The 32-year-old rider Alessandro Bertolini of Alessio-Bianchi soloed to victory in Thursday's stage 3 of Giro della Provincia di Lucca, from Lucca to Castelvecchio Pascoli over 162 km., which took place in rainy weather. The man from the Trentino region of northern Italy also is the new overall leader of the Tuscan race, set to finish tomorrow.
A race that lost most of its participants anyway: due to the combination of bad weather and a demanding parcours containing plenty of ascents, and notably descents made more dangerous by the rain, the peloton opted for taking it easy. Perhaps a bit too easy, as the bunch reached the finish line for the first time ... 34 minutes after Bertolini had finished the stage. For the first time meaning that ... they still had one lap of the 29-km. final circuit to cover!!
Such that, also taking into consideration the fact they couldn't keep the roads closed to traffic for a long time in a working day, race boss Carmine Castellano and the other organizers made the decision to declare the bunch "outside time limit" and exclude them all from the contest.
As a consequence, only 18 riders will be at the startline of tomorrow's ultimate stage. Just another bizarre thing cycling here in Italy offered in this early season, after the stage cancellation turned into whole race cancellation turned into the combination of a kinda kermesse and a one-day race that marked the "Giro della Liguria" two weeks ago.
How in unfolded
A hundred and sixty riders (more than 140 of which will be later excluded from the race) took the startline in Lucca at 11:26 AM local time, but among them was not Angelo Furlan (Alessio-Bianchi), and neither Paolo Tiralongo (Panaria-Margres), Spain's Juan Manuel Garate (Lampre) and Aitor Hernández Gutiérrez (Team L.P.R-Piacenza Management).
The stage got off to a hectic start, with several skirmishes coming right from the gun. Eight km. into the race, eleven riders went on the attack, and were soon joined by eight more eascappes: the 19-strong leading bunch contained Giuseppe Palumbo (Ita - Acqua & Sapone-Caffé Mokambo), Vladimir Miholjevic (Cro - Alessio-Bianchi), Ellis Rastelli (Ita) and Thomas Ziegler (Ger - Gerolsteiner), Florent Brard (Fra) and Jurgen van der Walle (Bel - Chocolade Jacques-Wincor Nixdorf), Leonardo Giordani (Ita - De Nardi), Francesco Secchiari (Ita - Domina Vacanze), Marco Velo (Ita - Fassa Bortolo), Carlos DaCruz and Nicolas Vogondy (Fra - FDJeux.com), Daniele Righi (Ita - Lampre), U23 World Champion Sergey Lagutin (Uzb - Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), Nicola Gavazzi (Ita - Saeco), Bekim Christensen and Brian Vandborg (Den - Team CSC), Elio Aggiano (Ita - Team LPR-Piacenza), Dean Podgornik (Slo - Tenax) and Marco Milesi (Ita - Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie).
Belgian Philippe Gilbert (FDJeux.com) tried to get acrosss to join the leaders, but didn't succeed and was soon absorbed by the bunch. The 19 escapees held a maximum lead of 01'20" by the km. 25 mark, but when the race hit the Perpoli climb for the first time, and after Sven Montgomery (Swi - Gerolsteiner).pulled out of the race, the chasers closed the gap, and soon after the top of the climb the break was neutralised.
Combative Croat Vladimir Miholjevic launched another attacked though, and was followed by team-mate Bertolini as well as Kyrylo Pospyeyev (Ukr - Acqua & Sapone - Caffè Mokambo), the aforementioned Brard, Secchiari, Vogondy, Ziegler, Gavazzi and Podgornik, plus Emanuele Sella (Ita - Panaria-Margres), Matteo Tosatto (Ita - Fassa Bortolo), Gabriele Balducci (Ita - Saeco), Nicki Sorensen (Den - Team CSC), and Oscar Pozzi (Ita - Tenax). answer.
The 14 escapees hit the finish line at Castelvecchio Pascoli for the first time, with a lead of 45"over a quartet that broke away from the rest of the bunch, and featured Igor Pugaci (Mol - De Nardi), Przemyslaw Niemec (Pol - Miche), Elio Aggiano and Russian veteran Pavel Tonkov (Vini Caldirola - Nobili Rubinetterie).
The gap to main bunch went up quickly, while the four-strong chasing group didn't give up: by the km. 73 mark the front-runners were leading Tonkov and the three others by 01'24", while the peloton was trailing the leaders by 08'30". Podgornik and Gavazzi had a hard time when tackling the Perpoli climb for the second time; but while the Saeco rider was struggling to stay with the leaders, the Slovene was caught and dropped by Poland's Niemec. At the top of the climb (km 95): the dozen front-runners were leading Gavazzi (who will join the breakaway group in the following descent) by 10", and Niemec by 48", with Pugaci, Tonkov, Aggiano and Podgornik 01'13" back, and the main bunch at 15'50".
The "Tonkov quartet" regained Niemec's wheels (although Pugaci had a flat soon later and got dropped) and when the 13-strong break hit the second passage of the finish line (km. 108) Niemec, Podgornik, Tonkov and Aggiano were 50" back, Pugaci (that will bridge tha gap to the Tonkov group soon anyay) 01'02" behind, and the group shamefully 18'57" back. In the descent into Fornaci di Barga the leading bunch was reduced to nine riders only, after Brard (because of a crash) Secchiari, Vogondy and Sorensen got dropped.
The situation at the beginning of the third ascent into Perpoli saw those nine guys in the lead, with the first chasing group 45" back, and the "Tonkov quintet" at 01'38". But while Gavazzi was one more time struggling to stay with the best ones, CSC's Nicki Sorensen bridged the gap and rejoined the leaders, and Podgornik couldn't stay on the wheels of Tonkov and the other chasers. The ten front-runners (Miholjevic, Pospyeyev, Bertolini, neopro Sella, Tosatto, Ziegler, Balducci, Pozzi, Sorensen and Gavazzi) got to the top of the climb with a 01'45" lead over Brard, Secchiari and Vogondy, with Tonkov, Aggiano, Niemec and Pugaci just 10 seconds back (the two groups were going to merge into a seven-strong chasing bunch soon later), Podgornik trailing by four minutes, and the main bunch (of tourists ?) ... at 28'45".
In the following descent into Castelvecchio, Bertolini made his winning move and distanced himself from the rest of the front group. When the Alessio-Bianchi rider hit the line at Castelvecchio for the penultimate time, he was leading the nine chasers by 47", with Tonkov and the other six riders 02'53" back. Nicola Gavazzi, son of one of the best Italian sprinters of the 80s, didn't have a easy ride at all today; after struggling to follow the wheels of the leaders close to each time he hit the Perpoli climb, the man was forced to ride hard to regain the bunch after he crashed during the last lap. But even this time he succeeded.
In the meantime, with 25k to the line, Bertolini had extended the gap to a comfortable 02'08" (and 05'25" over the "Tonkov group"). The chasing peloton splintered when tackling Perpoli for the last time, and with just 13k. to go the boy in Alessio's red and blue colors was leading Germany's Thomas Ziegler by 02'35", with Sorensen, Miholjevic and Tosatto twenty seconds behind them, young gun Emanuele Sella at 03'10" and the rest further behind. And in the end nobody could keep the man from Trentino from taking a well-earned win and the race leadership at the same time.
Stage 3 (Lucca-Castelvecchio Pascoli, 162 km.) - Full Results
1. Alessandro Bertolini (Ita - Alessio-Bianchi) - 04h11'58" (38.576 kph)
2. Thomas Ziegler (Ger - Gerolsteiner) - at 01'47"
3. Matteo Tosatto (Ita - Fassa Bortolo) - at 02'47"
4. Vladimir Miholjevic (Cro - Alessio-Bianchi) - s.t.
5. Nicki Sorensen (Den - Team CSC) - at 02'52"
6. Gabriele Balducci (Ita - Saeco) - at 03'15"
7. Emanuele Sella (Ita - Panaria-Margres) - at 03'48"
8. Nicola Gavazzi (Ita - Saecco) - at 06'11"
9. Kurylo Pospyeyev (Ukr - Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) - at 06'34"
10. Oscar Pozzi (Ita - Tenax) - at 08'02"
11. Francesco Secchiari (Ita - Domina Vacanze) - at 08'20"
12. Elio Aggiano (Ita - Team LPR-Piacenza M.) - at 08'24"
13. Florent Brard (Fra - FDJeux.com) - at 08'29"
14. Pavel Tonkov (Rus - Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie) - at 08'31"
15. Nicolas Vogondy (Fra - FDJeux.com) - at 08'33"
16. Przemyslaw Niemec (Pol - Miche) - at 08'34"
17. Igor Pugaci (Mol - De Nardi) - at 13'02"
18. Dean Podgornik (Slo - Tenax) - at 16'16"
GC after Stage 3
1. Alessandro Bertolini (Ita - Alessio-Bianchi) - 12h52'13"
2. Thomas Ziegler (Ger - Gerolsteiner) - at 01'47"
3. Matteo Tosatto (Ita - Fassa Bortolo) - at 02'54"
4. Vladimir Miholjevic (Cro - Alessio-Bianchi) - at 02'58"
5. Nicki Sorensen (Den - Team CSC) - at 03'02"
6. Gabriele Balducci (Ita - Saeco) - at 03'25"
7. Emanuele Sella (Ita - Panaria-Margres) - at 03'58"
8. Nicola Gavazzi (Ita - Saecco) - at 06'21"
9. Kurylo Pospyeyev (Ukr - Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) - at 06'44"
10. Oscar Pozzi (Ita - Tenax) - at 08'12"
11. Francesco Secchiari (Ita - Domina Vacanze) - at 08'30"
12. Elio Aggiano (Ita - Team LPR-Piacenza M.) - at 08'34"
13. Florent Brard (Fra - FDJeux.com) - at 08'39"
14. Pavel Tonkov (Rus - Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie) - at 08'41"
15. Nicolas Vogondy (Fra - FDJeux.com) - at 08'43"
16. Przemyslaw Niemec (Pol - Miche) - at 08'44"
17. Igor Pugaci (Mol - De Nardi) - at 13'12"
18. Dean Podgornik (Slo - Tenax) - at 18'34"
Spotlight on the winner
Born in Rovereto (Trento province), Italy, on July 27, 1971, Alessandro Bertolini turned professional in 1993 with the Carrera-Tassoni team. He moved to Brescialat in 1996, then to MG Technogym (1997), Cofidis (1998) and Mobilvetta (1999). In the year 2000 he signed with Alessio, the team he's still racing for (although the current name is Alessio-Bianchi). His career wins, today's included, are as follows:
1996: Euskal Bizikleta/Bicicleta Vasca - 1 Stage
1996: Trofeo dello Stretto
1997: Tour of Sardinia - 1 Stage
1999: Schnyberg Rundfahrt
2000: Tour of Austria - 1 Stage
2001: Circuito de Getxo
2002: Vuelta a Burgos KOM Classification
2003: Giro del Piemonte (report here)
2004: Giro delle Provincia di Lucca - 1 Stage
Update: Due to reduced number of riders that are going to take the start tomorrow, the fourth and final stage of "Giro della provincia di Lucca", from Castelnuovo Garfagnana to Altopascio, has been shortened by two laps of the final circuit (32.2 km.), such that the actual distance to be covered will be no more than 145.8 km.; the stage start has been delayed too (by 45 minutes), as riders will get on their bikes at 11:30 AM local time.