The 91st Giro d'Italia is over, but it's too early for many of protagonists to get a well-earned rest and take some time off to recover. While Alberto Contador was making a triumphal comeback to his own Madrid - and his hometown Pinto, where he was welcomed by some 3,000 fans wearing as many "Maglia Rosa" jerseys - most big names of the Italian contingent started to reap the fruits of the popularity they gained in their nation's Grand Tour, and challenged each other in the first "leg" of a string of post-Giro Criteriums. The opening bike fight was the Gran Premio Guffanti Formaggi-Coppa Fontaneto Ravioli
, running in the lakeside town of Arona, at the southern end of Lago Maggiore, in the Novara province of Piedmont. A crowd of about 20,000 tifosi
celebrated the Italian National Holiday (2nd of July, the "Festa della Repubblica") watching the two-leg event live on the spot Monday afternoon.
The Criterium consisted of an elimination race followed by a scratch race. The former was contested by 34 leg-owners. Daniele Bennati, Marzio Bruseghin and Alessandro Bertolini, all three guys enjoying the sweet, sweet taste of victory at the recent Giro, stole the show first with their attacks. Later on it was the turn of Franco Pellizotti, Alberto Ongarato and Emanuele Sella to burst into spotlight. But only four riders qualified for the last rush to the line: Franco Pellizotti, Danilo Di Luca, Emanuele Sella and Gilberto Simoni. "Goldilocks" took some redemption after missing the Tour of Italy podium by a mere two seconds, the LPR-Ballan team leader snatched the runner-up spot and the climbing star of the "Corsa Rosa", Veneto's own Sella, beat Gibo in the battle for third place.
The latter saw a flurry of attacks go since the early minutes, and Paolo Bettini as eventual winner. Alessandro Spezialetti, Marco Pinotti, Mirco Lorenzetto, Andrea Noè and Vincenzo Nibali started the fireworks, but the chasing job from the same Bettini as well as Daniele Bennati and Riccardo Riccò was not in vain. Once the peloton got together again, Danilo Di Luca gave it a shot a breaking away solo. His move was brought back with five laps to go, and followed by a similar attempt from Bettini in the last two laps. The Cricket didn't open a gap, but still he was the one with the quickest legs in the massive sprint and produced a superb finish to send all tifosi up to cloud nine and notably earn himself his first success of the season (okay, this is no prestigious Spring Classic, but something
is always better than nothing, isn't it?).
The Arona lakefront will be hosting more cycling events soon: the European U23 and Junior Championships (July 03 thru July 06), and the Gran Premio Nobili Rubinetterie pro race in early August. The post-Giro criterium circus are going to take a much earlier move eastward into Lombardy, whose Usmate town, on the outskirts of Milan, will be the battlefield of the Circuito Usmate-Velate - with also Yaroslav Popovych in attendance - on Tuesday evening.
Elimination Race: Results
1. Franco Pellizotti (Ita - Liquigas)
2. Danilo Di Luca (Ita -Team LPR-Ballan)
3. Emanuele Sella (Ita - CSF Group-Navigare)
4. Gilberto Simoni (Ita - Diquigiovanni-Androni)
5. Paolo Bettini (Ita - Quick Step)
6. Andrea Noè (Ita - Liquigas)
7. Alberto Ongarato (Ita - Team Milram)
8. Riccardo Ricco' (Ita - Saunier Duval)
9. Daniele Bennati (Ita - Liquigas)
10. Alessandro Bertolini (Ita - Diquigiovanni-Androni)
Scratch Race (34.5 km): Results
1. Paolo Bettini (Ita - Quick Step) - 48'02" (43.095 kph)
2. Gilberto Simoni (Ita - Diquigiovanni-Androni)
3. Riccardo Ricco' (Ita - Saunier Duval)
4. Daniele Bennati (Ita - Liquigas)
5. Alberto Ongarato (Ita - Team Milram)
6. Giovanni Visconti (Ita - Quick Step)
7. Emanuele Sella (Ita - CSF Group-Navigare)
8. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita - Lampre)
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita - Liquigas)
10. Danilo Di Luca (Ita - Team LPR-Ballan)