Tour de France champion Egan Bernal had a successful return to racing for the first time since August, taking second place in the Italian one day race Giro della Toscana – Memorial Alfredo Martini.
The Colombian last race as the Clásica San Sebastián following his win at the Tour, before taking time out from racing to celebrate his victory in his homeland.
He returned to action at the 204.4km race in Pontedera in Tuscany, which was eventually won by Giovanni Visconti (Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM).
The race was defined by three ascents of the Monte Serra, an 8.5km climb averaging 7.1 per cent gradient. Having had Diego Rosa attack, Bernal made his move as his team-mate was caught, going clear with around 29.5km to go and just under 2km to the top of the final ascent of the Monte Serra.
Bernal was joined by Nikolay Cherkasov (Gazprom-RusVelo) and the pair reached the top of the climb with a small gap over the pursuers, including Visconti and Pierpaolo Fiscara (Italy), who eventually reached the leading pair on the descent with around 26km remaining.
With around 30 seconds advantage on the chasing group behind, the four worked together well to keep the gap increasing. A crash between two riders in the chasing group slowed them down and the Bernal group were up to over a minute’s advantage with just 5km left to race.
Ficara was the only rider to attack early, trying and then getting dropped just ahead of the final kilometre. That meant a three-up sprint was on the cards, with Cherkasov leading into the final straight.
Bernal then ambitiously tried his sprint from quite far out, launching out of last position in the group only to be pursued by Visconti.
There was nothing Bernal could do to stop the Italian veteran storming past, and he sat up in the final 20 metres to roll in for second place.
Having opted out of riding the World Championships road race in Yorkshire next week, Bernal will next be in action on Thursday at the Coppa Sabatini before racing the Giro dell’Emilia in October. He’ll then compete in two more Italian one-day races, Gran Premio Bruno Beghelli and Tre Valli Varesine, before his season culminates with the fourth and final Monument of the year, Il Lombardia.
Giro della Toscana – Memorial Alfredo Martini 2019: Pontedera to Pontedera (204.4km)
1. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM
2. Egan Bernal (Col) Team Ineos
3. Nikolay Cherkasov (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo
4. Pierpaolo Fiscara (Ita) Italy
5. Davide Gabburo (Ita) Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM