The final stage of the Giro della Toscana ended in a mass sprint and the victory went the way of Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon18). Mark Cavendish finished a very close 2nd with Daniele Bennati (Italian National) taking 3rd place and also the general classification victory.
The final stage of the Giro della Toscana took riders from Montecatini Terme to Pontedera, via our European home base of Lucca. With many friends out on the roadside our African Team wanted to show our Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka colours at the head of the race. Merhawi Kudus got out of the blocks with some real fire in his legs and formed the early break of stage.
Kudus was joined by 6 other riders as they rode away from the peloton, to a gap close on 6-minutes ahead. Kudus led the race through Lucca and onto the famed Monte Serra climb where there was a good crowd waiting. The climb itself was positioned early on in the stage and so, had no real bearing on the stage outcome. The flat run into Pontedera as well as the local lap that included 3 punchy climbs still suited the sprinters.
When the Kudus breakaway arrived at the final 3 climbs, the peloton was just a minute behind. Kudus attacked the break on the first climb and went solo with 30km to go. He was later joined by 2 of the other original breakaway riders but when they hit the next climb, he would leave them behind once again. The peloton was having none of it though and reeled Kudus in with 15km to go.
When everyone expected our African Team to control the sprint, Serge Pauwels upset the apple cart with a clever and stinging attack with around 5km to go. Pauwels was eventually brought back but his move set up Mark Cavendish nicely, who had Igor Anton, Kristian Sbaragli and Natnael Berhane for support. With a fast right-hander into the final 500m, Cavendish was looking good coming of the wheel of Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) just as Bennett started to squeeze our Manxman for space. In the end Bennett just got his wheel ahead to take the win with Cavendish in 2nd. After two consistent sprints, Cavendish finished the Giro della Toscana in 6th place overall for our African Team.
Oli Cookson – Sport Director
After Steve Cummings crash yesterday he didn’t start today which was a shame. Again, we were going for the win today and we knew it was going to be another hard race. We wanted to have someone in the break and Merhawi did that. It was nice to lead the race through Lucca, our European base town and up the famous Monte Serra climb. Thanks to the local fans and friends that came out to support the guys. Merhawi was flying up Monte Serra and that really opened up the gap. Coming to the final local laps, there was a steep 1km kicker with 5k, to go. We looked at it beforehand and knew we had to be in a good position there. There were a few attacks and the peloton was all lined out but nothing got away. Serge led the peloton down that final descent and Cavendish was there with Igor, Kristian and Natnael Berhane. The guys got organised and went for the sprint. They took no risks on that final corner and tried to go for the win but got 2nd. Congrats to Sam Bennett.