In a stark contrast to the heat at Strade Bianche, riders faced cooler weather and torrential rain throughout the race from Legnano to Varese and with 199.7 kilometers on the cards, the bunch allowed a five-rider breakaway to quickly form when the flag dropped at kilometer 0.
The breakaway was ten minutes down the road before CCC Team took responsibility for the chase with Francisco Ventoso assuming his place at the front of the bunch in what was his first race back.
With the CCC Team train driving the pace, the breakaway’s advantage was down to five minutes as the race entered the first of four flaps of the finish circuit and with heavy rain continuing to fall, the reduced peloton closed in on the leading group.
The catch was made approaching the final lap, by which point Van Avermaet and De Marchi formed part of a select front group of around 12 riders left to battle for the win.
Izagirre launched his winning move on the final climb and was able to extend a 30-second lead in the last five kilometers, while behind De Marchi led Van Avermaet out in the sprint with the Belgian settling for third place on the line behind Alex Aranburu (Astana Pro Team) and De Marchi crossing the line in ninth place.
The Italian one-day race block continues on Wednesday with Milano-Torino, a race suited to the pure sprinters, before the first Monument of the season, Milano – San Remo, on Saturday.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
“It was good to be there. It was a super hard race. I think we were able to win but it is not always easy to play your cards really well and Izagirre was super strong in the end also. Overall, I am happy with my third place and I think it can give me some extra shape and rhythm for the next races. I hope I have a good day at Milan – San Remo and we will see how it goes there.”
“I think we did quite well as a team today. It was our strategy [to take control] especially in the rain and on technical parcours like this, I think it’s good to take the lead. We tried to save myself and De Marchi for the final which was really important and in the end, we were one of the few teams to have two guys at the end. I think Astana and Ineos were the only other two so we did did really well to take the lead and do some damage to the peloton.”
“It was luckily enough not too cold but it was technical with all the roundabouts and corners on the course. I think we did well to take the lead in the race and to control the race by ourselves. I was always in a good position and my teammates did really well to keep me up there and I was super happy to stay safe and I was able to save a lot of energy so me and de Marchi were in the final group so we really tried to make a good result.”
Gran Trittico Lombardo
Legnano > Varese (199.7km)
Top 3: 1. Gorka Izagirre (Astana Pro Team), 2. Alex Aranburu (Astana Pro Team), 3. Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team)
CCC Team top 3: 3. Greg Van Avermaet, 9. Alessandro De Marchi, 33. Michael Schär