A split in the bunch on the finishing circuit in Crevalcore played right into the hands of Lawless, who led home Paolo Toto (Sangemini-MG.Kvis) and Lorenzo Rota (Bardiani-CSF).
Rosa was held up by a late crash but was paced back into the mix after a strong late turn from Jon Dibben. The Italian now takes a seven-second advantage into over Bauke Mollema (Trek Segafredo) into Sunday’s time trial decider.
After the race a happy Lawless talked us through a nervy day, avoiding the crash and taking his first solo win as a pro.
“I’m really happy,” the Brit told TeamSky.com. “It was good to get the win in the TTT on Thursday but this has really made the week even better. Hopefully Diego can hold on tomorrow.
“It was pretty nervous all day. There wasn’t a huge amount of wind but there was just enough. A few of the roads were pretty narrow so we knew it had the potential to split. Mitchelton-Scott started riding when it split and they instigated it with three and a half laps to go. Once the group got away that was it – no one was going to bring us back and the gap kept opening up.
“Then with around two and a half kilometres to go there was a touch of wheels in the gutter and there was a crash. Luckily I was sat near last wheel as we were planning on coming late and fast, especially with it being such a small group. So I had enough time to react to the crash and get around it. We weren’t really sure how far to go it actually was – whether it was inside or outside 3km to go.
“Rosa was held up but Dibben was able to wait with Rosa and bring him back to the front. Dibbo was originally supposed to be leading me out but instead it was left to Luke Rowe. Dibbo did a turn with about a kilometre to go before leaving it to Luke, who did a really good job taking me to 250m to go.”