With a splendid and courageous solitary action, the Australian Harrison Sweeny of the Lotto Soudal Development Team won the 92nd Il Piccolo Lombardia, an international cycling classic for the Under 23 category, which is run today in Oggiono (Lecco). The podium was completed by the Danish Jacob Hindsgaul Madsen (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team), second, and the Eritrean Yakob Debesay (Equipe Cycliste Groupama-FDJ), third.
An exciting edition and a podium for the first time in completely foreign history, embracing as many as three different continents, testifying to the prestige and great international standing now achieved by the race organized by the Velo Club Oggiono.
154 competitors presented themselves at the start. Nineteen foreign teams and ten Italian teams representing the best in the Under 23 category worldwide. This year the course presented some novelties in its initial part. First three laps of a short circuit around the Oggionese area with three times the climb of Sirtori which immediately imposed a selection. The final, instead, remained unchanged with the legendary climb to Ghisallo (after about 128 km) and then, in sequence, first the tear of Villa Vergano leading to Colle Brianza, then the Marconaga di Ello.
After a series of initial attacks, the race, as expected, lights up for real on the climb to Ghisallo. It attacks the Eritrean Yakob Debesay who takes away a group of 9 riders. In addition to the African rider, team-mate Sylvain Moniquet (Equipe Groupama FDJ), Asbjorn Hellemose (Vc Mendrisio), Harrison Sweeny (Lotto Soudal Development), Matteo Carboni (Biesse Arvedi), Jacob Hindsgaul Madsen (Uno - X), Morten Hulgaard (Uno - X), Szymon Tracz (CCC Development Team) and Joab Schneiter (Swiss Racing Academy) are also part of the group. It is Debesay who is the first to take the lead at the Ghisallo Gpm. The bulk of the group is reported at 1'21".
Szymon Tracz (CCC Development Team), from Poland, stretches downhill and then passes under the finish line at Oggiono with a 34" lead over the first pursuers. On the Villa Vergano the powerful action of the tread loses vigour and is taken back by his former breakaway companions. Someone loses contact, including the Italian Carboni. The group has now slipped almost 2 minutes.
Downhill, about fifteen kilometres from the finish, the Australian Sweeny tries the lonely lunge. His cronoman skills allow him to immediately gain about thirty seconds. It seems a gamble, but it is the decisive action. In spite of the pursuers' efforts, the Australian is unstoppable and flies towards the most important victory of his career.
Winner Harrison Sweeny is a 22-year-old, 186 cm by 74 kg, Australian "armorer", who has won the national title and the Oceania time trial title in 2016. In 2017 and 2018 he raced for the Mitchelton Scott Continental and lived on Lake Maggiore for two years. Next year he will go pro with the Lotto Soudal WorldTour team. These are the words of the winner: "It's an incredible day, without doubt the most important day of my career," said Sweeny, the third Australian to sign the competition's roll of honour. "We were on the run from the start and when we realised that we were the ones who were going to play for it, I tried a lunge on the descent of the Brianza Pass. I still can't believe I made it to the finish line".
1. Harrison Sweeny (AUS) Lotto - Soudal U23 - km 177.7 in 4h15'38" average 41.708 km/h
2. Jacob Hindsgaul Madsen (DEN) Uno - X Norwegian Development Team 00:23
3. Yakob Debesay (ERI) Groupama - FDJ Continental
4. Sylvain Moniquet (BEL) Groupama - FDJ Continental
5. Asbjorn Hellemose (DEN) Velo Club Mendrisio
6. Morten Hulgaard (DEN) Uno - X Norwegian Development Team
7. Joab Schneiter (SUI) Swiss Racing Academy 01:03
8. Andreas Leknessund (NOR) Uno - X Norwegian Development Team 01:16
9. Colleoni Kevin (ITA) Biesse Arvedi 01:56
10. Henri Vandenabeele (BEL) Lotto - Soudal U23
11. Tracz Szymon (POL) CCC Development Team
12. Hvideberg Jonas Iversby (NOR) UNO - X Pro Cycling Team
13. Van Gils Maxim (BEL) Lotto – Soudal U23
14. Vervloesem Xandres (BEL) Lotto – Soudal U23
15. Verschaeve Viktor (BEL) Lotto – Soudal U23
16. Andersen Idar (NOR) UNO - X Pro Cycling Team
17. Paret Peintre Valenti (FRA) Chambery Cyclisme Forma
18. Müller Reto (SUI) Swiss Racing Academy
19. Carboni Matteo (ITA) Biesse Arvedi ASD
20. Rigatti Tommaso (ITA) Team Colpack Ballan
Foto: Dario Riva / FotoClub Ricerca e Proposta – Dolzago