Matthew Walls wins Gran Piemonte

Matt Walls (Bora-Hansgrohe) won Gran Piemonte in a bunch sprint in Borgosesia, beating Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka) and Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma) to the line after a chaotic final kilometre.

The Olympic omnium champion held his nerve in a chaotic finale, where some fast men lost valuable ground while navigating a traffic island just past the flamme rouge. Walls was well positioned there, and he then had the nous to follow the wheel of Max Richeze (UAE Team Emirates) in the finishing straight before delivering a rasping sprint in the final 150m.

Nizzolo, who won this race in 2016 was able to make up some ground on Walls in the closing metres, but the 23-year-old kicked once again in sight of the line to claim his second victory on the road as a professional.

Kooij, who had to chase back on after a crash in the finale, placed an impressive third ahead of Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates), while world under-23 silver medallist Biniam Ghirmay (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert) took 5th in front of Jakub Mareczko (Vini Zabù).

"The boys did a really good job getting me towards the closing kilometres and I picked a good wheel. I came off and I had enough in the tank for the sprint," said Walls.

Paris-Roubaix winner Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) was perhaps the favourite for victory, but the European champion made no impact in the sprint after being stalled in the final kilometre, while other contenders such as Ethan Hayter (Ineos) and Elia Viviani (Cofidis) were also effectively out of the running come the final 300 metres.

"They were all there coming towards the end, I saw my opportunity to go and I went for it," said Walls, who agreed that his track skills had helped him to pick his way through the peloton in the finale. "It was pretty hectic coming in towards the finish, there were a couple of crashes or something, but I think it helped a lot being able to position myself well in the bunch."

Walls' victory owed most, of course, to his striking turn of speed in the final 150 metres as he opened a gap that Nizzolo and Kooij simply could not close. The Oldham native has caught the eye on both road and track in 2021, from his assured debut at the Tour de la Provence in February to his omnium gold and Madison silver at the Tokyo Olympics.

He carried that track form into the final part of the season, notching up his first win for Bora-Hansgrohe on the final stage of the Tour of Norway.

"It's really big, it shows that I can perform on the top level on the road," Walls said. "I knew I could do it on the track after the Olympics. so it's nice to be able to do that on the road as well."

How it unfolded

When the cycling calendar was redrawn amid the coronavirus pandemic last year, Gran Piemonte took on a different guise, with RCS Sport pitching it as a dress rehearsal for Il Lombardia by routing it through the hills of the Lange, with George Bennett emerging victorious in Barolo.

This time out, the race returned to favouring the sprinters with a largely flat 169km route through from Rocca Canavese to Borgosesia. Yet even though the odds were stacked against the attackers, five volunteers emerged after a rapid opening, as Manuele Boaro (Astana-PremierTech), Sylvain Moniquet (Lotto Soudal), Marc Soler (Movistar), Mattias Skjelmose Jensen (Trek-Segafredo) and Marco Frapporti (Vini Zabù) forged clear.

The quintet escaped after 15km but the pace never truly relented in the peloton behind and their advantage was never allowed to reach three minutes. The escapees covered some 49km in a very brisk opening hour, and the pace took its toll on Frapporti when they hit the day's stiffest obstacle, the steady climb towards La Serra after 60km.

Boaro, Moniquet, Soler and Skjelmose Jensen pressed on thereafter, but their advantage began to tumble after the midway point as a coalition of the sprinters' teams took control at the head of the peloton, with Cofidis and Qhubeka-NextHash prominent on behalf of Viviani and Nizzolo, respectively.

As the break's lead dwindled, Boaro attacked in an attempt to breathe new life into the move, but the escapees were caught with 28km remaining and the collaboration among the sprinters' teams ensured there would be no further attacks on the run-in, with Ineos to the fore on behalf of Ethan Hayter and Bahrain Victorious prominent in support of Colbrelli.

Kooij went down in a crash inside the final 20km, but the Dutchman quickly rejoined the bunch, and Jumbo-Visma's presence on the front was a sure sign that he would contest the inevitable sprint. Ineos, and Filippo Ganna in particular, were also keen to ensure a bunch sprint, while Qhubeka-NextHash took up the reins for Nizzolo inside the final 2km.

Road furniture just inside the final kilometre served to disrupt some of the sprinters, with Viviani among those to sit up, but Affini took over at the head of the bunch with a long turn on behalf of Kooij.

The experienced Richeze, meanwhile, was on hand to lead out the sprint for Trentin, but Walls showed nous beyond his years to mark the Argentinian's wheel, and he unfurled a crisp sprint to claim the spoils.

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Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Matthew Walls (GBr) Bora-Hansgrohe 3:34:47
2Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Qhubeka NextHash
3Olav Kooij (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
4Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
5Biniam Girmay (Eri) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
6Jakub Mareczko (Ita) Vini Zabu' Brado KTM
7Riccardo Minali (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
8Arvid de Kleijn (Ned) Rally Cycling
9Amaury Capiot (Bel) Team Arkea-Samsic
10Stefano Oldani (Ita) Lotto Soudal
11Ethan Hayter (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
12Simone Consonni (Ita) Cofidis
13Matteo Moschetti (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
14Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
15Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) UAE Team Emirates
16José Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team
17Davide Gabburo (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
18Gonzalo Serrano Rodriguez (Spa) Movistar Team
19Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain Victorious
20Colin Joyce (USA) Rally Cycling
21Ben Swift (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
22Filippo Tagliani (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
23Luca Colnaghi (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
24Omer Goldstein (Isr) Israel Start-up Nation
25Samuele Zambelli (Ita) Iseo-Rime-Carnovali
26Filippo Baroncini (Ita) Team Colpack Ballan
27Edoardo Affini (Ita) Jumbo-Visma
28Enrico Zanoncello (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
29Antonio Puppio (Ita) Qhubeka-NextHash
30Maxim Van Gils (Bel) Lotto Soudal
31Edo Goldstein (Isr) Israel Start-Up Nation
32Donavan Grondin (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
33Marco Canola (Ita) Gazprom-RusVelo
34Giovanni Aleotti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:13
35Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
36Jan Bakelants (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
37Jhonatan Restrepo Valencia (Col) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
38Nicola Venchiarutti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
39Mattia Bais (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
40Filippo Conca (Ita) Lotto Soudal
41Koen Bouwman (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
42Riccardo Tosin (Ita) Vini Zabu'
43Manuel Belletti (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
44Antonio Tiberi (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
45Andreas Stokbro (Den) Qhubeka NextHash
46Unai Iribar Jauregi (Esp) Euskaltel-Euskadi
47Filippo Fiorelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
48Mattia Viel (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
49Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
50Nickolas Zukowsky (Can) Rally Cycling 0:00:22
51Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Qhubeka NextHash
52Damiano Cima (Ita) Gazprom-RusVelo
53Emil Vinjebo (Den) Qhubeka NextHash
54Stijn Daemen (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty Gobert Matériaux
55Aleksandr Riabushenko (Blr) UAE Team Emirates
56Samuele Zoccarato (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
57Valerio Conti (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
58Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto Soudal
59Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious
60Txomin Juaristi Arrieta (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
61Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
62Jacopo Mosca (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
63Fabio Felline (Ita) Astana-Premier Tech
64Lukasz Owsian (Pol) Team Arkea-Samsic
65Igor Boev (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo 0:00:31
66Mikel Iturria Segurola (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
67Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Cofidis
68Jeremy Bellicaud (Fra) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
69Hugo Toumire (Fra) Cofidis
70Jokin Aranburu Arruti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
71Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
72Pavel Kochetkov (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo
73Sergei Chernetskii (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo
74Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain Victorious
75Davide Martinelli (Ita) Astana-Premier Tech
76Asbjorn Hellemose (Den) Trek-Segafredo
77Steff Cras (Bel) Lotto Soudal
78Leonardo Marchiori (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
79Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
80Mattia Frapporti (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
81Dayer Quintana (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic
82Winner Anacona (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic
83Einer Rubio Reyes (Col) Movistar Team
84Héctor Carretero (Spa) Movistar Team
85Mikel Bizkarra Etxegibel (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
86Keegan Swirbul (USA) Rally Cycling
87Alessandro Tonelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
88Daryl Impey (RSA) Israel Start-up Nation
89Jose Herrada (Spa) Cofidis
90Matteo Sobrero (Ita) Astana-Premier Tech
91James Piccoli (Can) Israel Start-up Nation
92Attilio Viviani (Ita) Cofidis
93Sebastian Henao Gomez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers
94Alessandro Covi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
95Luca Coati (Ita) Qhubeka-NextHash
96Rodrigo Contreras Pinzon (Col) Astana-Premier Tech
97Matthew Holmes (GBr) Lotto Soudal
98Joan Bou Company (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
99Mark Padun (Ukr) Bahrain Victorious
100Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma
101Gijs Leemreize (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
102Tobias Foss (Nor) Jumbo-Visma
103Riccardo Stacchiotti (Ita) Vini Zabu' Brado KTM
104Emerson Oronte (USA) Rally Cycling
105Santiago Buitrago Sanchez (Col) Bahrain Victorious
106Diego Pablo Sevilla Lopez (Spa) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
107Marco Frapporti (Ita) Vini Zabu' Brado KTM
108Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo
109Vincenzo Albanese (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
110Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team
111Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:52
112Petr Rikunov (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo 0:00:01
113Gregorio Ferri (Ita) Vini Zabu' Brado KTM
114Guy Sagiv (Isr) Israel Start-up Nation
115Kevin Ledanois (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
116Filippo Ganna (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers
117Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis
118Nathan Brown (USA) Rally Cycling
119Alastair MacKellar (Aus) Israel Start-Up Nation 0:01:12
120Lucas Plapp (Aus ) Ineos Grenadiers 0:01:19
121Stephen Williams (GBr) Bahrain Victorious
122Ben King (USA) Rally Cycling
123Richie Porte (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers
124Dmitrii Strakhov (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo
125Cameron Wurf (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers
126Michel Hessmann (Ger) Jumbo-Visma 0:01:24
127Antonio Angulo Sampedro (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:02:07
128Théo Delacroix (Fra) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 0:02:44
129Davide Orrico (Ita) Vini Zabu' Brado KTM 0:03:16
130Samuele Rivi (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
131Mattias Skjelmose (Den) Trek-Segafredo 0:04:50
132Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar Team
133Domen Novak (Slo) Bahrain Victorious 0:05:28
134Manuele Boaro (Ita) Astana-Premier Tech 0:09:04
135Sylvain Moniquet (Bel) Lotto Soudal
136Matteo Pelucchi (Ita) Qhubeka NextHash 0:09:30
DNFBen Zwiehoff (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFDario Cataldo (Ita) Movistar Team
DNFRafal Majka (Pol) UAE Team Emirates
DNFGiulio Masotto (Ita) Vini Zabu' Brado KTM
DNSPatrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNSNatnael Berhane (Eri) Cofidis
DNSGeorg Zimmermann (Ger) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux

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