Andrea Baglioli won a four-way sprint for victory in the Gran Piemonte to continue Soudal-QuickStep's run of success in the Italian autumn Classics.
UAE Team Emirates Marc Hirschi opened up the hostilities in the sprint for the line but Baglioli was quick to react and claim the seventh win of his career by a bike length. Movistar sprinter Alex Aranburu clinched third, with Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) rounding out the top spots in fourth.
While leading favourite Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) struggled on the hilly finale, the four took off on the last climb of the day, the Pracorsano before fighting it out for the sprint.
Baglioli's triumph comes hard on the heels of success of his teammate Ilan Van Wilder in the Tre Valli Varesine.
Unlike Van Wilder, the Italian, who is set to join Lidl-Trek next year, did not refer to the ongoing controversy surrounding his current team and the potential merger with Jumbo-Visma, but instead said that his recent form in races had motivated him to go for the win.
"I started with the victory in mind, and it was a really fast start, with the 90 kilometres of flat, and pretty hard to control the breakaway. But we had Dries [Devenyns] on the front in the last climbs and then on the small bump in the finale, four of us could get away," Baglioli explained.
"We went full gas because the bunch was so close behind, and then we got to the sprint. It's super nice to win here at home and because I've spent the first four years of my career here in this team, so I'm really happy to leave them with this victory."
How It Unfolded
The early much flatter segment of the 152-kilometre race was shaped by a three-rider break including Louis Vervaecke (Soudal-QuickStep), Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Madis Mihkels (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), sixth last year in Piemonte. However, as the bunch approached the hilly final 70-kilometre circuit and the finishing town of Favria for the first time, they swept up the leading trio and a prolonged, fast-moving finale got underway.
A 14-rider move, including recent Coppa Agostoni winner Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates), allrounder Michael Matthews (Jayco-AIUIa) and former World Champion Rui Costa (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) made the running across the first two of four final categorized climbs, the Colleretto Castelnuovo and the Pont Canavese. But the move shattered on the brutally steep, poorly surfaced slopes of what was by far the hardest climb of the day, the Alpette, while behind Van Aert began to struggle badly.
"I had the feeling the whole day we were a bit in trouble," Van Aert later said, "but we needed to pace hard on the first climbs, then on the long steep climb it was just too hard for me."
However, Van aert showed no sign of being worried that this could be a pointer for his form in Sunday's Gravel World Championships, saying "That's a new race for me, a completely different one and I'm looking forward to that. Today I also wanted to have a result, my team believed in me, and we went for it, but it just didn't work."
While Jumbo-Visma disappeared completely from the running, Soudal, Movistar and Jayco-AIUIa kept the pressure on the remnants of the break, sweeping the last of the move up on the much gentler slopes of the final climb, the Pracorsano. But no sooner had a front group of 30 riders reformed than Hirschi opened up hostilities, with Baglioli the quickest to respond. A strong acceleration in the chasing bunch by Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar) allowed his teammate, Alex Aranburu (Movistar) and Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) to bridge across close to the summit. Then the quartet maintained a slender advantage on a much reduced peloton after the fast descent and into the last 10 kilometres.
Well within sight of the peloton, the four were nonetheless determined to keep things alive despite the tiny gap and little by little, despite Ineos Grenadiers' best efforts, their margin inched into double digits.
The skirmishing began with 1.5 kilometres to go when Aranburu launched a surprise attack, then Martin, by far the least quick of the four launched his own attack, with an equal lack of success. Hirschi began to power things up some 300 metres from the line, but Baglioli's fast finish for small group sprints has served him well in the past and what is likely his last ever race for Soudal-QuickStep, at Gran Piemonte it did so again.
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