... and the other one is that Saturday was his 23rd birthday. And what a better gift the man from the Milanese town of Concorezzo could ask for than winning the 22nd Trofeo Pina e Mario Bazzigaluppi/52nd Giro della Lomellina race for Elite-2 and Under 23 riders, organized by the GSC Viris Vigevano Eurothermo Fiat Isauto team, and held Saturday, May 15 2004, on the flat roads (but with 5 laps of a demanding circuit of 17 km.) of Southwestern Lombardy? The former U23 National ITT Championship gold medallist got a prestigious success at the end of a very hectic race, that took a truly different turn than expected, with several of the main favourites to take the win, mainly sprinters, never being real protagonists, and being stolen the show by the fighting attitude of other presumed darkhorses, many of them coming from nearby Switzerland.
It all began at 11:05 AM local time, as a multinational field of 131 rolled out of the Northern Italian town of Vigevano in sunny weather conditions. A field that contained riders from Italy, Russia, Switzerland, Poland and Australia: the five Aussies of the AIS Mapei Aqua team at the startline were Ryan Sullivan, Aaron Kemps, coming from a recent win at Coppa Cittá diAsti that turned him into one of the favourites to win this race too, David Kemp, Richard Moffat and Bernard Sulzberger.
The five musketeers from Oz
The three Swiss teams in the race (Team Fidi BC COM, GS Hadimeg and notably the GSIII Saeco-Romer’s Wetzikon squad) immediately showed that they were not here as tourists. It took less than a couple kms. for 22-year-old Swiss Jimmy Tapparel, from the well-known ski resort of Sankt Moritz, to make the first break in the event, along with an Italian rider. The two were soon joined by Tapparel’s teammate Daniel Gysling and Damian Reichlein from GS Hadimec. It took a couple more km. for the bunch to bring them back, but it took even less for more attacks to come, with Australian David Kemp as one one the main protagonists, along with close to all members of Saeco-Roemer’s Wetzikon, that either got into the successive breakaway(s) or the chasing groups.
As the race was heading for the westernmost part of the Pavia province, a bunch of 11 brave riders formed up front, containing Australian institute of Sport’s David Kemp as well as Massimiliano Caccin of Ceramiche Pagnoncelli (the orange-clad team was looking for a fourth straight win in as many editions), Giordano Montanari of the local team GSC Viris Vigevano plus Ettore Rizzi (Velo Club Sport Rho 1949), Marco Merloni of Team Sicilia Bocca di Falco and Marco Segat of Team Friuli Sanvitese Fiamme Azzurre. Plus the “Swiss armada” of course, with five guys in the break: Saeco’s Tapparel (again), Stefan Naegelin and Simon Zahner, GS Hedmieg’s Patrick Gassman and Team Fidi’s Gregory Morand. Behind the 11-strong front group, a chasing bunch of 15-20 guys formed, with another Australian, Ryan Sullivan of Evandale, Tasmania, among them.
The average speed after the first hour of racing was 44.300 kph. As the race hit the town of Lomello, after 50 kms, the gap between the front bunch and the chasers was hovering around 01’10”, with the main peloton, including most big names (among which were reigning champion Paride Grillo, as well as Zoccorinese’s Daniele Callegarin and Resine Ragnoli-Feralpi’s Mattia Gavazzi) trailing by 02’50”.
The escapees took more time into the chasers, with the gap increasing to 01’20” by km. 54 and 01’40” about 3 kms later. The peloton was still some 02'50” back. The chasing bunch broke apart in the following kms, as while they were losing more and more time to the leaders, and the main bunch were closing in, some of the chasers thought the situation wasn’t that good for them, and attacked, while others were being absorbed by the main peloton.
With the 11 escapees still firmly in the lead, the situation was much more hectic behind, with lots of skirmishes and a group of a about a dozen riders forming as the race hit the first of five laps of a circuit in the “green” countryside of Parco del Ticino. An undulated route with narrow roads that made for aspaccagambe (literally: “leg-breaking”) circuit, with the short but gruelling ascent at San Biagio making things even harder. But the route going up and down was not the only danger of the circuit: one could also have a flat, just like it happened to David Bevilacqua of Team Friuli Fiamme Azzurre, one of the riders that embarked on a chase of the eleven leaders in the first lap of the circuit, but punctured early on descent and had all of his hopes dashed.
Bevilacqua, but not Bevi .. lucky
In the following laps, riders in the main bunch kept losing time to both the escapees and the first chasing peloton. With almost every team represented in those two groups, no wonder that close to no-one in the main pack wanted to take the chase into their hands. They all were going to pull out of the race in the last two-three laps of the circuit. Six-seven more riders had a last attempt at bridging the gap (to the first chasers at least) from behind, and stayed in the saddle a little longer, but they were not going to finish the race either. Things took a different turn for the pursuers, who brought the gap to the 11 frontrunners down to 01’10” by km. 110, and some 50” a dozen kms later.
It was clear that the two groups were going to merger, and that’s what actually happened during the penultimate lap of the “Parco del Ticino circuit” (that was not the final circuit anyway, as those still in contention also had to head for finish line at Vigevano). But Saeco’s Jimmy Tapparel didn’t seem to appreciate that, and rode away, from the “unified” bunch putting some 30 secs into the rest.
Hadimeg’s Peter Gassmann gave a further display of Swiss toughness and attacked in the final lap of the circuit, quickly bridging the gap to Tapparel. Both guys deserved to win the combativity prize, but as only one of them could get it, it was eventually awarded to Gassmann. The red-clad boys of Saeco-Roemer’s Wetzikon wouldn’t complain that much anyway, as they got plenty of well-earned awards at the end of the race. Tapparel and Gassmann were later joine dby two italians. 1982-born Bergamasco Daniele Caccia of Bottoli Artoni-Zoccorinese and Maurizio Biondo. With 5k to go, the chasing peloton was only 29” back, and Caccia decided not to wait any longer to make his move. Biondo countered, and the two Italians opened quite a good gap over the Swiss pairing.
While Gassmann was swallowed by the peloton, Tapparel didn’t give up and tried to regain the wheels of the two Italians, but the Gods of Cycling decided that one victory at the Giro and another at Peace Race for teams bearing the Saeco name were enough for Saturday, such that the Swiss had to be content (and sure he didn’t look unhappy) with third place, one second adrift the Italians.
As for the sprint, “orange warrior” (of Pagnoncelli, not Euskaltel) Biondo easily accounted for Caccia, and gave his team the fourth win in a row –with as many different riders - in this race. Such that smiling boss Paolo Pagnoncelli was jokingly told by race organizers that “you don’t even need to come here the next time. We’ll deliver you the cup in advance”. Masori took fourth while the on coming bunch came in at 10” behind only, and was led home by Caccia’s teammate Alessandro Maserati. Viris Vigevano’s recent signing Denis Sosnovschenko of Russia was the top finisher of the “home team”, that also had Giacomo Montanari in 19th place, while the green-clad team Velo Sport Rho 1949 had their efforts rewarded by the Top 10 finishes of two of their riders. And 15th place getter David Kemp was the only Australian that crossed the line, in a race that saw only 22 riders finish the race out of 131 starters.
Maurizio Biondo easily takes the sprint
Full Photo Gallery of the race to come!
22nd Trofeo Pina & Mario Bazzigaluppi/52nd Giro della Lomellina
(Vigevano, Italy. May 15, 2004 - UCI 1.6; 175 km.)
1. Maurizio Biondo (Ita - Ceramiche Pagnoncelli-FMG Perrel) - 04h05'55" (42.697 kph)
2. Diego Caccia (Ita - Bottoli Artoni-Zoccorinese) - s.t.
3. Jimmy Tapparel (Swi - Saeco-Roemer's Wetzikon) - at 01"
4. Fabio Masotti (Ita - Fiamme Azzurre) - at 05"
5. Alessandro Maserati (Ita - Bottoli Artoni-Zoccorinese) - at 10"
6. Denis Sosnovchenko (Rus - Viris Eurothermo-Fiat Isauto) - s.t.
7. Pawel Sendal (Pol - GS Alplast Centro Convenienza Esse) - s.t.
8. Ettore Rizzi (Ita - Velo Sport Rho 1949) - s.t.
9. Massimilano Caccin (Ita - Ceramiche Pagnoncelli-FMG Perrel) - s.t.
10. Marco Ferri (Ita - Velo Sport Rho 1949) - s.t.
11. Antonio Marotti (Ita - Viris Eurothermo-Fiat Isauto) - s.t.
12. Athos Pedretti (Ita - L'Edile Rosa Prefabbricati-Carne Safer) - s.t.
13. Gianluca Moi (Ita - Bottoli Artoni-Zoccorinese) - s.t.
14. Mariano Giallorenzo (Ita - Team Schivardi Colombina) - s.t.
15. David Kemp (Aus - AIS Mapei-Australian Institute of Sport) - s.t.
16. Stefan Naegelin (Swi - Saeco-Roemer's Wetzikon) - s.t.
17. Gregory Morand (Swi - Team Fidi BC com) - s.t.
18. Giordano Montanari (Ita - Viris Eurothermo-Fiat Isauto) - at 19"
19. Patrick Gassmann (Swi - GS Hadimeg) - at 23"
20. Marco Cattaneo (Ita - Bottoli Artoni-Zoccorinese) - at 26"
21. Marco Segat (Ita - Team Friuli Sanvitese) - at 37"
22. Simon Zahner (Swi - Saeco-Roemer's Wetzikon) - at 01'09"
Starters: 131. Finishers: 22