaking down the final twisty descent with just 3 kilometers left, 18 year-old Silvio Herklotz went flying off the road. Crashing hard, the Berliner scrambled out of the ditch and set off again, his small lead now evaporated. Rounding the last corner in the leading group of 9, Herklotz was still surprisingly fresh for being out front on his own but Caleb Ewan bested him in the sprint to the line. It was a bittersweet taste in Herklotz's mouth, especially after he came 2nd just the day before in the Giro del Belvedere in another close sprint. That was 2013. He would take revenge in 2014.

2014 didn't start out very well for Herklotz after crashing at 60 km/h thanks to a parked car at Trofej Umag and then he developed bronchitis at the Istrian Spring Trophy, which caused him to DNF the final stage. We saw the beginnings of form at Triptyque Monts et Chateaux and then finally a somewhat return to form at Circuit des Ardennes, where he finished comfortably in 13th overall. He experienced a near repeat from 2013 at the Giro del Belvedere, where he finished 2nd in a two-up sprint with Simone Andreetta. Would Palio del Recioto be different?

Leaving from Negrar, a breakaway of 19 was able to get away early on the eight circuits of 18.2 kilometers. The breakaway, including Alexey Vermeulen (USA/BMC Devo), Christian Mager (Stolting), Campbell Flakemore (Australia), Simone Velasco & Giacomo Berlato (Zalf-Euromobil), Giulio Ciccone (Colpack) and Raimondas Rumsas' son, Raimondas Rumsas. The break got a maximum of 5 minutes but that was still with 100 kilometers to go, long before the peloton really got going.

Notably, Astana Continental missed out on the early breakaway so they felt obliged to chase...and chase...and chase some more. Seriously, the Kazakh squad, who was riding for Michele Scartezzini, just put themselves on the front for the next 50 kilometers and rode the breakaway down until the group came all back together with 50km to go.

With just 52 riders left in the main group, the race headed onto the final 34 kilometer loop that included the tough Corrubio climb, which has two different summits and included a technical downhill to the finish. On the lower slopes of the climb, Iuri Filosi (Colpack) attacked and drew out teammate Manuele Senni, Silvio Herklotz (Stolting), Robert Power (Australia) and Stefano Nardelli (Gavardo-Tecmor). The quintet raced up the Corrubio climb with no rider able to get any distance on the other. It was on the descent where the drama began.

Filosi, who was the impetus that created the breakaway, had a mechanical at the beginning of the descent. Then, in a carbon copy of 2013, Herklotz attacked on the downhill with 6 kilometers to go. Riding like he was in MotoGP, Herklotz was throwing the bike throw the corners and absolutely railing it. Heading into the final kilometer, Herklotz's lead was unassailable and the German U23 champion was able to raise his hands as he crossed the line solo. Redemption is so sweet. Herklotz admitted to some fears about the descent post-race, especially after his tumble in 2013, but he turned off his brain quickly and put his fears out the window. Herklotz's bike handling skills are very high and is one of the best descending riders, not to mention uphill, in the U23 class.

Coming in behind Herklotz was 18-year old Robert Power, who lead in the small group sprint for 2nd ahead of Nardelli and Senni. Lukas Spengler, the 19-year old with BMC Development, has been riding very well over the last two weeks and attacked out of the chasing peloton to take 5th ahead of Filosi. Spengler was 7th at Monday's Giro del Belvedere and 5th at Saturday's ZLM Tour in the Netherlands. Quite a tear for the young Swiss rider. While Luka Pibernik attacked for 7th place, Michele Scartezzini, whose Astana Continental team did all of that work in the build-up to the finale, lead in the sprint for 8th. Woohoo.

Other riders who finished well on both days include Gianni Moscon (Zalf-Euromobil), who finished 6th in Belvedere and 9th in Palio del Recioto, Luca Chirico (Mg.Kvis-Trevigiani), who finished 3rd and 13th respectively, as well as Alessandro Tonelli (Zalf-Euromobil) and Alexey Vermeulen (BMC Development), who both finished in the top 20 on both days of racing.

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