Words by Mikkel Condé
Photos by Kramon and Sirotti
There has been a lot of talking about the course due to the lack of Le Manie and Pompeiana. Some say it makes the race more predictable. I think it’s clear to everybody that this formula works. It always takes a while for the real racing to start but at the end, it was a magnificent show with the late attacks on Poggio and the furious descent, which unfortunately took out strong winner candidates like Gerald Ciolek, Philippe Gilbert, Zdenek Stybar and Michal Kwiatkowski. Juanjo Lobato and Mark Cavendish never got to play a role in the race as they suffered too much on the climbs. A bit disappointing for two of the top pre-race favorites.
One of the main reasons why this year’s race ended in a bunch sprint was Luca Paolini. The Italian veteran somehow managed to top last year’s incredible performance. He led the peloton all the way on Poggio, making sure his team leader Alexander Kristoff was never in difficulties. Without Paolini, I’m sure we would have seen more attacks. On the descent, Paolini recovered from his impressive effort on the climb, and then went to take the lead once again. Much like he did last year. Unfortunately for Katusha, Alexander Kristoff didn’t have the legs to finish it off after he was forced to open his sprint a little too early. Instead of another Norwegian win, John Degenkolb managed to overtake everybody on the final meters, despite starting his sprint from a bad position. The German suffered an ill-timed puncture last year, which ruined his chances. After his performances in Paris-Nice earlier this month, Degenkolb wasn’t considered one of the top favorites. He was flying a bit under the radar a bit, which obviously suited him very well. While Katusha, Tinkoff-Saxo and Trek were working hard in the peloton, Giant-Alpecin could save some energy and focus on protecting their German ace.
Greg van Avermaet and Peter Sagan tried to blow the race apart just before the top of Poggio. However, they never managed to get a solid gap on the descent. Once they were on the flat part, the peloton quickly came back together and everything was set up for a sprint. Van Avermaet’s chances then disappeared and due to horrible positioning, Sagan had to settle for fourth place in the sprint. Michael Matthews, one of the strongest riders in the race, finished 3rd. The young Australian was in a great position, but may have hesitated just a second too long. John Degenkolb came up on his left side, which boxed-in Matthews who never really got to launch his sprint.
The duel between Michael Matthews and John Degenkolb has been going on since the U23 days. The riders share many of the same qualities. In the sprint at the U23 World Championships in Geelong, in 2010, Degenkolb seemed to have distanced his rivals. However, on the final meters, Matthews somehow found an opening and stormed right past the German to take the rainbow jersey. Something that still bothers the Degenkolb today. The two riders have been going head-to-head ever since. Last year, they had a lot of great duels in Vuelta a España. Hopefully, these duels between John Degenkolb and Michael Matthews will continue for many years to come!