GP Industria & Commercio di Prato (UCI 1.2): Ukraine's Vladimir Duma (Panaria-Fiordo) sprinted to victory at the end of an exciting race, featuring big names particularly active and eager to show off their good condition before the coming Worlds, and other, unlucky ones crashing and going to hospital.
The "breakaway type" I mentioned is no less than Michele Bartoli, the "Warrior" attacked many a time and spent about 130 kms. in breakaways before being definitively caught. The unlucky big name instead is Bartoli's former teammate Andrea Tafi of Mapei-Quick Step, who crashed in the early part of the race, along with Michele Gobbi (De Nardi-Pasta Montegrappa), Manuel Quinziato (Lampre-Daikin) and Dutchman Marc Lotz (Rabobank), and was taken to hospital in Empoli with a fractured check-bone, and a chin wound requiring ten stitches.
Back to race narrative now: on the San Baronto ascent Michele Bartoli (Ita - Fassa Bortolo) launched his first attack, and got to the top of the climb with a 12" gap on a chasing trio made up of Ukraine's Yaroslav Popovych (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), Tuscan-British Max Sciandri (Lampre-Daikin) and Spain's Rafael Mateos Pérez of Team Colpack-Astro.
All escapees were brought back in the following descent, but then a 10-strong leading group formed, gaining 15" on fourteen chasers, 48" of a further bunch of some 30 riders, 1'15" on a third group and 1'45" on the last pack. Among the ten brave escapees was once again Bartoli, apparently wishing to prove he deserves a place in Italian team for the Worlds. Indeed the riders list for the Elite Men's Road Race will be made public by national coach Franco Ballerini the next Monday, after the coming races Coppa Sabatini, Giro dell'Emilia and Gp Beghelli (former Milano-Vignola).
The other nine riders were German Jan Bratowski (Cage Maglierie), Bartoli's teammate Petito (Fassa Bortolo), Sciandri, Popovych and his teammate Bernucci (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), Luca Scinto (Mapei-Quick Step), Massimiliano Mori (Mercatone Uno), and the Colpack-Astro duo made up of Leonardo Giordani (combative and unlucky in Saturday's Giro del Lazio) and Rafael Mateos Pérez.
At the km. 114 mark, the 14 chasers were reeled in by the main peloton, now 2'14" down on the leaders. As soon as the Carmignano ascent began, Bartoli made another move, followed by Scinto and soon later joined by Sciandri, Bernucci, Mateos Pérez and Bratowski too. The Carmignano climb was part of a circuit to be repeated four times, and at the start of the final lap the leading group (Bartoli, Bernucci, Bratowski, Scinto and Mateos Pérez) had just a 40" gap on the main bunch, with Radaelli and Jalabert working hard at the front.
Once again thanks mainly to Jaja's efforts, the chase was successful and the peloton regrouped as soon as the final descent started. With 15 km. to go a new attack came, this time from the TdF best young rider Ivan Basso (Fassa-Bortolo) and Belgian veteran Ludo Dierckxens; but they were swallowed by the bunch quite soon. The Lampre-Daikin Flemish tried again with 5 km. to the finishing line, but his attempt was vain.
With 3 km. to go it was the turn of Mapei's Luca Paolini: he attacked, with only fellow Italian Devis Miorin (De Nardi-Pasta Montegrappa) trying to stay on his wheel, but getting dropped immediately. Paolini instead managed to put some metres on the peloton, but like Leonardo Giordani (curiously Paolini was runner-up when Giordani won the U23 World Road Title in Veneto 3 years ago ...) on Saturday, he was caught in the very final part of the race.
Time for a bunch sprint, time for Ukrainian Vladimir Duma to take the sixth win so far in his career as a professional rider (but the first one in the last two years), ahead of an Alessio duo: Ferrigato and Casagranda. Good placings also for Fontanelli (his second excellent result in three days) and last Saturday's winner Paolo Bettini.
RESULTS - TOP 20 PLACES:
1. Vladimir DUMA (UKr - Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo) 199.5 km. in 4h25'14" (45,130 km/h)
2. Andrea Ferrigato (Ita - Alessio) - s.t.
3. Stefano Casagranda (Ita - Alessio) - s.t.
4. Fabiano Fontanelli (Ita - Mercatone Uno) - s.t.
5. Serge Baguet (Bel - Lotto-Adecco) - s.t.
6. Paolo Bettini (Ita - Mapei-Quick Step) - s.t.
7. Dmitri Konyshev (Rus - Fassa Bortolo) - s.t.
8. Sergei Lelekin (Rus - Cage Maglierie) - s.t.
9. Vladimir Smirnov (Lit - Team Colpack-Astro) - s.t.
10. Gabriele Missaglia (Ita - Lampre-Daikin). - s.t.
11. Jan Bratkowski (Ger - Cage Maglierie) - s.t.
12. Matteo Carrara (Ita - Team Colpack Astro) - s.t.
13. Mauro Radaelli (Ita - Tacconi Sport) - s.t.
14. Marco Serpellini (Ita - Lampre-Daikin) - s.t.
15. Kim Kirchen (Lux - Fassa-Bortolo) - s.t.
16. Giuseppe Palumbo (Ita - De Nardi-Pasta Montegrappa) - s.t.
17. Ruggero Marzoli (Ita - Formaggi Trentini) - s.t.
18. Bo Hamburger (Den - Index-Alexia) - s.t.
19. Igor Pugaci (Mda - Saeco-Longoni Sport) - s.t.
20. Fredy González Martínez (Col - Colombia-Selle italia) . - s.t.