February 15/05 1:42 am - Trofeo Laigueglia: Team Navigators Report
Posted by Editoress on 02/15/05
Trofeo Laigueglia Italy
Courtesy Navigators Insurance Cycling Team
The 183Km Trofeo Laigueglia was held today for the 42nd time on the picturesque Italian coast at the edge of the northern Mediterranean Sea. Clear, cool and nearly perfect weather greeted the 185 riders as they lined up for the race, known for its three major climbs and fast, exciting finishes.
Although slated to defend his victory of the previous two editions, Filippo Pozzato was replaced at the last minute, due to illness. On paper, there were a number of contenders with the sprinting speed necessary to take a victory, but the need to also handle the 690m climbs (2200 feet), would narrow the prospects considerably. The Navigators squad has always been in the mix in this event, and this year was no different.
On the first climb of the day, a lone rider attacked the peloton and set out on his own. Florent Brard (Agritubel) pushed on and gradually built himself a lead of over 9-minutes in front of the chasing peloton. For 100Km he enjoyed the sunshine and picked up two of the three KOM sprints before being reeled in at the 135Km mark. For a long while, it appeared that he would stay in front for the entire race, but the strong coastal winds on the Via Aurelia put that thought to rest.
The team strategy for today's race was fairly simple in principle; keep a good position on the climbs, and be the fastest rider back into Laigueglia at the end of the day. Throughout the day, there seemed to be more action at the rear of the peloton than in the front, as the riders raced through coastal towns and inland hills. Coming in to the final climb, the increased speed of the field finished off the hopes of Brard, and set up the steep assault that would put the riders on the top of Passo Balestrino, and only 15Km from the finish line in Laigueglia.
As the peloton charged up the 30Km ascent, groups of fighters were shed out the back like old news. The Navigators squad did everything possible to keep the speedier riders near the front of the thinning field. With the race now shattered along the road, it was a group of 4 that crossed the top in front. Navigators had Chris Baldwin in the 2nd group, while Kirk O'Bee and Phil Zajicek were in the 4th group, but gaining ground on the others. The fast, twisting descent claimed several riders as the 4 leaders; Dario Frigo and Kim Kirchen (both Fassa Bortolo), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas-Bianchi), and Paolo Tiralongo (Panaria) tried to outrun their chasers, who in turn were trying to outrun their own chasers, and bring back the 4 escapees.
All of the chasers ran out of real estate on the fast run-in, leaving the 4 leaders in front to fight it out amongst themselves. For the Navigators team, Baldwin was in the 2nd group, but O'Bee and Zajicek only made it into the 3rd group, leaving Chris as the lone representative up front. An attack by Frigo in the closing kilometers was almost enough to secure the victory, but in the end, it was a sprint with teammate Kim Kirchen taking the win over Pellizotti and Tiralongo. Chris Baldwin came in with about 30 others, 0:50 in arrears.