Maiden victory for Hermann Pernsteiner
The last weekend has been memorable for the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, scoring two impressive solo wins: On Friday, Mark Padun powered his team to victory in Hammer Series Limburg’s climbing stage, and on Sunday Hermann Pernsteiner got to celebrate his first Worldtour win at the GP Lugano one-day race. In the prologue of the Dauphiné, Vincenzo Nibali managed to limit his time loss to the specialists within the group of overall contenders.
Last weekend the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM has been racing at three races in France, the Netherlands and Switzerland respectively: Vincenzo Nibali and his support team for the Tour de France contested the prologue of the Critérium du Dauphiné stage race. A selection of strong climbers and classics riders took to the start of the one-day race GP Lugano, and a mix of sprinters and young talents lined up for the three stages of the Hammer Series Limburg. Throughout the weekend the team had plenty of reasons to celebrate: With Hermann Pernsteiner and Mark Padun two fresh signings for this seasons got to celebrate impressive wins in a surprisingly similar fashion. On the tough course of the Swiss one-day race GP Lugano the team could play many different cards: Domenico Pozzovivo and Giovanni Visconti came fresh off the Giro d’Italia, while the hilly circuit in the South of Switzerland also seemed to favor Enrico Gasparotto. In total, the riders had to cover eight laps of 23.2 kilometers, resulting in an impressive 4000 meters of elevation. This number made it clear that the GP Lugano was a race to be won by a punchy climber with the necessary endurance to go the full distance.
Once the race was on, Austrian climbing specialist Hermann Pernsteiner turned out to be the secret ace of the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM: Fresh from finishing 2nd at the Tour of Japan and still suffering from jet lag a bit, Pernsteiner attacked in the fourth lap and got away with Kristian Sbaragli. Behind this duo, the riders in red, gold and dark blue used their power in numbers to shut down any counterattacks. Since Sbaragli is known as a fast finisher, Pernsteiner placed another attack at the bottom of the last lap’s long climb, dropped the Italian and never looked back. Thus he got to celebrate his first Worldtour victory as solo winner. «It’s the most beautiful day of my career. I can’t believe it», Pernsteiner commented. «My task at this GP Lugano was to help our leaders, but I was in the right place at the right time. I took my chance and now I’m here to celebrate an amazing success.» Enrico Gasparotto made good use of his experience in the finale to secure a 3rd place from the group of chasers, and with Giovanni Visconti in 5th, Domenico Pozzovivo in 6th and Antonio Nibali in 8th three more riders of the team finished in the top10.
The three-stage Hammer Series is a team contest, and the Limburg stop that was held in the South of the Netherlands where the Ardennes offer plenty of climbs. Fittingly the first stage served up a hilly circuit that had to be ridden eleven times. For the five laps no attack would stick and Sonny Colbrelli collected a lot of points for the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM at the intermediate sprints. Then Mark Padun reacted to an attack of Pavel Sivakov. Under pouring rain these two riders built a lead of 30 seconds, but Padun proved to be the stronger rider of this duo: He dropped his companion, extended his lead to almost a minute and crossed the finish line first. Since Padun had not raced since April 20th when he had won the final stage of the Tour of the Alps, this even was a back-to-back win for the highly talented Ukrainian. Thanks to the points he had collected with his solo effort and Sonny Colbrelli’s continuous scoring, the team won the first stage with a sizable margin. One day later, the riders in red, gold and dark blue finished the mostly flat sprint stage in 6th and went into the conclusive team pursuit in 2nd place overall. With an 8th place in this stage, they narrowly missed out on a podium spot, finishing the Hammer Series Limburg in 4th.
For Vincenzo Nibali and his core support team for the Tour de France, the Critérium du Dauphiné is a last test for the Grande Boucle. With a prologue, two transitional stages, a team time trial and no less than four mountaintop finishes, this stage race is well-suited to fine tune their form and tactics. As for the pan-flat 6.6 kilometer prologue held in Valence, the expectations of the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM were moderate. As for Vincenzo Nibali the priority was to limit the time loss to potential rivals for the overall standings who are known to be better time trialists. In the end Nibali succeeded to so, conceding 24 seconds to the day’s winner Michal Kwiatkowski. With Ivan Cortina only one of his team mates was faster by a mere second.
GP LUGANO: LUGANO - LUGANO, 185.6KM
1. Hermann Pernsteiner, AUT/BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, in 4:53.05 hours
2. Kristian Sbaragli, ITA, + 0.32
3. Enrico Gasparotto, ITA/BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, + 1.33
HAMMER SERIES LIMBURG
STAGE 1: VAALS - DRIELANDENPUNT, 76.3KM
1. BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, 1370.6 points
2. Lotto Soudal, 972.8 points
3. Quick-Step Floors, 781.4 points