It’s been a big Sunday of racing on the Continent, with Sky landing a one-two through Chris Froome and Richie Porte in the stage and overall at the Critérium International on Corsica, Dan Martin securing the overall in the Volta a Catalunya, Peter Sagan claiming his first Classic at Gent-Wevelgem, and the big men’s and women’s races in Italy going to home riders. Here’s our round-up.
Richie Porte led Team Sky colleague Chris Froome by 2 seconds after yesterday’s opening road stage and time trial of the two-day race, but it was the latter, who began the day fourth overall, who rode away to an impressive stage and overall victory on the Col de l'Ospedale today.
His attack left Sky’s rivals with a dilemma – chase Froome, or mark race leader Porte? BMC Racing’s Tejay Van Garderen, lying third on GC this morning, just 1 second behind the Australian, chose the latter.
However Porte, winner of Paris-Nice a fortnight ago, himself kicked from 3 kilometres out, dropping the American and sealing a one-two both on the stage and in the overall for the British team.
“The stage panned out more or less how we expected,” reflected Froome, whose win today follows his victory in the Tour of Oman in February. “The plan was to control the race throughout the day. It was a huge job and we really put pressure on the other teams.
“Richie and I didn’t have to make any big efforts until right at the end there. The team did that work for us and all we had to do was finish it off.
“I didn’t really intend to attack on the climb, but when the gap widened between myself and Richie, I felt I could go on, so I went for it.”
“It was that quick thinking between us which brought about the victory and we couldn’t ask for any more than a one-two on the stage and GC.”
Porte added: “Tactically we were spot on today. The team were absolutely incredible and it’s just a shame you don’t get to see all the work guys like Joe [Dombrowski], Jon [Tiernan-Locke], Xabi [Zandio], Kosta [Siutsou] and Vasil [Kiryienka] do to get us to that point where Froomey and I can attack at the end.
“Froomey set a hard tempo after Kiryienka’s mammoth turn and I thought I’d let a small gap go to see what happened, and that was the last we saw of Froomey, he was gone,” he laughed.
“It wasn’t planned but it worked out perfectly. We ride together every day so we know each other so well, and when he went nobody reacted so he had to continue.
"As I said yesterday, the only important thing was that Team Sky won today. It’s always special to get a one-two on the podium, especially given the strength of the field we had here, and we’re super happy.”
Froome and, most likely, Porte, will return to Corsica in June when the Tour de France gets under way on what will be its first visit to the island.
Volta a Catalunya
Garmin-Sharp’s Dan Martin started today’s final stage of the Volta a Catalunya 17 seconds ahead of Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez on GC.
On a stage that concluded with six laps of a circuit on Montjuic in Purito’s home city, Barcelona, and bonus seconds on offer, he was expected to attack, but Martin marked him well to come home along with the Spaniard in the pack.
Thomas De Gendt of Vacansoleil won from the break, which included Lampre-Merida’s Michele Scarponi who jumped to third overall.
Martin is the second Irish rider to win the week-long race, where Sean Kelly was twice victorious during the mid-1980s.
Like French-born cousin Nicolas Roche, Martin races under an Irish licence these days, but he was born in Birmingham.
With Bradley Wiggins born in Belgium, Chris Froome in Kenya and Mark Cavendish on the Isle of Man, he joins a list of GB-born continental stage race winners that includes Russ Downing, Jonathan Tiernan-Locke and Geraint Thomas, among those currently racing.
It was always a case of when, not if, Cannondale’s Peter Sagan would win a Classic. He achieved it today in Gent-Wevelgem, riding away from a select group with around three kilometres left and celebrating with a one-handed wheelie as he crossed the line.
Last Sunday, Sagan had been accused of tactical naivety as he wasted energy ahead of the finale of Milan-San Remo, where he was outsprinted by Gerald Ciolek, but there was no catching the Slovak today.
Like last week, today’s race was shortened due to the weather, though here the organisers made the call yesterday evening, rather than while the race was in progress as happened in Milan-San Remo.
Borut Bozic of Astana and Greg Van Avermaet of BMC Racing completed the podium.
Sagan, who finished second to Fabian Cancellara at the E3 Harelbeke on Friday, said today: "This time I didn't want to wait, because they were all watching. I had to find another solution."
Settimana Internazionale Coppi & Bartali
Sagan’s wasn’t the only win by a young Cannondale rider today as 25-year-old Damiano Caruso, whose own ambitions have often taken second place to his duties as gregario to Vincenzo Nibali or Ivan Basso, took his first pro win in the final stage of the Settimana Internazionale di Coppi & Bartali in Fiorana Modinese. Lampre-Merida’s Diego Ulissi won the overall.
Elsewhere in Italy, 21-year-old Elisa Longo-Borghini scored a stunning solo victory in the second women’s world cup race of the season, the Trofeo Binda, amid atrocious conditions in the hills above the eastern shore of Lake Maggiore.
The Hitec Products rider, who comes from near Verbania on the opposite shore of the lake, is the first Italian winner in 13 years, and is the first rider other than Emma Pooley or Marianne Vos to have won the race since Nicole Cooke’s victory in 2007 – some pretty exalted company.
Emma Johansson was second, the best part of 2 minutes back, with Eleonora Van Dijk third. Vos, winner of the opening round of the world cup at the Ronde van Drenthe a fortnight ago, continues to top the standings.
Longo Borghini's win, her first in a world cup race, will be another cause for celebration over at Cannondale – her brother Paolo rides for them.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.