Philippe Gilbert (Omega-Lotto) delivered a thrilling victory at the Monte Paschi-Strade Bianche race in Italy on Saturday.
The Belgian kicked out of a group to take the flowers in the 190km race across the white roads of Tuscany. Alessandro Ballan (BMC) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) rounded out the podium in Siena with second and third, respectively, but couldn’t deliver the first Italian win in what’s becoming one of the most popular races of the year.
There were scores of attacks and breakaways, including a late surge by Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Cervélo) in the closing 10km. Lampre led a chase to bring in a reduced group into the finish-line run, but Gilbert was quickest across the line to win for the second time in the 2011 season.
BMC had a very good day, putting Greg Van Avermaet and Martin Kohler and then counter-attacking with Ballan, who rode to a morale-boosting second place just ahead of the classics.
“I was behind (eventual winner) Philippe Gilbert and Damiano Cunego was on my wheel,” Ballan said on the team’s web site. “Gilbert took the inside and I didn’t want to pass him on the outside because I was afraid that I would crash. Overall, I’m happy with my condition. It bodes well for the upcoming races.”
BMC’s Van Avemaet and Kohler also went away in an early breakaway group of 12.
“It wasn’t the perfect situation to go with the early breakaway but (Stuart) O’Grady made the jump and I just followed him and we were gone,” Van Avermaet said. “When you have such good legs, you try to make the best of it.” The break never led by more than three minutes before Van Avermaet and O’Grady got away on their own, only to be caught with 12km to go.
Team Type 1 came close to the podium with fourth-placed Jure Kocjan, who spent the final 15km watching Cunego and Italian national champion Giovanni VIsconti, saying “I knew they were strong at the finish.”
“Some other teams missed the break, and I knew they would chase hard, so it was the perfect option to wait behind those guys for the sprint. The last climb into Siena was 300 meters uphill, and then a right turn. I’m very happy to be in such good company, but I have never felt fatigue like that on a bicycle,” Kocjan said on TT1’s site.
Team Type 1 director Vassili Davidenko said he was pleased with the result, and even more satisfied with the teamwork throughout the race.
“This was a brutal race, a really tough day in the saddle. Lots of very talented riders were taken out by the hills or the roads or by bad luck. We kept our heads when the race picked up and had the right people in the right places when they needed to be there. Martijn Verschoor was exceptionally strong today, and we’re really happy to see all of our riders compete so well at the highest levels of the sport,” Davidenko said.
- 1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel), Omega Pharma-Lotto, 4:44:26
- 2. Alessandro Ballan (Ita), BMC Racing Team, s.t.
- 3. Damiano Cunego (Ita), Lampre-ISD, s.t.
- 4. Jure Kocjan (Slo), Team Type 1, s.t.
- 5. Fabian Cancellara (Sui), Leopard-Trek, s.t.
- 6. Angel Vicioso Arcos (Esp), Androni Giocattoli-Serramenti Pvc Diquigiovanni, s.t.
- 7. Oscar Gatto (Ita), Farnese Vini – Neri Sottoli , s.t.
- 8. Giovanni Visconti (Ita), Farnese Vini – Neri Sottoli, s.t.
- 9. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel), BMC Racing Team, s.t.
- 10. Fabian Wegmann (Ger), Leopard-Trek, s.t.
- 11. Michael Albasini (Sui), HTC-Highroad, s.t.
- 12. Ryder Hesjedal (Can), Garmin-Cervelo, s.t.