France's Frédéric Bessy (Cofidis), won on Sunday afternoon the second race held on Swiss soil in as many days, the UCI-1.3 sanctioned Gran Premio di Lugano, run over a 160-km. distance, and consisting of 10 laps of a urban circuit in Switzerland's main Italian-speaking town.
The frenchman was the fastest in a three-man sprint ahead of his two breakaway mates, teammate and fellow countryman David Moncoutié and Croatia's Vladimir Miholjevic, who came close to give Alessio-Bianchi, the team of yesterday's GP Chiasso winner Franco Pellizotti and Friday's Giro di Lucca overall champion Alessandro Bertolini, their third success in as many days.
One of main favourites to take the win, Gerolsteiner's Marcus Zberg, was the top Swiss finisher as he came in fourth at 34", followed by Spaniard Rubén Lobato Elvira (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Poland's Przemyslaw Niemec (Miche). His brother and teammate Beat did the same in the next three-strong bunch.
Italian riders did not dominate the race the way they did at Chiasso 24 hours before, and the only Top 10 finisher from the neighboring country was Acqua & Sapone's Rinaldo Nocentini.
Press Release courtesy Navigators Insurance Cycling Team
The 2nd round of the opening week of the Swiss racing calendar was held today on the challenging and picturesque world-championship road course in Lugano, Switzerland. Again, the riders were greeted to chilling cold temperatures (34-f) as they embarked on a 16Km course of 10-laps for a total of 160Km of climbing and descending, adjacent to lake Lugano.
192 riders took the start, but by the end of lap three, probably 40 had already abandoned due to the difficulty of the course and the speed of the peloton. With a KOM sprint on 8 of the 10 laps, each ascent of the main climb, a short, steep rise of 200-meters, saw aggressive action. By lap-3, a group of 6 followed by a group of 22 had separated themselves from the main peloton and went over the top with a gap. The Navigators team had four in the front; Chris Baldwin, Kirk O'Bee, David McKenzie and Mark Walters. Over the next two laps, the pattern remained the same; a small group of riders followed by a larger chasing group, with the quickly diminishing main pack not far behind, but still fighting.
First it was McKenzie representing the Navigators squad in the breakaway, then Baldwin, followed by O'Bee. The 7-man combination containing O'Bee was the one that finally worked. Kirk, Christophe Edaleine (Cofidis), Mauro Zinetti (Vini Caldirola), Dmitriy Muravyev (Credit Agricole), Marcus Zberg (Gerolsteiner), Vladimir Miholjevic (Alessio), and Przemyslaw Niemec (Miche) worked well together to put over 2-minutes on the peloton in the next 3 laps. The chase going on behind was less well-oiled as riders were dropped from the first chase group, while several riders were able to bridge from the main pack, up to the chasers.
The tide changed with only 4-laps remaining as the Saeco team was able to mount a coordinated effort to reel in the 7 breakaway riders. The peloton had long cracked and were already in the showers by the time the 20-rider Saeco-led group had closed to within 50-seconds of the leaders. Kirk O'Bee and his 6 companions continued to fight, holding the chasers at bay by only 45-50 seconds for almost 3 laps. On the penultimate trip up the main climb, the leaders began to attack just as several chasers attacked from their own group. The race changed completely in the span of about 3Km as blown-out breakaway riders struggled to stay in front, as fresher riders laid it all on the line with one huge effort.
Over the top, down the opposite side and through the wind-swept river valley, two groups of three formed the lead group of 6. Three members of the original break survived (Miholjevic, Zberg and Nimec) and were joined by the 2003 race winner David Moncoutie and Frederick Bessy (both Cofidis), and Ruben Lobato (Saunier-Duval). The 6 raced for the final 16Km lap as The remaining racers limped and struggled in small groups of 2-4 over the closing kilometers. At the line, it was Bessy, Moncoutie and Miholjevic, with the others just behind.
Following his 128Km breakaway effort, a very drained Kirk O'Bee came in with a group of 4, but remained unclassified" as of press time. As the early-season racing rolls into March, the Navigators squad is beginning to show good form and depth of strength.
Grand Prix Lugano (160 km.): Top 10 Places
1. Frédéric Bessy (Fra - Cofidis) - 04h22'40"
2. David Moncoutié (Fra - Cofidis) - s.t.
3. Vladimir Miholjevic (Cro - Alessio-Bianchi) - s.t.
4. Marcus Zberg (Swi - Gerolsteiner) - at 34"
5. Rubén Lobato Elvira (Spa - Saunier Duval-Prodir) - s.t.
6. Przemyslaw Niemec (Pol - Miche) - s.t.
7. Beat Zberg (Swi - Gerolsteiner) - at 01'10"
8. Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus - Domina Vacanze) - s.t.
9. Alexandre Botcharov (Rus - Crédit Agricole) - s.t.
10. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita - Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) - at 02'04"