Thursday, July 16, 2015

Valle d'Aosta Stage 2: Breakaway Oddity

 The 2nd stage of the Giro della Valle d'Aosta began in what is apparently the 8th Wonder of the World, Mont Blanc. Well not on Mont Blanc but in the hamlet of Courmayeur, which sits in the shadow of Western Europe's highest peak.
Robert Power and his Australia team were not interested in keeping the race together for the entire stage so within kilometers of the start, Davide Ballerini (Unieuro-Wilier) and TJ Eisenhart (BMC Development) set out together. The duo had some freedom before the Col d'Introd but once nearing the top of the climb, they were joined by Giulio Ciccone and a group of others. Ciccone took the maximum points but was closely followed by KOM leader Nicola Bagioli. Eisenhart, unfortunately, crashed on the descent and out of the breakaway.

Following this climb, it was a group of 20 riders that were formed with some pretty big riders including Edward Ravasi, Giulio Ciccone (both Colpack) Alexey Vermeulen (BMC), Keegan Swirbul (USA), Max Schachmann (AWT-Greenway), Oleg Zemlyakov (Kazakhstan) and Lorenzo Rota (Unieuro-Wilier), among others. This breakaway lost riders as the race went on over the guargantuan Clemensod climb and the Verrayes. Ciccone took full points on both climbs while Bagioli was 2nd on both, preserving his KOM jersey lead.

Australia tapping tempo behind the breakaway
Photo: Riccardo Scanferia/
It was on the Col d'Arlaz where Ravasi made his cunning move and the breakaway was in tatters. Ravasi was riding ahead of teammates Ciccone & Filippo Zaccanti who were joined with Zemlyakov. The yellow jersey group was well-paced and didn't go for the jugular early. Entering into Pont Saint Martin, Ravasi was solo going into the final loop that would go over the Perloz climb with a gap of roughly 2'30".

Ravasi was able to make it over the Perloz climb solo but with under 5 kilometers to go, it was Odd Eiking (Norway) who jumped out of the leading pack to join Ravasi. The Norwegian, who was looking to avenge his bad day on Wednesday, took to the front as they entered the final roads into Pont Saint Martin. With Jack Haig (Australia) launching out of the chase group in a bid for glory, Eiking set out in the final kilometer and took the redemptive victory. Just like Laurens De Plus yesterday, this was Eiking's first international victory even after finishing in the top 5 of races over a dozen times.

Ravasi, who was in the breakaway for the vast majority of the day, hung on for 2nd with Haig in 3rd. Laurens De Plus took the sprint for 4th place to pad his lead in the points competition while Robert Power was in the leading bunch to hold onto yellow.

Other notes:

-While Oleg Zemlyakov rode well in the breakaway today, three Kazakh riders did not finish today while the team's final rider, Sergey Luchshenko, finished in 87th nearly 18 minutes down. Now they have to race three more mountain stages with two riders which will certainly be an enjoyable task.
Fun fact with Zemlyakov is that his Kazakh National Champion jersey has Vino4Ever in bold lettering. Kazakh men have as much stylistic taste as the finest Italian stylists.

-Speaking of teams with just 2 riders left, Kazakhstan is joined by Slovenia, Team Ecuador, Team 74/Rhône Alpes and Russia. I don't think the DSes are very happy right now.

-And the award for best Team Sky impersonation goes to...The Australians! They rode an efficient race and even in the face of a dangerous breakaway, they took small chunks and then accelerated towards the end to eliminate large time gaps.

-While Odd Eiking had a bounce back stage, Lennard Kämna finish 11th on the stage at only 1'07" back on Eiking. The German had a tough stage 1 with the heat but looks like he could perhaps have a chance at a stage as the week goes on.

-While he is one of the older riders in the race, Anass Ait El Abdia of Morocco is getting some of his first international racing experience and is doing fairly well. Riding with the UCI World Cycling Centre, Ait El Abdia is currently in 16th overall and if this go well, he could move up a few places on GC.

-You can tell that this race has a fair bit of mountains because the average speed for the race is currently at 33.4 km/h through a prologue and two stages.

Here are full results for the stage and the overall.

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