The Focus XC rider saw off the Cannondale pair after a thrilling race. Pole Maja Wloszcszoska claimed the Women Open race ahead of two more Swiss riders, Keller and Neff
From rain to sun, from one side to the other of the Monte Stella, from a Swiss to another Swiss; a year later, Milan found a different race at la Montagnetta, but still in the name of a great MTB show. And once again the big city showed its appreciation, as showed by the number of people framing the straights or the jumps, cycling fans or just curious, everybody in awe of the skills of the MTB champions in a beautiful second stage of the Internazionali d’Italia Series. Joining the MTB festival in Milan were also Lombardy’s Sports Assessor Antonio Rossi and famous radio speaker Linus.
OPEN MEN: THREE-MAN BATTLE FOR THE MONTAGNETTA’S THRONE
After Nino Schurter’s win of 12 months ago, the Swiss flag keeps waving on the Montagnetta: Florian Vogel (Focus XC) won the clash of the favorites of a very prestigious startlist The 35-year-old rider was the only one to resist to the forcing by the Cannondale duo formed by Maxime Marotte and Manuel Fumic, before making the decisive move in the fifth of seven 4,3 km laps. Riding with them in the early laps was also Marco Aurelio Fontana (Bianchi Countervail), until a puncture caused by a pin took him out of the game.
Vogel finished 22 seconds ahead of Marotte, and 34 over Fumic. An excellent Andrea Tiberi (NOB-Selle Italia) claimed a very good fourth place, followed by Pole Wawak (Kross Racing Team), Tempier (Bianchi Countervail), Forster (BMC) and Sintsov (JBG-2), whilst Fontana had to settle for ninth, but still managed to keep the overall leadership of the Internazionali d’Italia among Elite Men. Leaders changed in the Under 23 series, where Nadir Colledani (Torpado-Gabogas), tenth on the day, took away the jersey from Gioele Bertolini’s shoulders, after the latter’s eighteenth place in Milan.
OPEN WOMEN: MAJA VLOSZCZOWSKA WINS ON DEBUT
A top-level race also unfolded among Open Women, with another prestigious startlist topped by UCI World Ranking’s #1 Jolanda Neff. In the end, it was Neff’s teammate at Kross Racing Team, former World Champion Maja Wloszczowska, who raised her arms on her first seasonal race, at the end of a consistent and smart race rode at a regular pace by the 33-year-old Pole. Early on, Swiss Alessandra Keller (Radon Factory XC Team) has imposed her pace, crossing the finish line with a significant gap on her chasers after just one lap. As the race went by, though, the young Swiss had to surrender some speed, giving way to the comeback of the more experienced Pole, chased by the Swiss duo of Neff and Kathrin Stirnemann (Radon Factory XC Team).
At the end, Wloszczowska got to the finishing post 18 seconds ahead of Alessandra Keller, whilst Jolanda Neff (at 49 seconds) had the better of Stirnemann (at 1.03). Top-10 placements also for Zakelj (Unior Tools), Grobert (Cannondale), Evie Richards (GB National, best Under 23 on the day), Last (OMX), Laura Abril Restrepo (Colombia National Team), and Russian Ekateryna Anoshina (Russia-Sestroreck). Serena Calvetti, fifteenth, withheld the lead in the Women Elite category, whilst Chiara Teocchi (Bianchi Countervail), eleventh on the day, kept the leader’s jersey among Under 23 Women.
JUNIOR: ANOTHER ONE FOR SWITZERLAND WITH ROTH, STIGGER GIVES ENCORE AMONG WOMEN
This year, Milan also represented the first stage of the UCI Junior Series, and the show was certainly worthy of the top World circuit for the Junior category. Switzerland celebrated also in the Junior Men category, thanks to Joel Roth (Head Pro Team), who came on top of a three-head challenge with Italian Edoardo Xillo (Oasi Zegna) and French Mathis Azzaro (Equipe de France), second and third at the finish.
Among Women, La Montagnetta confirmed Verona’s verdict: Austrian Laura Stigger, winner eight days ago, dominated also in Milan, leaving two French girls behind – Justine Tonso e Isaure Medde. Fourth place for Italian Marika Tovo (Rudy Project-XCR).
AN UNPLEASANT SURPRISE
The only downside of the day was an unpleasant happening: nails and pins were spread on the race course, arguably by a group of people who had already declared their opposition to the race being held in the Monte Stella venue in the last few days.
The sabotage attempt caused the reaction by FCI Lombardy’s Regional Committee Vice President Fabio Perego: “The actions of a few people compromised a beautiful day of sport, with cycling lighting up the center of Milan, something that rarely happens in big city anywhere else in the World. It’s a shame that such richness does not receive the institutional backing it deserves. Or maybe Milan actually does not deserve this event.
THE HIGHLIGHTS ON WEB STREAMING
Tonight at 21.00 a 30-minute video magazine with the highlights of the race will be aired on the PMG Sport Facebook page, on www.pmgsport.it and on www.corrieredellosport.it.
Florian Vogel: “After spending Winter training in Finale Ligure, it was nice to start on a high in Italy. Early on, I was part of a group of riders including also Lars Foster and Marco Aurelio Fontana, but then it was down to three, with two Cannondale riders. This is why I attacked early on: it’s not easy to control two teammates on a route like today’s, so I had to kick early and hold on until the end, as Marotte didn’t give up until the banner. It was a beautiful race, though it was a shame that someone tried to ruin this beautiful day of sport. I just hope the race will return here next year.”
Maxime Marotte: “I was disappointed after Verona, and the mistakes that had led to a sub-par performance. I wanted to make up for it, and I did just that. It was nice to make the race with Manuel, but Vogel eventually proved stronger than us, particularly on short climbs. It was a good weekend for Cannondale Factory Racing Team: the route wasn’t extremely well-suited for me, but the atmosphere and all these spectators made it special.”
Manuel Fumic: “This was my first European race of the year, and it was a beautiful one, in Milan and with all those people. We managed to race at the front right away: when we realized someone was struggling behind, Maxime and I pushed harder and made the selection. Only Vogel stayed with us, and eventually it was him who made the decisive move, but we are happy of today’s podium.”
Marco Aurelio Fontana: “A day like this obviously leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, particularly as I was at the front in the early laps. After changing wheels I could not recover much ground, also because they were going really hard upfront. I am sorry for how i went, but we can only look forward.”
Maja Wloszczowska: “I was on my seasonal debut, and handling such a fast race early on wasn’t easy. Lap after lap, I saw Keller losing speed, so I managed to get back to her and continue to the finish. It was a nice race, with a lot of spectators. Now I will return to the Internazionali in Montichiari, a race I love because it’s held near the Lake Garda, one of my favorite places in the World.”
Alessandra Keller: “I pushed hard from the beginning, finding a good rhythm, then I had somewhat of a drop, before making it up before the finish. I am happy anyway, it was my first race and I finished it on the podium. I made a good Winter, but you never know how the legs are doing until you race. It was good to race in the heart of a big city, with this amazing public.”
Jolanda Neff: “Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to be on the podium on the first race of the season. Now I am more confident for the next weeks of preparation ahead of the next Italian race in Montichiari, another race I like. Today it was hard from the beginning, on a demanding route but in a special context and atmosphere. And I am happy that Maja won it for our team.”