The Scott-SRAM Swiss is the new king of Titano XCO, Internazionali d’Italia Series stage 3. Bianchi Countervail’s Nadir Colledani was a surprising 2nd ahead of World Champion Nino Schurter. Eva Lechner claims a comeback win among Open Women, Vittone and Marzani deliver in the Junior series
The two edition of the short history of Titano XCO could not have been more different from each other: after last year’s sweltering heat that affected the riders on the tough drags of San Marino’s Montecchio Park, the pouring rain sorted out the contenders for the third stage of Internazionali d’Italia Series on Sunday April 28th.
Something has not changed though: the one organized by the Federazione Sanmarinese Ciclismo is a demanding and technically enticing race, appreciated by riders and coaches. In addition, as expected, two big names succeeded in writing their names in the winners’ list: European Champion Lars Forster (Scott-SRAM) among men and reigning Italian National Champion Eva Lechner (Torpado-Südtirol) among women.
And what about Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM)? The World and Olympic Champion honored the race at his best, in his first time at an Internazionali d’Italia Series race since his victory in Milan, 2016: on the attack from the very first bend, the Swiss rider suffered the weather and terrain conditions deep in the race, surrendering to teammate Forster and to an outstanding Nadir Colledani (Bianchi Countervail), who wrote in San Marino what was – possibly – the most beautiful page of his Elite career so far.
FORSTER THE “RAINMAKER” IN SAN MARINO
When the Open Men riders lined up at the start of Titano XCO, rain showers had already been falling for roughly four hours on the Montecchio Park terrain: the conditions could not be more different from the previous day’s recognitions, and eventually forced some riders to change their technical choices for the race.
A few turns were enough on the course charted by the Federazione Sammarinese Ciclismo for the values to come out: Schurter forced the pace from the very beginning, followed by a shiny Colledani, and C.S. Carabinieri Nicholas Pettinà, Luca and Daniele Braidot chasing not far behind. The start was not quite as good for Gerhard Kerschbaumer (Torpado-Ursus), for Forster and for GC leader Stephane Tempier (Bianchi Countervail), whose long-gear racing style isn’t overly suited to this kind of conditions.
Many have struggled in adapting to the slippery terrain early on, particularly on the “trunks descent”, where the vast majority of the riders has tested the ground at some point during the race. If both Colledani and Schurter insisted in their pacing action, Forster was able to bridge back on them at the end of lap 2 of 5, eventually managing to break clear halfway through the following one. From there, it was a solo action by the Swiss, whilst Colledani even managed to drop the reigning World and European champion in the final lap.
The solid race by Nicholas Pettinà (C.S. Carabinieri) was rewarded by a fourth place, ahead of Italian National Champion Gerhard Kerschbaumer (Torpado Ursus), while Tempier (Bianchi Countervail) settled for 10th, holding on the leader’s jerey in the process. Juri Zanotti (Torpado Ursus) maintained his lead among Under 23.
“Today it was really tough,” Forster told, “when at the hotel we saw the weather conditions, the morale wasn’t really sky-high. My start wasn’t the best, but I found my rhythm as laps went by, and from there everything went pretty smooth. Winning is the best way for me to approach the core period of the season, and that’s what I am looking to keep on doing.”
Happy, and almost incredulous, Nadir Colledani celebrated a valuable runner-up spot: “I am very happy, I wasn’t expecting such a race today. Instead, I have kept on with Nino from the beginning, even while struggling on the way down: at the first lap we “bowling crashed”, in the following ones I opted to walk down the trickiest ones, but without losing touch with the two Swiss riders. Distancing the World Champion was quite special: I think this isn’t the best Nino yet, but to battle with two important jerseys like those is really something.”
World Champion Schurter was fairly satisfied with his third spot: “It was a very hard race, so to finish third is pretty good. These are not my favorite conditions – I am not that used to heavy mud and cold – but I always start a race trying to win it. This is a good race, with a technically-demainding course. Our experience in San Marino was good.”
EVA LECHNER QUEEN AT TITANO XCO
In San Marino only the Junior Men’s race escaped the rain: on the opposite, a violent downpour welcomed the Open Women’s race. In tough conditions, Italian National Champion Eva Lechner (Torpado Südtirol) used her experience to come out on top, succeeding in a comeback effort over Martina Berta (Torpado Ursus) and Vera Medvedeva (Metallurgica Veneta). The rider from Südtirol also took over the GC lead with 84 points: former leader Martina Berta slid behind with 80, with Medvedeva in third with 60.
Martina Berta and Marika Tovo (Ghost Factory Racing) were the first riders to open a gap after the start, but the 2018 Internazionali d’Italia Series winner tumbled in the first lap, and eventually fell out of contention. A crash also affected Eva Lechner’s pace in the first lap, but the experienced Italian came back in the second lap, then overcoming Berta and finally claiming a solo win.
“I didn’t start well at all today, as I had not chosen the best tires for these conditions, and crashed on my left side in the first lap,” the winner told. “I had to race through some grip issues, but still managed to pace my way back to the lead, and also wear the leader’s jersey in the process. I am slightly in pain, but happy.”
Letizia Marzani (Merida Team Italia) took her third win among Junior Women, strenghtening her GC lead. Second and third on the day were Letizia Motalli (KTM-Protek-Dama) and Julia Maria Graf (ASC Kardaun-Cardano).
JUNIOR MEN, VITTONE TAKES ALL
The Junior Men race opened the programme of Titano XCO. Andreas Emanuele Vittone (Monte Tamaro) left nothing on the road for the rivals on a still-dry course.
The Italian was a clear solo winner in his first 2019 Internazionali d’Italia Series success, and wore the Northwave Custom Project leader’s jersey. Behind him, Dario Cherchi (Bici Camogli) and Jan Laner (Bike Team Gais) came in second and third.
Vittone leads the overall with 80 points after three races, with a 12-point gap over Cherchi. “I am glad to have taken the leader’s jersey – the winner expleined. “Things didn’t go well in Andora, but I rediscovered good feelings in the following ones. I was targeting the jersey in my home race, in La Thuile, but I am more than happy to be ahead of schedule.”
NEXT UP: APRUTIUM RACE A PINETO
Internazionali d’Italia Series’ stage 4 comes in just a week: the Aprutium Race will take place in Pineto (Teramo) on Sunday May 5th. After that, only the grand finale of La Thuile will be left in the 2019 Internazionali d’Italia Series calendar.