Giro della Toscana (st. 1) / Eneco Tour (st. 2)
Giovanni takes GC lead in Giro della Toscana after brilliant win in Montecatini, the 36th for Movistar Team this season – equalling Banesto's victories in 1998. Magnificent TT by youngster Sütterlin (3rd) in the Eneco Tour; Dowsett (10th) & Ion also strong
It seemed like a dream when the season started, just like every year. And it looked impossible to reach in late March, the squad hit by hard blows such as Malori and Castroviejo’s injuries, as their account stood stuck on four wins. However, a memorable six months by the Movistar Team have seen them chaining success after success until reaching a remarkable milestone: equalling the 36 victories claimed into a single season that remained as all-time high for the Spanish outfit, previously held by Jiménez, Olano, Barbosa, Garmendia or Hunt with Banesto in 1998.
Giovanni Visconti was the author of such a feat on Tuesday, as a courageous, insistent race into stage one of the Giro della Toscana, 174km between Arezzo and Montecatini Terme, brought him to the top five months after his success in Amorebieta. The squad directed by José Luis Laguía kept the day’s early break on a leash and put big pressure on the field into the uphill sections, later countering Fabio Aru’s (AST) moves with a great Richard Carapaz and ‘Visco’ himself through the Monte Rocchina, less than 30km from the end.
As Visconti made part of an elite, seven-man attempt featuring quick finishers like Sonny Colbrelli (BAR) or Daniele Bennati (ITA), he knew it wasn’t enough for him to try and win the final sprint. And after two unfruitful attacks by Aru in the last climb of Vico, a duo of strong accelerations by Giovanni in the last 2km allowed him reaching the line with a short margin over the rest of the group. 'Visco' will try to defend his GC leader’s jersey on Wednesday at stage two, finishing in Pontedera. His final win would also end the record equalled today, in what’s undoubdtedly the most solid season ever by the Eusebio Unzué-led group.
Giovanni Visconti: “I’m so happy about this win. I really needed this win to unblock myself and I also owed my family and my son a victory – they whispered for one for so long and today, they were at the finish so I had to make it real. It was also for Eusebio. I talked to him this morning and I told him I wanted to bring him a victory, for all things he did for me during this five-year adventure with the Movistar Team family. I kept clear in mind that, into a sprint, I just couldn’t win with such fast people. I only had a chance: attacking with 1km to go. I tried it twice, I got 50 meters on my pursuit group… and in such situations, when a peloton is charging behind and the pursuit feels them behind, they surrender, so it’s only you or the peloton. I’m impressed by the fact that such attack prevailed – I never thought I could pull one like this off.
Closing this Movistar Team with a victory, with such good feelings, was a desire I held dear – I’m happy to have brought the squad to the record. Now it’s all about the GC. Why not trying it? It will all depend on the final decision by the jury: if they give us the same time or 1” between myself and Colbrelli / Bennati. Should we remain tied, it will be very difficult for me – it’s a tough start yet there’s only one little climb in the finale and I think we’ll end up into a sprint, and I won’t be able to beat them in such a finish. Still, there’s high morale in the group – we’ll keep trying.”
Eneco Tour: Sütterlin shows potential; four MOV riders within top 20
The big day for the Movistar Team also included a great performance from the whole group on stage two of the Eneco Tour, a 9.6km ITT in and around Breda. Vice German champion Jasha Sütterlin shone bright as he took an impressive 3rd place, his best result ever in the WorldTour, only behind Rohan Dennis (BMC) and Jos Van Emden (TLJ) and ahead of big specialists like Tony Martin, Tom Dumoulin, Taylor Phinney… or team-mates Alex Dowsett (10th) and Ion Izagirre (11th), the latter in a good position for the GC. Another sprint should happen tomorrow in Ardooie (184km) before roads get lumpier on Thursday: that will be the Blues' place in the week's racing.
Picture ©: Luca Bettini / BettiniPhoto.net