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Brambilla swipes Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var title from Woods on final stage

Wily Italian vet earns first career stage race title from breakaway

Photo by: Sirotti

Old campaigner Gianluca Brambilla has won stages of the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España in his thirteen-year career, but on Sunday he claimed his first stage race title, triumphing solo on the final day of the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var from a breakaway to nick the title from Canada’s Michael Woods. Woods took a one-second lead over Bauke Mollema into the final stage but his team could not pull him close enough to the high-powered break to bring it back in time; Rusty was GC runner-up by five seconds.

Woods, having also led the 2020 Tirreno-Adriatico before relinquishing the blue jersey, was philosophical after the stage.

The Course

Sunday’s finale took in the climbs around Monaco in 131 km. Three Cat. 1 climbs awaited the riders, with the last one, the Col de la Madone, cresting 30 km from the finish line. Woods not only had to be equal to his rivals on the ascent of the Madone, but also its descent. After the Madone came a kilometre of 7.4 percent and the Col de Nice, 2.5 km at 4.7 percent.

It was announced that Continental side St Michl-Auber93 wouldn’t start the final stage because of a COVID-19 positive within the team.

Dangerous Breakaway

A 16-strong breakaway formed before the first Cat. 1 and for the second day in a row Hugo Houle was one of the fugitives. Rudy Molard of well-represented Groupama-FDJ was best placed, only 10 seconds off the lead, but 10 of the riders were within a minute of Woods. ISUN had a lot of work to do on the business end of the peloton.

The break split on the climbs and a dozen remained out front going into the final 57 km with a 2:30 gap. Groupama-FDJ used its numbers in the breakaway to stay clear.

The Madone

On the 11-km, 6-percent Madone, Giro d’Italia champion Tao Geoghegan Hart tried to skip away from his breakmates, but Groupama-FDJ responded. Things were getting desperate for Woods, who had Dan Martin toiling for him.

Groupama’s Valentin Madouas and Brambilla–13 and 14 seconds behind Woods respectively–lit out for glory on the last half of the Madone. Woods, realizing that second-place Bauke Mollema was suffering in the chase group, dashed away. At the mountain’s peak, Woods was on his own 1:00 in arrears of Madouas and Brambilla. Thirty kilometres remained for Woods to save his yellow jersey.

The Concluding Chase

Woods’ lack of descending prowess allowed Mollema and others to reach him on the drop, and they all sat on the Canadian’s wheel. On the Col de Nice, Madouas and Brambilla began to wonder how to beat the other. With 11 km to go Brambilla pulled out a gap.

Woods kept fighting, Nairo Quintana, Jakob Fuglsang and David Gaudu in his slipstream, but it looked too late. Madouas found reinforcements in Geoghegan Hart and Molard. Geoghegan Hart then set off alone in pursuit of the Italian, who was 13 seconds ahead of the Brit in the GC.

But the 33-year-old Brambilla wouldn’t be denied one of the greatest glories of his career. Woods finished in 10th place only 18-seconds behind.

Woods’ next races will be two French, 1.Pro-rated, one-day contests on February 27 and 28. His 2021 WorldTour debut will be Strade Bianche on March 6.

2021 Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var, Stage 3

1) Gianluca Brambilla (Italy/Trek-Segafredo) 3:43:32
2) Tao Geoghegan Hart (Great Britain/Ineos Grenadiers) +0:13
3) Ben O’Connor (Australia/AG2R-Citroën) s.t.
10) Michael Woods (Canada/Israel Start-up Nation) +0:18

2021 Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var Final GC
1) Gianluca Brambilla (Italy/Trek-Segafredo) 12:51:00
2) Michael Woods (Canada/Israel Start-up Nation) +0:05
3) Bauke Mollema (The Netherlands/Trek-Segafredo) +0:06