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Italian Criterium Reports - 6th Criterium Cittá di Broni

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


Twenty-four hours after the Arona kermesse, most of its protagonists, with some exceptions like Ivan Basso, replaced by other well-known riders like Ivan ”The Cheetah” Quaranta, moved to the Lombard town of Broni for the sixth edition of the Criterium Cittá di Broni-Criterium degli Assi, organized by Russian-born, but local resident Eugeni Berzin. The 1994 Giro winner, now a car dealer in this Pavia Province city, who’s going to celebrate his 34th birthday in a couple days, drew a top-quality field to the race.

And a helluva crowd to watch it too. As if there’s something really worthy of mention we noticed this year, being there for the fifth straight time, is that cycling is back in full force, back to take thousands and thousands of people to the streets to shout out their support for those guys in lycra whose names they often barely know. That’s the power of cycling. And cycling is back to full power after a couple difficult years. Maybe it was because the following day wasn’t a working one (the second of June is Italy’s National Holiday). But more likely, and one of the race organizers we talked to agreed, it was because of the presence of the big names of the peloton, especially new idols like Damiano Cunego and Alessandro Petacchi (both at their first times at Broni). In any event, it was a matter of fact that people along the road were more than twice as many as in the editions of 2001 and 2002, when the Policemen and Carabinieri and their hotel raids, plus riders giving positive at anti-doping tests, stole the show.

But this time neither the low-profile Brunico raids, nor the news of needles, syringes and "more suspicious things" found outside a hotel in Cles could mess things up. The discussions weren’t about performance-enhancing substances at last. This year’s main topic were the latest perfomances of the men in lycra. And the Policemen and Carabinieris we saw were just busy having themselves photographed with the Petacchis, Cunegos and Simonis around, like any average fans. And happy at that.

This Festa Ciclistica consisted of two different legs, a short but difficult uphill Time Trial from Piazza Garibaldi to the top of the San Contardo Sanctuary climb (a damn gruelling ascent, with gradients well above 10 %), and 50 minutes plus two and half laps of a urban circuit in downtown Broni. Our walk over the San Contardo slopes, all the way to the top of the climb, told us more about the success the event enjoyed. While in the past years it was possible, though not so easy, to find “blank spaces” along the route, this time it was simply mission impossible. The crowd was everywhere.

And many had made their way to the finish line too, where all riders got a round of applause, but nobody, I say nobody, got a welcome like the one reserved for Damiano Cunego. Immediately after he crossed the line, finishing third in the ITT (won by Simoni in front of Intergiro winner Raffaele Illiano, with Codol and another guy with many fans, Yaroslav Popovych, completing the Top 5 places) the new idol of the cycling tifosi was surrounded by dozens of cameras, videocameras, paper sheets and every kind of pens. And of course, humans asking for a pic with them and/or an autograph. Never losing his smile, the 22-year-old from Verona showed that he knows how to deal with fans, and posed/signed autographs for a good five mins.

Then back down the San Contardo slopes, and into the Broni city centre, where one of the most spectacular and hard-fought circuits in the history of this contest was about to kick off. We walked back into town too, just in time to see the 40-strong peloton start rolling - and rocking - again.

The “Circuito degli Assi” got off to a fast and furious start, with the fastest (and one might say also most furious, after his Giro ended in such a fashion) rider being Gilberto Simoni. Giboman attacked in the very first lap, along with other riders like Lampre’s yellow Trentino Mariano Piccoli, Lorenzo Bernucci, Ivan Quaranta and others. The breakaway group soon put 15” into the bunch, led by a couple Alessios (Noé, Caucchioli), and Fassas (Velo, Codol, Sacchi) working for Ale-Jet also in this race. They closed the gap to the escapees, but not before Simoni outsprinted Ivan Quaranta and Mariano Piccoli to take the first traguardo volante at the 15-minute mark.

As it often happens in such events, one or more riders being caught means one of more others immediately counter-attacking. And this was no excpetion to the rule: as Gibo, the Cheetah and others were reeled in, Yaroslav Popovych made his move. Fast Freddy’s teammate Crescenzo D’Amore, veteran Marco Villa and Oscar Pozzi of Tenax joined him, while De Nardi’s Leonardo Giordani attcked the Saeco-led field and tried to bridge the gap to the leading quartet. The gold medallist in the World U23 World Championships five years ago succeeded, but so did more riders who joined the front group, among which was Fassa’s Fabio Sacchi. A fundamental wagon of Petacchi’s leadout machine, this time the Milanese sprinter had the chance to go for some personal glory (and for the basket of fruit offered by a local shop, one of the sponsors of the event) and won the 30-minute Hot Spot Sprint from Popovych.

But the situation was fluid: after the second "traguardo volante", more skirmishes split the field in three parts, with six frontrunners, a first chasing group containing as many riders, and the others further down. The new front group contained Petacchi, for once getting into a break, something he was no stranger to in his early years in the pro peloton, and even at the recent Giro he did it twice, though he stayed clear for a few mins only. Along with the best sprinter around were teammate Sacchi plus Codol, Tonti, Quaranta and Nicola Loda, with super-combative Simoni and Villa in the chasing bunch.

The peloton regrouped again around the 40-minute mark, but that’s when the race exploded, with lots of attacks, counterattacks, and moves that delighted the crowd coming in the last ten minutes. First it was Loda (again) and Renzo “serial escapee” Mazzoleni, but the Tenax duo was joined by other brave attackers, including last year’s World Under 23 Champion Sergey Lagutin of Uzbekistan. The LBK-Colnago neopro briefly chatted with us at Broni, and said that’s he's starting to notice the huge difference (in terms of both speed and racing style, tactics) between the amateur and the professional cycling scene. He’s not the first, and certainly won’t be the last rider to realize that.

But the 45-minute sprint (and another fruit basket of course) was won by Alessio’s Andrea Noé from Dario Andriotto and Mazzoleni. They were part of a five-strong break, chased by a “royal” group featuring Gilberto Simoni, Alessandro Petacchi and Damiano Cunego. But fans were on cloud nine after the successive solo attack by Simoni. Gibo opened a 100m gap, and the crowd was even happier when, after the five other escapees were swallowed, Alessandro Petacchi in person took charge of the chase, and a new small group formed, containing the Maglia Ciclamino, the Maglia Rosa, and Raffaele Illiano, the Maglia Blu.

At the 50 minute-mark, and when the two and a half closing laps began, the Cunego/Petacchi/Illiano bunch caught Simoni, and Broni exploded when Damiano had a go at a solo break in the penultimate lap. But the hopes of many to see him get another solo win were dashed as he got caught in the final lap, and the urban circuit ended with Petacchi putting forth another superb sprint, and crossing the line in front of Cunego and another Giro d’Italia star who graced Broni with his presence, Ukrainian Serhyi Honchar. But in times like this Cunego cannot help but finishing on the top of the podium for one reason or another, and even without taking first in either of the two events, the sum of the points he earned in each of the two legs turned Damiano into overall winner of the Broni Criterium 2004, with Alessandro Petacchi and De Nardi’s Honchar completing the GC Top 3. Then there was more and more more glory, cheers and applauses, pic and autographs, for all top finishers, and the other participants alike. And it all ended up with the customary “see you next year” salute.

Back to the Italian Criteriums main page.

San Contardo Uphill ITT - Results: Top 25 Places
1. Gilberto Simoni (Ita - Saeco) - 03’57” - 5 points
2. Raffaele Illiano (Ita - Colombia-Selle Italia) - 4 points
3. Damiano Cunego (Ita - Saeco) - 3 points
4. Massimo Codol (Ita - Fassa Bortolo) - 2 points
5. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr - Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) - 1 point
6. Franco Pellizotti (Ita - Alessio-Bianchi)
7. Mariano Piccoli (Ita - Lampre)
8. Marco Velo (Ita - Fassa Bortolo)
9. Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita - Saeco)
10. Andrea Noé (Ita - Alessio-Bianchi)
11. Leonardo Giordani (Ita - De Nardi)
12. Fabio Sacchi (Ita - Fassa Bortolo)
13. Paolo Lanfranchi (Ita - Ceramiche Panaria-Margres)
14. Serhyi Honchar (Ukr - De Nardi)
15. Sergey Avdyeyev (Ukr - Landbouwkrediet-Colnago)
16. Pietro Caucchioli (Ita - Alessio-Bianchi)
17. Volodymyr Bileka (Ukr - Landbouwkrediet-Colnago)
18. Andrea Tonti (Ita - Saeco)
19. Renzo Mazzoleni (Ita - Tenax)
20. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita - Fassa Bortolo)
21. Ellis Rastelli (Ita - Alessio-Bianchi)
22. Ruslan Gryshenko (Ukr - Landbouwkrediet-Colnago)
23. Sergey Lagutin (Uzb - Landbouwkrediet-Colnago)
24. Corrado Serina (Ita - Formaggi Pinzolo-Fiavé)
25. Ivan Quaranta (Ita - Formaggi Pinzolo-Fiavé)

Road Race/Criterium - Results: Top 25 Places
1. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita - Fassa Bortolo) - 51.45” (42.899 kph) - 10 points
2. Damiano Cunego (Ita - Saeco) - 9 points
3. Serhyi Honchar (Ukr - De Nardi) - 8 points
4. Marco Velo (Ita - Fassa Bortolo) - 7 points
5. Ivan Quaranta (Ita - Formaggi Pinzolo-Fiavé) - 6 points
6. Marco Villa (Ita - Formaggi Pinzolo-Fiavé) - 5 points
7. Mariano Piccoli (Ita - Lampre) - 4 points
8. Fabio Sacchi (Ita - Fassa Bortolo) - 3 points
9. Gilberto Simoni (Ita - Saeco) - 2 points
10. Andrea Noé (Ita - Alessio-Bianchi) - 1 point
11. Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita - Landbouwkrediet-Colnago)
12. Ellis Rastelli (Ita - Alessio-Bianchi)
13. Sergey Avdyeyev (Ukr - Landbouwkrediet-Colnago)
14. Raffaele Illiano (Ita - Colombia-Selle Italia)
15. Crescenzo D’Amore (Ita - Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo)
16. Franco Pellizotti (Ita - Alessio-Bianchi)
17. Massimo Codol (Ita - Fassa Bortolo)
18. Paolo Lanfranchi (Ita - Ceramiche Panaria-Margres)
19. Nicola Loda (Ita - Tenax)
20. Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita - Saeco)
21. Andrea Tonti (Ita - Saeco)
22. Scott Davis (Aus - Ceramiche Panaria-Margres)
23. Simone Cadamuro (Ita - De Nardi)
24. Pietro Caucchioli (Ita - Alessio-Bianchi)
25. Dario Andriotto (Ita - Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie)

6th Criterium Cittá di Broni: GC - Top 3 Places
1. Damiano Cunego (Ita - Saeco)
2. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita - Fassa Bortolo)
3. Serhyi Honchar (Ukr - De Nardi)



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