The Tour of the Alps is back. Two years after the finish in Bozen/Bolzano and Pavel Sivakov’s success, the Euro-regional stage races resumed its journey on Monday April 19th with the 1st stage of the 2021 edition, from Brixen/Bressanone (South Tyrol) to Innsbruck (Tirol, Austria) after 140.6 km.
The comeback of the Tour of the Alps wasn’t the only one to celebrate under the pale sun of Innsbruck: Gianni Moscon (Ineos Grenadiers), one of the shiniest talents in recent years in Italian cycling, raised his arms on the finish line crystalline talents of Italian cycling in recent years, too often halted by injuries or controversial episodes, raised his arms over the finish line.
Returning to the race two months having his scaphoid fractured at the Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, Moscon took advantage of the perfect knowledge of the streets of Innsbruck, the city where he has chosen to live for more than three years now, to place a solo dig with four kilometers to the finish line, then managing to resist the charge of the surging peloton by a whisker.
Second place for the surprising Idar Andersen (Team Uno-X), who also attacked in the finale, while Aleksandr Riabushenko (UAE Team Emirates) had to settle for third place ahead of Fabio Felline (Astana-PremierTech) and Nicholas Schultz (Team BikeExchange).
“It’s really the best way to get back into the race,” Moscon commented, “it’s an unbelievable emotion to win after such a long time (nearly three years), especially here in Innsbruck. My knowledge of the roads certainly helped, but it’s the legs that made the difference. I didn’t expect to be able to win in my comeback race, but this is the demonstration that if you really believe in it, it is possible to achieve big results. Tomorrow is my 27th birthday, I gave myself a double present in this green leader’s jersey and a success that is worth a lot: my Tour of the Alps will continue in the sign of determination, and whoever from Ineos Grenadiers wears the green jersey in Riva del Garda, we’ll be happy with that.”
Before the race ignited in the final, with the double ascent to the Axams climb that was already seen in the 2018 Team Time Trial World Championship, the race lived on the initiative of Alessandro De Marchi (Israel Start-up Nation), Marton Dima (Eolo Kometa ) and Felix Enghelardt (Tirol KTM Cycling Team), who attacked immediately out of Brixen/Bressanone, managing to open up to a 5.27 advantage, and passing over the Brenner under slight sleet.
De Marchi remained alone in the lead on the first time up to Axams, and then resisted the charge of the peloton led by Astana-PremierTech for several kilometers before surrendering with 15 km to go.
After the attempt of Jensen, Bilbao, Umba and Savini, quickly reeled in, it was Moscon’s move that resolved a frantic finale, earning to the Trentino-born the Melinda green jersey. Behind him, the surprising Dane Andersen had a best youngster’s Würth Modyf white jersey to show in addition to the most prestigious result of his career. Alessandro De Marchi wore the Best Climber’s light blue Cassa Centrale Group jersey, while the Intermediate Sprints PMG Sport red jersey went to Austrian Enghelardt.
All the standout names of the race ended up in the main group, with one notable exception: Chris Froome (Israel Start-up Nation), who finished 115th at 5.13. The road back to his best seems to be still long and tricky for the four-time Tour de France winner.
The second stage of the Tour of the Alps will take place on Tuesday, April 20th: 121.5 km from Innsbruck to Feichten in Kaunertal. An all-Tyrolean stage, the 2nd one is going to be substantially more challenging than the opening effort. After 50 km substantially on flat, the athletes will face the Piller Sattel climb twice from two different sides: the most demanding, the second one (slopes up to 18%) reaches the top with 21 km from the end. From there, a fast and technical descent will lead to the gradual final ascent towards Feichten im Kaunertal, which will certainly produce a far different general classification from today. Moscon, anyway, is not ready to give up: “I’ll try to defend the green jersey, that’s for sure.” That would make heck of a birthday.