Trofeo Laigueglia: Lenny Martinez solos to victory in aggressive finale

Young Frenchman continues impressive season as Vendrame and Ayuso complete top three

Clock15:22, Wednesday 28th February 2024
Lenny Martinez took victory in the Trofeo Laigueglia

© Getty Images

Lenny Martinez took victory in the Trofeo Laigueglia

Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) put in a thrilling performance to win the Trofeo Laigueglia after outgunning and then outfoxing his main rivals on the final climb before holding on for victory with a daredevil descent.

The Frenchman attacked several times over the finishing circuit but made his final and winning move on the Colla Michere with 9.3km to go. That acceleration dropped Jan Christen (UAE Team Emirates) who had frustrated Martinez throughout the race with his tactics and counterattacks.

On the long descent to the finish, Martinez held a slender lead as Christen provided a last-ditch attempt at making the catch but when he was caught by the remnants of the break Martinez was able to savour the moment and take his second win of the season so far.

Andrea Vendrame (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) and Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) completed the podium, with the Spaniard joining the chasing group after Martinez's attack.

Exciting racing in pre-Strade Bianche Italian one-day

As expected, the 61st edition of the Trofeo Laigueglia came down to a punishing final circuit around the foothills of the Italian coastline. The peloton would tackle the Colla Michere and Capo Mele four times, before a long and technical descent towards the finish.

The early break had been snuffed out before the race even hit the circuit with UAE Team Emirates – by far the strongest team in the race on paper – setting a furious pace and stringing out the peloton on the early slopes of the Colla Michere. At 2km in length, the climb would only take a few minutes to ascend but the 14% pitches, and an average gradient of 8.2%, meant that UAE could wear down the opposition through each switchback.

After Rafał Majka set a blistering pace on the first time over the climb only 50 riders remained in contention, and while a brief lull in pace allowed for Lorenzo Rota (Intermarché-Wanty) to jump clear, the writing was on the wall with UAE determined to make the race.

It was then the turn of Juan Ayuso to wind things up and the young Spaniard made an immediate impression, moving clear with six riders before another small selection joined the escape.

With 26km to go the main move formed with Lenny Martinez attacking with Christen, Vendrame, Darren Rafferty (EF Education-EasyPost), Davide De Pretto (Jayco AlUla), Alessandro Pinarello (VF Group-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè), and Christian Scaroni (Astana).

At first Christen looked determined to sit back, waiting for his teammates to form a chase group that would include bolster the UAE numbers but with Martinez and company pressing on the break quickly established a 30-second lead.

Martinez was intent on breaking up proceedings early and had no desire to allow UAE to build a numerical advantage. On the third ascent of the Michere he attacked again, this time with 21km to go.

This time the break split with only Rafferty, Scaroni and Christen able to follow. What ensued was a battle of wills as well as legs with Martinez constantly casting his gaze in Christen’s direction. The UAE rider was entitled to sit back as his team led the chase but his willingness to also follow attacks and break up the pace-setting almost cost Martinez his focus as the gap began to shrink from a healthy 37 seconds to a rather meagre 15.

On the final climb Martinez initially sat back, allowing Scaroni to throw in a couple of digs but on the steepest ramps, the young Frenchman kicked clear. This time only Christen could follow and the UAE rider even managed an attack of his own soon after. Martinez nullified the acceleration, and with 9.3km he kicked again.

This time Christen had no choice but to yield, as the general consensus was that that Swiss powerhouse would catch the pint-sized Frenchman on the technical descent and then brush him aside in the sprint.

Martinez, however, had other ideas. Instead of going backwards, the Frenchman eked out a handful more seconds on the damp Italian switchbacks and as the road levelled out he went pedal stroke for pedal stroke with the UAE rider. In the end, it was Christen who cracked, with the chase group catching him with 2.8km to go.

Martinez hung on for the win, while Ayuso came back from absolutely nowhere to save a podium spot for his team with third.

Race Results

1

fr flag

MARTINEZ Lenny

Groupama-FDJ

5H 11' 10"

2

it flag

VENDRAME Andrea

Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team

+ 29"

3

es flag

AYUSO Juan

UAE Team Emirates

"

4

it flag

SCARONI Cristian

Astana Qazaqstan Team

"

5

ch flag

CHRISTEN Jan

UAE Team Emirates

"

6

ie flag

RAFFERTY Darren

EF Education-EasyPost

+ 31"

7

fr flag

BARRÉ Louis

ARKEA-B&B HOTELS

+ 53"

8

it flag

VELASCO Simone

Astana Qazaqstan Team

+ 57"

9

fr flag

LAPEIRA Paul

Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team

"

10

it flag

ROTA Lorenzo

Intermarché-Wanty

"

Provided by FirstCycling

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