Fabio Cini and Emilie Bottini win 2021 Granfondo Alé La Merckx which returned to the roads around Verona
After the 2020 edition was cancelled due to the pandemic, the spectacular Alé La Merckx International Granfondo returned to the roads of Verona. Fabio Cini (Asd Capitani Minuterie Metalliche) from Tuscany Wins won the men's race and Emilie Bottini (Asd Zerotest), from Ticino won the womens race. Enrico Schirato and Elisa Benedet win the 2021 Granfondo UEC Championship.
After the forced stop of the 2020 edition because of the pandemic, Verona returns to live a great event of sport and cycling: the International Granfondo Alé La Merckx. In the long race, victory of Fabio Cini, from Tuscany, after 50 km of escape, and the Swiss Emilie Bottini who leads the race from the beginning without big surprises. Also awarded the jerseys of the UEC Granfondo Champions and the special prize “Prize for Women's Fighting Spirit”.
1,850 cyclists were registered for the 2021 event, coming from 15 nations including United Arab Emirates and United States, and 1,400 athletes started yesterday morning, June 6th, at 8 a.m., from the wonderful Piazza Bra, few meters from the Arena of Verona.
The international race Granfondo Alé La Merckx, at its 14th edition, is dedicated to "the Cannibal" Eddy Mercxk and to the famous Verona-based brand of cycling clothing Alé.
It is also the only stage for the assignment of the European Granfondo Championship titles. The UEC (Union Européenne de Cyclisme) in fact, chose Verona and this competition for the championship dedicated to the best granfondisti (those who ride the Granfondos) of Europe. Participation in the championships had to be chosen at the time of registration by paying an additional fee.
At the start, Alessia Piccolo (the CEO of APG, the company that owns Alé) welcomed the cyclists and the president of the UEC Enrico Della Casa.
Other famous names at the start such as the champions Mario Cipollini and Silvio Martinello.
The start was given by Filippo Rando, Sports Councillor of the Comune di Verona.
The granfondo Alé La Merckx is one of the first cycling events to open the long-awaited 2021 season. There were two routes for the athletes to choose from: the 129km Granfondo with a difference in level of 2,600m and the 82km Mediofondo with a difference in level of 1,450m.
Victory in the main route for Fabio Cini (ASD Capitani Minuterie Metalliche), from Tuscany, who led a strategic race, initially staying in the group and then slipping into a narrow breakaway. Leading 2 km from the top of Passo del Piocio, he covered the last 50 km alone, closing in 3h37'21" (average 35,6 km/h), leaving behind, by almost 3 minutes, Enrico Schirato (KTM Torre Bike) and Ettore Carlini (Hair Gallery Cycling Team), second and third respectively.
In the women's long-distance race, first came Emilie Bottini from Switzerland, who led a virtually solo race. The Swiss athlete, running for the Italian team ASD Zerotest, finished her race after 4h17'48", giving 2'33" to Maria Elena Palmisano (Piton) and 2'54" to Fabia Maramotti of ASD Squadrareggio.
The group of cyclists was divided since the start, when - still on the plain and among the vineyards dedicated to Valpolicella - a first group of 9 fugitives broke away. Two of them will then lead the race, passing first at “the Cannibal time trial”, dedicated to Eddy Merckx (at km 30 of the race), and staying ahead until the crossroads that divides the Granfondo from the Mediofondo.
They were Christian Luisotto (Spezzotto Bike Team) and Andrea Pisetta of Team Sildon Garda. After being the firsts to climb, they will choose the medium course (82 km in total and 1,450 m of elevation gain), which Pisetta will win in 2h13'. Igor Zanetti second, at 2'32" (ASD New Molini Dolo) Fabio Fadini third at 2'45" (ASD Team Morotti).
The winner of the medium course covered the 82 km at an average speed of 36.8 km/h.
In the meantime, on the long route, a group of 30 cyclists regrouped in the lead and remained united until km 63. At Località Ronconi a new breakaway starts and this time it is the decisive one: Stefano Stagni, of Asd Gianluca Faenza Team, and Fabio Cini, of Asd Capitani Minuterie Metalliche, face together the climb after Erbezzo and gain ground.
Two kilometres before the top of the Piocio Pass, in a breathtaking mountain landscape, Fabio Cini launched the attack that decided the race and Stagni had to raise the white flag.
Cini, after the last part of the climb, continued with an impetuous action in the descent and his advantage on the pursuers grew even more: the flag of Capitani Minuterie Metalliche covered the last 50 km of the Granfondo alone and crossed the finish line exulting with raised hands after 129 km of race.
His final average speed was 35,6 km/h, despite the 2,600 metres of difference in altitude; the gap inflicted on the three pursuers was almost three minutes.
The other two steps of the podium were contested in a sprint at the end of the Torricelle climb, made famous by the World Cycling Championships in Verona in 1999 and 2004: Enrico Schirato of KTM Torre Bike got the better of the third placed rider of the day, Ettore Carlini of Hair Gallery Cycling Team.
The long women's race was won by the Ticino cyclist Emilie Bottini, of Asd Zerotest, who arrived (at an average speed of 30 km/h) after 4h17'48" in a race ridden partly together with the second group of men and partly alone. With her on the podium Maria Elena Palmisano of Team Piton (+2'33") and Fabia Maramotti of Asd Squadrareggio (+2'54"). The women's Mediofondo race saw Maria Serena Merotto of A3 Asd leading in 2h33'51" ahead of Claudia Bertoncini (Maggi Offroad team) and Annalisa Mondi (ASD Sorriso Bike Team).
The Tuscan Fabio Cini is a well-known name in the chronicles of Granfondo races, which often see him on the podium and preferably on the highest step. At his third success of the season, at the beginning of May he had already won the Blockhaus Marathon in Pacentro, in Abruzzo.
For the Swiss rider Bottini, it was her baptism at Alé La Merckx and her victory at the Verona event was her first of the season.
At the start Mario Cipollini who commented: "It is nice to be here and to finally riding again. The presence of so many participants is significant of the desire that we all had to get back on our bikes".
Mario Cipollini thanked the organisation for their generous efforts in these difficult conditions.
The Overall Winners
Emilie Bottini, said afterwards, "I did my race, first climbing with some friends who helped me a lot and then attacking alone on the last climb. The course is beautiful, with a very technical descent, I enjoyed it".
Fabio Cini said "This race has a beautiful course: the climbs are not excessive, the views are exceptional. We tried to go away in two, but then I realised I still had something left in my legs and I attacked hard before the finish. I took a minute and a half on the final part of the climb and then built up a lead on the descent. At the end I was tired, it was a countdown on the Torricelle, but I wanted to arrive”.
Prize for Women's Fighting Spirit
At the end of the Verona-based event, a special “Prize for Women's Fighting Spirit” was awarded, dedicated to the girls of the Afghan national cycling team who, unfortunately, have many difficulties both in finding cycling equipment and in being able to participate in races and events. Coordinated by journalist Francesca Monzone, the prize is intended to draw attention to these courageous women who, despite the many difficulties, continue to train and cycle.
The prize was awarded by Alessia Piccolo, CEO of APG, to the 65-year-old Maria Bellinato, who for over twenty years, despite having a family and children and a demanding job, has been training with perseverance and determination every morning, getting up at 4.30 a.m. and taking part in 20 races a season.
Finally, the organisation would like to thank the main sponsors of the event Alé, DMT, Cipollini and the partners Wintex and Borgini Jersey.
Granfondo UEC Championship Podium
1st Enrico Schirato (Ktm Torre Bike) 03:40:16.102
2nd Ettore Carlini (Hair Gallery Cycling Team)
3rd Sergei Pomoshnikov (Team Sildom Garda)
Elisa Benedet (Spezzotto Bike Team) 04:24:45.210
Silvia Tabacco (Team Armistizio Zerolite)
Antonella Incristi ()Team Friuli Sanvitese)
For full results of the race and the Granfondo UEC Championship, please visit : https://www.alelamerckx.com/en/classifiche