Chris Lawless celebrated his first victory as a professional rider on Thursday after he assisted Team Sky in winning the team time trial of the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali stage race in Italy.
The 22-year-old British rider joined Sky from American development team Axeon-Hagens Berman for the 2018 season, and appears to have made the transition with ease.
Lawless placed fourth in the opening morning stage of Coppi e Bartali, coming second in the bunch sprint behind breakaway riders Pascal Eenkhoorn (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Lawson Craddock (EF Education First-Drapac) before the afternoon's TTT success.
“It was a good circuit for a break and they managed to stay away and we knew we needed to save our legs for the afternoon as the team time trial would be tough," said Lawless.
“I actually felt I didn’t get the most out of myself [on stage 1a] but I’m more hopeful for stage three and hopefully I will go better in the sprint.”
Lawless joined team-mates Leonardo Basso, Jon Dibben, Diego Rosa, Luke Rowe and Pavel Sivakov for the stage 1b TTT, where they set the fastest time by a margin of 10 seconds over second-placed CCC Sprandi Polkowice. It was also Basso and Sivakov's first professional victory – and Rowe's first win since coming back from severe leg injury.
Lawless sits in third overall with three stages remaining, but has some work to do to reduce the one minute and two second deficit on race leader Eenkhoorn. Rosa, Sivakov, Dibben and Rowe are in fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh spot overall at the same time as Lawless providing several options to challenge for the general classification.
“We’ve got a strong team, with Diego and Pavel going really well in the team time trial so we’re confident of closing the gap,” said Lawless.
The five-stage, four-day race moves onto stage two on Friday, featuring a hilly route from Riccione to Sogliano al Rubicone over 130km.
Saturday's penultimate stage should end in a bunch sprint, giving Lawless another chance for a stage victory, and the race concludes on Sunday in Montegibbio with a decisive 12.5km individual time trial.
Frenchman Lilian Calmejane won the race in 2017 for Direct Energie, with Team Sky tasting success in 2014 when Peter Kennaugh took the overall victory.
Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali 2018, stage 1b: Gatteo a Mare to Gatteo, 13.3km TTT
1. Team Sky, in 14-44
2. CCC Sprandi Polowice, at 10 secs
3. Mitchelton-Scott, at same time
4. Team LottoNL-Jumbo, at 11 secs
5. Trek-Segafredo, at 13 secs
6. Androni Sidermac Bottechia, at 16 secs
7. EF Education First-Drapac, at 21 secs
8. Gazpro-RusVelo, at 24 secs
9. Nippo Vini Fantini, at 29 secs
10. Wilier Trestina-Selle Italia, at 30 secs
Stage 1a: Gatteo to Gatteo, 97.8km
1. Pascal Eenkhoorn (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, in 2-12-43
2. Lawson Craddock (USA) EF Education First-Drapac
3. Davide Ballerini (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, at 1-07
4. Christopher Lawless (GBr) Team Sky
5. Casper Pedersen (Den) Aqua Blue Sport
6. Marco Canola (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini
7. Marco Maronese (Ita) Bardiani CSF
8. Alessandro Fedeli (Ita) Trevigiani Phonix-Hemus 1896
9. Enrico Battaglin (Ita) LottoNL-Jumbo
10. Riccardo Stacchiotti (Ita) MsTina Focus, at same time
General classification after stage 1b
1. Pascal Eenkhoorn (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, in 2-27-32
2. Lawson Craddock (USA) EF Education First-Drapac, at 12 secs
3. Christopher Lawless (GBr) Team Sky, at 1-02
4. Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Sky, at 1-02
5. Pavel Sivakov (Rus) Team Sky, at 1-02
6. Jonathan Dibben (GBr) Team Sky, at 1-02
7. Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky, at 1-02
8. Jonas Koch (Ger) CCC Sprandi Polkowice, at 12 secs
9. Jan Tratnik (Slo) CCC Sprandi Polkowice, at 12 secs
10. Kamil Gradek (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice, at 12 secs
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