Leigh Howard Sprints to Fifth in Stresa

Thu 20 Mar 2014

GP Nobili came to a close with a bunch kick in Stresa. ORICA-GreenEDGE’s Leigh Howard was the first of the 50 strong group to open the sprint and the fifth rider across the finish line. Simon Ponzi (Neri Sottoli) took top honours ahead of Christian Delle Stelle (Team Idea) and Fran Ventoso (Movistar).

The 187.5 kilometre Italian classic began at a quick clip with the bunch covering just over 100 kilometres in the first two hours of racing. It took 60 kilometres before the day’s break took shape. Five riders slipped away from the bunch and slowly built up their advantage.

“We were leading the chase to keep the break at a good distance,” said Sport Director Matt White. “From 80 kilometres to 130 kilometres, we were on the front.”

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) attacked over the first ascent of the Massino and bridged across to the five leaders. Four riders emerged over the top together: Valderde, Antonio Parrinello (Androni Giocattoli), Miguel Rubiano (Colombia) and Pavel Brutt (Katusha) – the latter three all part of the original break. A high pace on the circuits reduced the leaders advantage and caused splits on the peloton. The last time up the Massino, Valverde attacked again.

“When we hit the first of the climbs, that’s where Valverde attacked,” said White. “Later, when Valverde attacked again and was alone out front, Leigh managed to get in the first chase group of 19 riders. A few of the chase groups came back together on the flat bit before the end, so there were 50 riders or so heading into the finish. We had five in that group.”

The peloton overtook Valverde just inside the final ten kilometres as teams began to ready for the bunch sprint.

“Leigh started his sprint early at about 300 metres,” said Sport Director Matt White. “He was leading until about 50 metres – which was when he first got passed. He ended up in fifth place. It’s a bit disappointing, but it was still a good hit out for the guys going to Catalunya next week.”