Simon Clarke takes first win for Cannondale

Simon Clarke got the perfect start to his European racing schedule for Cannondale as he won his first race on the continent for his new team, the hilly GP Industria & Artigianato. With a powerful attack on the final climb of San Baronto, he dropped everybody else and held his chasers off on the descent to claim the win. Andrea Fedi (Southeast) attacked to take second while Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) won the sprint for third.

Clarke made his European debut for the team at the hilly GP Industria & Artigianato race which included four passages of the 12km climb of San Baronto. The Australian turned out to be in a class of his own as he dropped a star-studded field that included the likes of Vincenzo Nibali, Rigoberto Uran, Jakob Fuglsang, Diego Ulissi, Adam Yates and Esteban Chaves on the final climb and rode to a dominant solo win.

At the start of the final lap of the 27.5km circuit, chaos ruled after Movistar had split the group on the previous passage of the climb and the descent. Ramunas Navardauskas (Cannondale) and Pirmin Lang (IAM) were the remnants of an early break. An 18-rider chase group crossed the line 1.24 behind the front duo while a second group included lots of Cannondale riders, Adam Yates and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and was at 1.48 at the start of the final lap. Diego Ulissi found himself in the third group that had sat up.

Esteban Chaves, Valerio Agnoli, Manuele Mori, Jonathan Fumeaux, Tiago Machado, Andrey Solomenikov, Andrea Fedi, Manuel Belletti, Franco Pellizotti, Francesco Gavazzi, Egan Bernal, Giovanni Visconti, Marc Soler, Moreno Moser, Simon Clarke, Davide Ballerini and Nicola Bagioli formed the first group but they were brought back with 23km to go. Movistar again took control as the gap was still 1.26.

Soler set the pace and led the group onto the climb with a deficit of 1.14. Meanwhile, Navardauskas dropped Lang.

The group was whittled down to 40 riders by Pier Paolo De Negri who hit the front for Nippo-Vini Fantini and he slowly reduced the gap to 45 seconds with 15km to go. At this point, Lang was caught, leaving just Navardauskas still on the attack.

As they hit the most difficult part, Navardauskas was only 13 seconds ahead and this is where Clarke made his move. He bridged the gap to his teammate who sacrificed himself for the Australian before sitting up.

Clarke entered the final 10km with an advantage of 25 seconds and had pushed it out to 27 seconds one second later. Meanwhile, Navarduaskas was caught by the peloton.

At the top of the climb with 6km to go, Clarke had opened a gap of 39 seconds but he started to lose ground on the descent. It was down to 32 seconds with 4km to go where Fedi took off in pursuit.

With 3km to go, Clarke had an advantage of 35 seconds over Fedi and it was clear that no one was going to bring him back. He had plenty of time to celebrate his win while Fedi took another second place. Giovanni Visconti beat Rigoberto Uran and Francesco Gavazzi in the sprint for third.

With this weekend’s one-day races done and dusted, the attention in Italy turns to the first WorldTour race, Tirreno-Adriatico, which starts on Wednesday.