57th Coppa Agostoni
Casagrande powers away
The Coppa Ugo Agostoni is the second race of the Trittico Lombardo ("Lombard Trilogy"), held every summer in NW Lombardia, (Italy), coming between the Tre Valli Varesine (won by Di Luca) and the Coppa Bernocchi (the latter is going to be held tomorrow).
The race is organized by the Societa' Ciclistica Mobili Lissone (a cycling team sponsored by a furniture firm, as furniture, together with pollution and great riders such as Saronni and Bugno, is one of the main products of this area called Brianza, which lies just to the NW of Milan). And it is dedicated to the local rider Ugo Agostoni, who won the Milan-San Remo in 1914 with the impressive time of 10h32'32" (sensational average speed of this rocket man: 24,822 km/h). Curiously, also an Aussie named Donald Kirkham (who was the first English-speaking human being to take part in the Tour de France) participated in that edition, taking an honourable 9th place.
The "Coppa Agostoni" starts and finishes in the town of Lissone, the route is a circuit, to be repeated many times, which includes two hard climbs: the Sirtori and especially the Lissolo (2.5 km., average gradient 8%, but max. gradient 18%). Maybe the ones who followed the live coverage of the Italian National Championships in July 2002 might remember those names, as the circuit is the same.
In spite of being the hardest race of the illustrious trio of races , it is also the race that has a reputation for great solo efforts . Last year veterans Gianni Faresin (Gerolsteiner), born on the 16/7/1965 in Marostica, Italy, and a professional since 1988, and “new boy” Laurent Jalabert (30/1/1968 - and a mere novice compared to Gianni, turning professional in 1989) rolled back the years for yet another day of glory under the sunny Lombardy skies. But although these two greats were away for around 100 kilometres it is Giovanni Battaglin ride of 1979 when he was solo for around 180 kilometres which is still fondly remembered .
So on what is always a hard days racing (of the 164 who started in the morning only 27 will finish ) the odds are stacked against Di Luca. Nobody has ever won two races in the series in the same year . Yet the “killer” and his Saeco team are in confident mood and after neutralising the early attacks it is Di Luca and Saeco team mate Pugaci, , Casagrande (Lampre) , Mason (Caldirola), Nocentini (Formaggi), Popovych (LBK Colnago) and Montgomery (Fassa Bortolo) who make the break .
With 60 kilometres to go on the wicked twisting slopes of the Lissolo Casagrande put the hammer down and only Di Luca was able to respond . With Popovych, Mason, Moreni, Giunti and Strauss leading the chase .
History , however , was against Di Luca and with 35 kilometres to go Di Luca found himself unable to hold Casagrandes wheel . The man from Firenze , opened a gap and kept going , gradually building a lead of well over a minute .
When the Lampre rider crossed the line he was celebrating his 50th career victory ( his first being in 1992 in the Trofeo Matteotti )
Lampre were naturally delighted as their press release shows-
Thanks to a real feat(60 km of sprinting,first in the company of Di Luca,then 35 in action alone,immersed in the oppresive heat) Francesco Casagrande has given an ancore of his victory in this the 57th Ugo Agostoni cup,giving Lampre the gift of it’s 19th seasonal victory and his 4th personal.
-As for Casagrande we can say that he is really a man of his word..on the eve of the race he infact promised to launch an all out attack in this race.
-"I searched for the victory that I badly wanted,at the half way point we remained in few,the last stretch on ‘Lissolo’ I gave it my maximum,when Di Luca dropped back we still had one ‘giro’to go,behind me were 5 following .I never had fear of being caught,a course such as this one you win by natural selection.today I had no problems,everthing went smoothly."
-On the finishing line at Lissone,waiting to greet the triumphant rider with arms held high,was the Patron,Emanuele Galbusera,the Lampre Team President.
-"I dedicate this victory to our sponser,my wife and my daughter Camilla,and hope to win many more races."
Casagrande and friend
1. Francesco CASAGRANDE (Ita, Lampre) km 199 in 4'56'22", average 40.389.
2. Christian Moreni (Ita, Alessio) a 1'27"
3. Oscar Mason (Ita, Vini Caldirola-So.Di) s.t.
4. Giunti (Ita) s.t.
5. Strauss (Svi) s.t.
6. Popovych (Ucr) s.t.
7. Hamburger (Dan) a 2'22"
8. Mazzanti (Ita) s.t.
9. Szonn (Ger) a 2'56"
10. A. Bertolini (Ita) a 3'05"
1996: Fil. Casagrande
2000: Ullrich (Ger)
2001: Fra. Casagrande
2002: L. Jalabert (Fra)
2003: Fra. Casagrande