Howson goes down fighting at GP Industria and Artigianato

Sun 10 Mar 2019

Australian Damien Howson rolled the dice at the GP Industria and Artigianato, going on the attack on the final finishing circuit before finishing just outside the top 20 in tricky conditions.

After losing three teammates in one crash, the 26-year-old bridged across to a select group on the testy Fornello climb after strong work from two new Mitchelton-SCOTT signings, Rob Stannard and Nick Schultz.

The move was eventually brought back before two riders jumped clear and stayed away to the finish, despite a strong effort from Howson to lead a chase before the descent to the line.

Steady start

With the course being split over two loops, seven riders went clear on the flat opening circuit, with the World Tour teams in attendance content to let the escapees open up a gap of over five minutes.

By the time the race hit the hilly finishing loop for the first time, the gap to the breakaway had dropped below two minutes and the race burst into life as the peloton passed over the Fornello for the first time with splits appearing on the wet descent.

The split alerted several teams to the dangers of the downhill run to the finish and the gaps where soon closed as they began the second lap of the finishing circuit.

The next loop saw the break reeled back in with 55km still left to race and it was a similar story over the Fornello once again as the peloton split. The flat roads across the finish line gave a chance for a number of riders to get back on and the numbers swelled in the bunch after being reduced to around 40 riders on the descent.  

Tricky conditions

With the race back together, Mitchelton-SCOTT moved to the head of the race on the penultimate lap, but disaster struck as Alex Edmonson, Callum Scotson and Edoardo Affini all crashed in the slippery conditions.

A new group of five then went clear of the reduced peloton over the San Baronto and as they headed onto the final lap their numbers grew to nine. Despite being reduced in numbers, Mitchelton-SCOTT again moved to the front of the chase behind before Howson attacked out of the pack and across to the leaders on the Fornello.

The move was eventually brought back on the slopes of the San Baronto and Max Schachmann (BORA – hansgrohe) and Mattia Cattaneo (Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec) launched a counter attack.

Howson tried his best to bring back the duo, but it was a risk over reward scenario on the treacherous descent and the Australian opted to play it safe as the two leaders stayed away to the finish.

Damien Howson:
“The rain started to fall on the first lap of the final circuit so the first descent was quite greasy and after that it became more saturated and wet, adding to the drama of the race.”

“We were riding in great position and the guys were setting us up into the bottom of the climb but the roads are quite slippery with oil, manholes covers and holes in the road to look out for as well, which made it really tricky once the guys hit the deck.”

“I found myself pretty far back on the third of the four finishing laps up the climb but I managed to regroup thanks to the work of Nick Schultz on the last lap.

"Nick’s communication was really good and I was feeling quite comfortable on the climbs today and he was happy to bring back the break coming into the final lap to give me a chance of a result today. In the end I played my cards, but it wasn’t good enough for a result today, that’s how it goes sometimes.”

Gene Bates – Sports Director:
“When the race start it turn the race into an ice-rink basically, there were crashes on the flat, on the uphill and on the downhills so it was really quite treacherous and big splits happened on the descent after that point.

“Our guys were really good today, we had riders in the front splits several times but on the second to last time on the climb we had the whole team on the front and unfortunately three of them crashed leading into the climb.”

“So that disrupted us and we were all out of position at that point but Nick Schultz did well to bring the gap to the nine leaders to a reasonable distance before Damien bridged across to them.”

“The guys were excellent, they all committed 100%, they rode together, they rode well and Damo did what we were hoping he can do, it’s just the group came back to him.”  

GP Industria and Artigianato Results:
1. Max Schachmann (BORA – hansgrohe) 4:40:03
2. Mattia Cattaneo (Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec) ST
3. Andrea Vendrame (Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec) +0:14
29. Rob Stannard (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:49

Photos courtesy of Getty Images