Revenge, sweet revenge, part three. After the wins at Giro dell'Emilia (September 28) and a Tour of Lucca stage (October 2), Fassa-Bortolo's Michele Bartoli replied to his exclusion from the Italian National Team with a further triumph, this time in Milano-Torino, the opnenig race of the "Trittico" ("trilogy") marking the end of the road cycling season in Italy.
The 32-year-old Tuscan edged out Oscar Camenzind (Switzerland - Phonak) and fellow Italian Gabriele Missaglia (Lampre) to take the 199-km-long contest going from Novate Milanese all the way to Turin's "Fausto Coppi" track. Other WC absentees were in spotlight today, as Davide Rebellin (Ita - Gerolsteiner)added one more placing to his palmares by taking fourth, ahead of Lampre's Marco Serpellini
The race was off to a fast start, with Dutchman Braam de Groot (Rabobank) going clear after 18 km. Twenty-two kilometres later Italy's Gualdi started a solo chase of the leader, but instead of bridging the gap he was reeled in by km. 95.
De Groot's lead went up to a maximum of 11"15, but his solo breakaway was over by km. 160, when he was swallowed by the peloton after staying clear for 142 km.
Then an impressive series of attacks came, featuring the likes of former MTB star Michael Rasmussen (Denmark - CSC), Britain's David Millar (Cofidis) and Spain's Juan Antonio Flecha (iBanesto.com), and other riders including Michele Bartoli. A 6-strong breakaway group formed, containing the Tuscan as well as Gilberto Simoni, Sergio Barbero, Joseba Beloki, Francesco Casagrande and Manolo Beltrán, but they all were brought back by the peloton with 10 km. to go.
Further attacks came, from Barbero (again), Fontanelli, Ivan Basso (Fassa), Denmark's Bo Hamburger (Index-Alexia) and Lampre's Italian Gabriele Missaglia.
Mercatone Uno's Fabiano Fontanelli made a seemingly successful move in the final descent into Turin, when he attacked and opened a 7" gap on the rest. A gap that, with just 1 km. to go, could have been enough for the 37-year-old to clinch another victory after his recent overall triumph at Giro di Lucca. But the unlucky guy crashed right after getting into the velodrome, leaving room to the sprint eventually won by Bartoli.
RESULTS(Top 10 & Selected riders):
1. Michele Bartoli (Ita - Fassa-Bortolo) in 4h37'44" (42,991 km/h)
2. Oskar Camenzind (Swi - Phonak Hearing Systems) - s.t.
3. Gabriele Missaglia (Ita - Lampre-Daikin) - s.t.
4. Davide Rebellin (Ita - Gerolsteiner) - s.t.
5. Marco Serpellini (Ita - Lampre-Daikin) - s.t.
6. Gerhard Trampusch (Aut - Saeco-Longoni Sport) - s.t.
7. Fabrizio Guidi (Ita - Team Coast) - s.t.
8. Peter Luttenberger (Aut - Tacconi Sport) - s.t..
9. Alessandro Guerra (Ita - Index-Alexia) - s.t..
10. David Millar (GBR - Cofidis) - s.t.
15. Francesco Casagrande (Ita - Fassa-Bortolo) - s.t.
19. Gilberto Simoni (Ita - Saeco-Longoni Sport) - s.t.
27. Ivan Basso (Ita - Fassa-Bortolo) - s.t.
52. Danilo Di Luca (Ita - Saeco-Longoni Sport) - at 1'08"
86. Mirko Celestino (Ita - Saeco-Longoni Sport) - at 2'07"
145. Franco Pellizotti (Ita - Alessio) - at 9'40"
151. Gianluca Bortolami (Ita Tacconi Sport) - s.t.
190 Starters , 172 finishers.
Tomorrow (Thursday), time for the second race of the "trilogy": the "Giro del Piemonte", with an unusual route going from Novi Ligure a Casale Monferrato over 193 km. and passing through the land of Costante Girardengo and Fausto Coppi, we'll talk further of the "Campionissimo" in the next weeks, with a special report coming here on the Daily Peloton.
POST - RACE INTERVIEW (with the winner of course). In past years, and in similar circumstances, you might have expected Bartoli to start complaining about how unfair his exclusion from the national team was, his misfortunes etc. But seems that after his move to Fassa-Bortolo, about one year ago, the man a bit too accustomed to complaining and quarreling with teammates has left room to a more calm and serene Bartoli.
A Michele Bartoli that avoided regretting his exclusion and stirring polemics with Ballerini even before Sunday's race. A Michele Bartoli who, on Wednesday, preferred talking about his victory and plans for the future rather than answering to the "tricky", World Championship-related questions coming from a few journalists.
"I never had many regrets about not going to Zolder. Never. All I'm thinking about is just doing well my job. " the warrior said. And continued by talking of his current good condition "I think being in a good form now is quite normal, after the crash at the Giro and relative injuries forced me out of competition during the summer. You know, after a 3-month stop you need some races".
And one of the next races (the most important for sure) is Saturday's "Giro di Lombardia". Last year, in a rainy and foggy day, Bartoli had some troubles in the final part of the World Cup competition and couldn't have his say. But this time, with a such a good form supporting him, things might go differently. "I hope I'll be able to compete for victory, which is the only thing that really matters in such races".
And the "Daily Peloton" will follow the ride of Bartoli (and all other contenders) in our special coverage of the Tour of Lombardy.