The first day of racing at the Coppi e Bartali saw riders tackle the short road stage early this morning with a team time trial in the afternoon. Team Sky came away as the big winners on the day as their sprinter Ben Swift won stage 1a and then their team also went on to claim victory in the afternoon TTT.
7 riders would escape after around 30km of racing and reach a maximum lead of just over 2’30”. Heading towards the 2 climbs of the day, Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung and Team Sky would take control of the peloton. The fast pace set over the climbs would see the breaks advantage being wiped out rather quickly with a group of 57 riders distancing the peloton over the final climb. With 35km to the finish from the top of the climb, the lead group would hold on to its advantage and arrive at the finish 50” ahead of the peloton. Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung would have Merhawi Kudus and Jacques Janse van Rensburg finish safely in the lead group.
The team time trial was not run in the conventional fashion of a normal TTT. Each team split their squads into an A and B time trial team. The Team Sky A team set a blistering time of 15’30” on the 13.3km course. Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung would try to limit their losses as the TT would not really suit our young climbers. Our B team (Niyonshuti, Van Niekerk, Debesay) came home in 16’39” while our A team (Kudus, Janse van Rensburg, Meintjes, Teklehaimanot) posted a respectable time of 16’18”.
Directeur Sportif – Manel Lacambra
“The weather is not helping us too much. It was very cold and raining the whole day. Not the best climatic conditions for our African riders. We hope tomorrow the sun will shine again and help us during the hardest stage.
The morning stage had a very fast start and then the roads were pretty technical from before the first climb to the final of the second climb. The bad weather made it difficult for us to be at the front but on the climbs our feelings were good. Merhawi and Jacques made the front group and Dennis did some excellent work for the team before for the split.
We are not a TTT specialist team and our guys did their best in the cold weather and rain. We didn’t lose too much time to the winner. Merhawi, Louis and Jacques are feeling good on the climbs and tomorrow we will do our best.”
Rider – Jacques Janse van Rensburg
“The race started off really fast and in cold conditions, it was also really nervous with 190 riders in the peloton and the wind blowing as hard as it did. There were a lot of attacks and gutter sections in the first 30km until the break finally went.
We started the first climb with Dennis and I right at the front and we stayed there to the top. The pace over the top was quite hard but I focused on staying near the front on the wet descent as the next climb started soon after the downhill.
I started the final climb in a good position with Merhawi and Louis right behind me. Sky set a really hard tempo and the group was reduced to around 19 riders. Merhawi and I were part of this first group, on the descent a number of riders made it back to us including some fast guys. We tried what we could in the sprint though.
I felt okay today but it was my first race in the cold for 2014 so the legs felt a bit different today, I’m sure they will come round soon again after a good start to the season.”
Stage 2 – Sant’Angelo di Gatteo > Sogliano al Rubicone (160.2km)
The queen stage that includes 5 ascents of the Ville di Monte Tiffi
Stage 3 – Crevalcore > Crevalcore (158.4km)
An undulataing circuit of 13.2km’s that will be raced 11 times
Stage 4 – Pavullo > Castello di Montecuccolo (10km) Individual Time Trial
A short but lumpy time trial the ends with a 1km climb up to the line
Staff: Manel Lacambra (Directeur Sportif), Bastian Buffel (Soigneur), Paolo Baldi (Soigneur), Daniele Nieri (Mechanic), Andreas Beck-Watt (Mechanic)