By David Hunter
Lugano – Lugano 194.9km
We return to Switzerland for the always exciting, GP Lugano.
As usual, we have our lap circuit around the streets of Lugano. The circuit is dominated by the final climb, 1.6km at 6.3%. Then, a fast descent to the line. The climb is difficult, especially on the 5th ascent.
In 2014, Diego Ulissi, attacked on the climb, but didn’t get a gap. He was marked by Bongiorno, as Bardiani wanted a bunch sprint for Colbrelli. Although challenging, the climb isn’t long enough to be decisive. That being said, it is hard enough for the peloton to be very small come the finish.
Over the years, we’ve had small sprints and solo victories. The riders and the attitude of the teams will dictate the type of race we get.
The defending champion, Mauro Finetto, is not here. Instead, Southeast bring Favilli, Gavazzi, Ponzi and Monsalve. Having won GP Etruschi and finished 2nd in Laigueglia, the team are full of confidence. They are missing their riders who are competing in Omloop and KBK, so are a little under strength.
Tinkoff – Saxo have no sprinter. This seems a bold move, so does building the team around Ivan Basso. The Italian won the race in 2011 but it’s been a long time since he competed to win a race. Manuele Boaro has shown good early form, he’s a dangerous man for a break. Keep an eye on him.
IAM Cycling are racing on home soil. They have a couple of options in Fumeaux and Reichenbach, fresh from a good performance in Andalucía. Jarlinson Pantano has also enjoyed a good start to life with the team and the Colombian rider should be able to make the top 10.
AG2R look strong with Montaguti, Nocentini and Bakelants. These guys are very experienced and strong climbers. Montaguti was 4th in Laigueglia and will be looking to do even better here. Rinaldo Nocentini will want to be team leader though. He won here in 2008 and is a very consistent performer, at this race.
After fielding a weak team in Laigueglia, Bardiani are back to strength. They have Colbrelli, Battaglin, Bongiorno, Zardini and Barbin. Arguably, this is the strongest squad in the race. Their best tactic will be to hold the race together for a sprint, as Colbrelli stands a great chance. He was 2nd in 2014 and despite a slow start to 2015, he should be able to take his first win of the year. If a small group gets away, it’s hard to imagine it not having a rider from Bardiani.
Lampre-Merida surprised many with their win in Laigueglia, especially as it was Davide Cimolai taking the crown. They are here with a similar team to that day. The route might be too challenging for Cimolai, if so, they’ll look to attack on the climbs with Niemiec and Cattaneo. Valerio Conti is a good man to have in a small sprint. Can Bonifazio make it to the end?
Androni will be focusing on Franco Pellizotti. The 37 year old is enjoying a good start to the season and will be a threat here.
Damiano Cunego now rides for Nippo-Vini Fantani. His best days look behind him but he could surprise a few. The same could be said for Cult Energy’s duo Fabian Wegmann and Linus Gerdemann.
MTN – Qhubeka have two in-form riders: Louis Meintjes and Jacques Janse Van Rensburg. They finished 6th and 5th in Oman and look like stand out picks for this race. Van Rensburg also took the African RR championship, he is flying just now. They do need to split the peloton and eliminate the sprinters but having two good options is a massive plus for the team, who arrive with all African riders.
After being unlucky in Andalucia, thanks to the stage 1 crash, Team Colombia have a point to prove. They have Torres, Duarte, Rubiano and Quintero. All of these riders could threaten in this race.
A mention must be reserved for Andrea Pasqualon. The ex-Bardiani rider had a great 2014, considering he was riding for the Area Zero team. He’s now with Roth Skoda, a Swiss based team. This race is like their World Cup final and Pasqualon is their star man. In 2014 he was 3rd in Etruschi and Laigueglia. He can certainly climb and possesses a fast sprint. Despite riding with a small team, he has a big chance.
The Italian teams Southeast, Bardiani and Lampre all want a sprint. Everyone else will want to get rid of the sprinters. This poses an interesting situation for the Italians. Get a rider in the break and you can take it easy but can 1 or 2 teams hold the race together? Bonifazio is the fastest here but he’ll struggle to get over the final climb. Colbrelli ended 2014 brilliantly, if he has that form he’ll win. Gavazzi is also going very just now. A sprint would certainly be interesting and hard to call.
If the climbers get there way, then Meintjes, Van Rensburg, Niemiec and Bongiorno will be hard to beat. What about IAM leader Jonathan Fumeaux?
I think we’ll get a small bunch sprint but no sprinters! In that scenario I can’t look past Matteo Montaguti of AG2R. He was 4th in Laigueglia and clearly in form.
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