Veneto Classic: Davide Formolo takes solo win on home roads

Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates) has soloed to his second one-day victory in two weeks in the Veneto Classic, Italy’s last road race of the 2023 season.

Second last year and already victorious in the Coppa Agostoni two weeks ago, Formolo stormed away four kilometres from the finish of the technical, hilly Classic to win ahead of teammate Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) and Filippo Zana (Jayco-AIUIa).

"I wanted to only go on the last climb, stay at the front of the race, and then go on the last climb just at the end of the race," Formolo said of his winning strategy. "I spoke with my teammate with 10k to go, and he said to attack, and he would just follow the others. It was wonderful for me to end the season in this way."

The race between Mel and Bassano del Grappa, featuring sections of gravel and offroad in the finale, came down to the last 10 kilometres when Zana attacked on the second last climb, only for Hirschi and then Formolo to bridge across.

Formolo then launched a blistering attack on the ultra-steep Contra Soarda and, with Hirschi shadowing Zana, was able to stay away for the win.

After a round of applause in remembrance of Italian pro, Davide Rebellin, whose last race in 2022 before his life was tragically cut short in a training accident was the Veneto Classic, the final event of the Italian 2023 road calendar got underway. 

Marco Frigo (Israel-Premier Tech), Michael Belleri (Biesse-Carrera) and former US TT National Champion Joey Rosskopf (Q.36.5) opted to open up hostilities, and the trio forged a lead of nearly three minutes before hitting the main challenges of the day in the second half of the Classic: no less than ten classified short, sharp climbs.

These climbs culminated with four consecutive ascents of the steep La Tisa, then the longer, partially off-road drag up through Diesel Farm and a twisting, unsurfaced downhill section immediately afterwards. But if that was not enough, the riders then had to tackle the last ultra-steep hill of Contra Soarda, its summit with 5.2 kilometres to go.

Despite their early move, Frigo, Belleri, and Rosskopf succeeded in fending off the peloton for over half of these climbs. But in the last 40 kilometres, a counter-attack by Natnael Tesfatsion (Lidl-Trek), Erik Fetter (EOLO-Kometa) and Milan Menthen (Lotto-Dstny), then considerably boosted by the addition of a strong-looking Formolo and Stefano Oldani (Alpecin-Deceuninck) began to make serious inroads into their advantage.

Tesfatsion, Formolo and Oldani managed to drop all of the earlier attackers and go into the lead with three climbs remaining, only for a further delegation of late challengers, including Formolo’s teammate Matteo Trentin, Benoit Cosnefroy (AG2R-Citröen) and Anthon Charmig (Uno-X) to come across.  

The final ascent of the narrow, roughly cobbled ascent of La Tisa allowed Cosnefroy to pile on the pressure and string out the front, and Uno-X then tried to establish some order. However, as soon it reached the gravel-strewn ascent of Diesel Farm,  the bunch splintered yet again - this time, definitively - and neither Uno-X nor AG2R had any representation ahead.

Instead, the crunch moment came when Filippo Zana (Jayco-AIUIa) attacked with about 10 kilometres to go, dropping last year’s winner Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) on the increasingly poorly surfaced upper segment of the Diesel Farm climb. A chunk of pure, rollercoaster off-road on the narrow descent allowed Hirschi to close down the gap, though, and then when Formolo bridged across, UAE had two riders ahead to Jayco’s one to fight out the finale.

Hirschi attempted to drop Zana before the final climb of the day, the Contra Soarda, where the Italian's previous uphill prowess could have made him theoretically stronger. Instead, when the road steepened one last time, Formolo was able to open up a definitive gap with a searing acceleration four kilometres from the line, and it was all but game over.

Zana didn’t stop chasing despite Hirschi shadowing, but ahead, Formolo had no difficulty in steadily opening up his lone advantage for his second win of the autumn Italian Classics. Then, in the closing moments of the race, Hirschi stomped on the pedals to see off Zana, claim second and make it a UAE Team Emirates 1-2 in the last European road race of 2023.

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