Colbrelli takes his first 2016 victory in GP Lugano

Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) got his first 2016 victory when he came out on top in a very wet edition of the GP Lugano. The Italian joined a six-rider group on the penultimate climb and then beat the Lampre-Merida pair of Diego Ulissi and Roberto Ferrari into the minor podium positions in the sprint.

After his breakthrough 2014 season, Sonny Colbrelli endured a tough 2015 season where he failed to get into peak condition until very late in the season. He had to wait until August to claim his first victory and ended the year with only three wins.

This year he has been in a determined mood to make up for the disappointments and he has been climbing better than ever in his first races of the season. That nearly paid off in the Trofeo Laigueglia but a late move from Andrea Fedi meant that his sprint win was only good enough for second.

Today he finally opened his account when he won the 70th edition of the GP Lugano under torrential rain. The hilly circuit race is often decided in a sprint from a reduced peloton and this is exactly the kind of race that Colbrelli likes. However, the tough conditions made this year’s race a lot more selective but the strong Colbrelli confirmed his improved climbing by claiming the win regardless of the hard nature of the event.

The race was held on a 34km circuit that included two climbs inside the final 10km and a downhill run to the finish. Lampre-Merida had been working hard for Diego Ulissi all day and it was all back together as they hit the first climb on the penultimate lap.

After 142km of racing, Ulissi kicked off the action and he was joined by Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani) and Damiano Cunego (Nippo-Vini Fantini). They managed to open a gap of 25 seconds.

While the peloton was chasing hard, Davide Vigano (Androni) and Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani) crashed and the latter had to leave the race in an ambulance. Meanwhile, Jarlinson Pantano (IAM) and Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) attacked from the peloton and with 35km to go, they joined the front trio.

The front quintet was working well together and at the start of the final lap, they had an advantage of 32 seconds. The gap stayed around that mark for a while but with 22km to go, the peloton managed to bring it all back together after a huge effort from Bardiani.

At the top of the next climb, Pirazzi beat Merhawi Kudus (Dimension Data) and Petilli in the KOM sprint from a group that had been whittled down to just 32 riders. They stayed together until they hit the first of the two late climbs with 9km to go where Pantano and Ulissi went again.

The move didn’t work and instead Colbrelli kicked into action, launching a counterattack. Pantano joined him and later Andrey Solomenniov (Gazprom), Fraile, Cunego, Ulissi and Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida) also made the junction.

On the final climb, the relentless Ulissi tried again but Colbrelli and Pantano marked him closely. The trio had a 100m advantage with 3km to go but the sextet came back together on the descent. They decided the race in a sprint and here Colbrelli turned out to be the fastest, beating the Lampre-Merida pair of Ulissi and Ferrari into the minor podium spots.

With the GP Lugano done and dusted, the next major Swiss race is the Tour de Romandie in late April. However, the action continues just across the border on Saturday when Strade Bianche will be held.