Manuel Belletti (Colnago CSF Inox) kicked to victory in the 81.2km stage at Riccione that saw two crashes in the bunch in the final kilometers. It was the second victory of the year for Belletti.
Andrea Grendene (Team Type 1 – sanofi-aventis) crossed the line second to give Colnago two spots on the winner’s podium for the morning stage.
“The final lap there was an attack by FDJ that we chased down and then Liquigas attacked twice. The team worked hard and brought me up to the finish on a very long and straight road into a headwind. In the final 300 meters I moved left and came from behind Jure for the sprint, but the pack moved left into me and I was second,” Grendene said. “It was great work on a short and technical course.”
Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) rode his Colnago to yet another victory in what’s been a spectacular start to the 2011 season for the French champion.
Italian rider Alessandro Bazzana jumped out of the main pack and held a promising gap with just three kilometres to go. He was ultimately reeled in and a bunch sprint took the flowers, but the team’s aggressive attitude should pay dividends as they open a series of races in Europe.
“There was a big fight for positioning at the front, because there was a big headwind. I knew I didn’t have a chance to win the race on the sprint, so I shot out to attack the front on a false flat,” Bazzana said. “I waited for somebody to come with me, but the peloton held its breath and caught me. It was a good try, and a good effort after 200km, which is definitely a good feeling for the next race.”
Four of the eight starting riders for Team Type 1 have type-1 diabetes, a signature of one of the most unique teams in cycling.
“We are exceptionally proud to bring our mission at Team Type 1 - sanofi-aventis to Belgium, where we know the quality of racing is among the best in the world,” said team CEO and founder Phil Southerland. “From the saddles of our Colnagos we can show that diabetes is no limit to an active life, and with management, the right technology and a healthy diet, the disease can be controlled and dreams can be achieved.”
The French national champion attacked out of a breakaway in the 124km stage and then surged away for good on the treacherous Col d’Eze descent to claim the flowers on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice to close out a brilliant “Race to the Sun.”
“It’s a great overall result. I did not make any plans. Only in the finale did I tell myself I could do it. I really took a lot of risks in the descents. I thought I was too old for such risks, but I’ve still got it,” Voeckler said. “Two stage victories is super. I was not very lucky on Paris-Nice in recent years but this time I had good legs and it helps. I prefer to win two stages than finishing 10th or 11th. That’s the swashbuckling cycling I love, it’s fun. Everybody deserves plaudits in such difficult conditions but I guess I deserve a little more for winning here.”
Voeckler became the first Frenchman to win two stages at Paris-Nice since Laurent Jalabert did it 1997.
Europcar’s Voeckler won out of a four-man breakaway just as the main pack was breathing down their neck at 13sec back in the hard-fought, seven-climb stage across Beaujolais’s wine country.
Voeckler also slots into second overall at 10sec behind going into the decisive second half of the eight-day “Race to the Sun,” but admits he has few designs on the overall and instead takes immense pleasure on claiming his first Paris-Nice stage in his career.
“I had been waiting for this since 2003. I was second twice in the past years and I tried again yesterday. It was close, but it was good enough,” Voeckler said after the stage. “With the time trial on Friday, I don’t have the slightest chance to win Paris-Nice. I’m already happy to have won a stage for the team. I will try to win another one. Our week is already good.”
The victory is the third for Voeckler on the 2011 season.
Colnago-CSF Inox received the good news March 7 when Giro officials welcomed the team back for another run at the corsa rosa in what will be team’s second consecutive Giro start.
In its Giro debut last year, Manuel Belletti won a stage and the squad livened up the race with a string of daring attacks and solid, top-10 stage results.
Giro officials got the green light to expand the number of riders starting this year’s race, which will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy. That means the Giro will have one of the biggest fields in decades, with a total of 23 teams and 207 riders set to start the Giro on May 7 in Torino with a team time trial.
The Slovenian rode into the select winning group in the hard-fought 190km run across the dusty gravel roads in the heart of Tuscany and just missed putting Colnago on the prestigious winner’s podium with fourth place.
“The last 15km I was watching Cunego and Visconti, because I knew they were strong at the finish,” Kocjan said. “Some other teams missed the break, and I knew they would chase hard, so it was the perfect option to wait behind those guys for the sprint. The last climb into Siena was 300 meters uphill, and then a right turn. I’m very happy to be in such good company, but I have never felt fatigue like that on a bicycle.”
Voeckler has already placed Colnago on the winner’s podium at Bèsseges and the Tour du Haut Var and hopes to win a stage at Paris-Nice as well as fight for a strong position in the overall classification.
“I am satisfied with the start of my season. I’ve put in a lot of hard work, but I am still not in top condition. I think I can become even stronger,” the French national champion said. “I am very motivated for Paris-Nice, but I am also realistic. The time trial is a handicap against me. I don’t have a specific stage in mind, but I’ve been twice second, so I would like to win one. It’s Paris-Nice, so it’s very wide open.”
Voeckler will later take aim at the Tour of Flanders, a race he says he admires: “I really love that race, but the only problem is I don’t like the rain. It would be pretentious to say that I could try to win, because I’ve never really done well in this type of race, but I am very motivated.”
Jure Kocjan sprinted to second in the GP Insubrica on Feb. 26 in Italy while Martijn Verschoor also scored a second place in the final stage of the Cell C Tour of South Africa (Feb. 19-26), where William Dugan posted 11th overall behind winner Kristian House.
Kocjan just missed the victory at Insubrica when he opened up his sprint early to try to surprise the other sprinters, a tactic that nearly worked until Italy champion Giovanni Visconti shot past.
“The last climb was almost 700 meters long, but there was a breakaway until the final kilometer. I was staying behind Liquigas because I knew they would work for their sprinter,” Kocjan said. “They caught the escape and then did the work in the last 500 meters. I waited until about 250 meters to go and jumped to surprise the others. I’m happy with the finish, but my legs were empty with 50 meters to go and Visconti passed me.”
Kocjan followed that up with fourth at the GP di Lugano on Feb. 27, giving him seven top-10 finishes so far in the first month of racing in 2011.
In South Africa, Team Type 1 was active throughout the eight-day race that saw the return of the popular tour following a decade-long absence.
In addition to second in the final stage, Verschoor was fifth in the opening stage while Dugan ran eighth. Dugan posted 10th in stage four and nearly scored a top-10 overall with 11th. Fabio Calabria also rode well in GC, settling in at 20th overall.
Both Verschoor and Calabria race with Type-1 diabetes, two of six riders on the team who compete at the top international level with the condition.
“The diabetes community of South Africa has come out to support us every day at this race, and to give them a podium on the final day in Cape Town is special for us because it marks the first time in the victory circle in 2011 for a diabetic athlete on our team,” said CEO and team founder Phil Southerland. “Martijn has put in a lot of hard work for this, both on the bike and off, training to race and studying to manage his diabetes. We’ll see him and the rest of the squad up on the victory steps more often this year, and for that we thank our partners at sanofi-aventis in helping us to achieve our dreams.”
Team Type 1 lines up next at the Giro del Friuli in Italy on March 3.
Sébastien Chavanel snuck into the main breakaway at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Feb. 26, but a nervous peloton, racing without radio headsets, ramped up the chase when the gap opened up to eight minutes. The move was neutralized with 55km to go, and Sebastién Turgot was best-placed in 31st.
Thomas Voeckler was on the march the following day at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, working into a promising, nine-man breakaway. Once again, the other teams collaborated to neutralize the move with 25km to go. Chavanel put down an excellent sprint to cross the line sixth, his best result so far in 2011.
At the Tour of South Africa (Feb. 19-26), Europcar did well to make up for the absence of injured team leader Anthony Charteau, who dislocated his collarbone in a fall on the first day. Yohan Gène won stage 3 and Perrig Quemeneur just missed the podium with fourth place overall.
“Things started off badly when we lost our leader (Charteau), but we responded by winning a victory, many places of honour and a fourth-place overall. The balance is excellent,” said team manager Jean-Rene Bernaudeau. “Perrig is gaining confidence and this confirms his very good Tour of Langkawi. He has a higher level than last year and we will hear more from him soon.”