Under 23 Great Britain Academy rider Luke Rowe finished eighth in the Trofeo Franco Balestra near Brescia.
Welsh-born Rowe, who turned 20 five days ago, finished at the front of a bunch sprint, with a successful six-strong breakaway just up the road, led in by Russian rider Alexander Mironov (Itera-Katusha).
“I’m very happy, the team raced really well,” said Academy coach Max Sciandri.
“Fourteen guys went with Jon Mould early on. There were five smaller laps of 25km and a big lap of 40, and as they approached the last lap, he got dropped.”
“Then the fourteen guys stayed away with twenty-five guys chasing, with Luke and Mark [Christian] among them.”
Sciandri believes that Rowe can be a leader this year, filling the gap left by Peter Kennaugh, who has graduated to the professional ranks with Team Sky.
While Rowe mixed it in the bunch sprint, Christian finished at the back of the group in 33rd. Erick Rowsell was the other team member to finish, placing 71st, over five minutes in arrears.
The only sour note was the performance of first-year Academy member Tim Kennaugh, who was dropped and abandoned the race after 40 kilometres. “I was a bit disappointed for Tim, but it’s a learning process,” said Sciandri.
The team for the race consisted of Luke Rowe, Mark Christian, Jon Mould, Erick Rowsell, George Atkins, Chris Whorrall and Tim Kennaugh.
New Academy recruit and European junior time-trial champion Joe Perrett also arrived in Italy last night. The Essex-based rider is making a late switch from Magnus Backstedt’s Team Sprocket.
“It should be good – today, we’ll go through what it’s all about, the race programme and take it from there,” said Sciandri.
This year’s Academy programme consists of a mixture of Italian races, major European U23 stage races and sporadic track appearances.
The riders will do the Giro delle Regioni, Tour of Berlin, Tour of Alsace, Baby Giro and Tour de l’Avenir in the forthcoming season.
The next event is the GP San Giuseppe on Sunday.
“After San Giuseppe, we’ve got a couple of weeks of no racing – I’m glad about that. We can concentrate on training and getting in some steady miles. It’s important that we do the kilometres and put the quality in before stage races,” said Sciandri.
Academy riders start season at Trofeo Franco Balestra