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SIENA, Italy (VN) — Moreno Moser (Cannondale) escaped a small lead group at the foot of the final climb to win the Strade Bianche on Saturday.
Moser, Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM Cycling), Michael Schar (BMC Racing) and Maxim Belkov (Katusha) were off the front with the peloton closing in when the Cannondale rider made his move.
He quickly took a decisive gap on the ascent to the finish, with its grade of 16 percent biting into the legs after more than five hours in the saddle. And as he crossed alone for the victory, just behind was Peter Sagan, making it a one-two finish for Cannondale.
“I know that with Peter behind the group I could try to go alone,” Moser said. “It’s a great victory. I’m very happy.”
With 20km to go a four-man break —Saramotins, Belkov, Schar and Giairo Ermeti (Androni Giocattoli) — led Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) by 1:40, with the peloton an additional minute in arrears.
Three kilometers later the chase caught up to Flecha. The break was just over a minute ahead.
Moser accelerated from the bunch and Flecha went with him, though he was not inclined to do any work. Moser tried to lose him, but without success, and the two continued on in no-man’s land with a dozen miles remaining.
Moser finally shed Flecha on a short climb as ahead, Schar had a go, leaping out of the break, pursued by Belkov. The two began working their way through the remains of the break.
Defending champion Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) tried several times to make something happen, but Sagan marked his every move.
With 8km to go Cancellara chipped a four-man group off the bunch, but the others soon caught back on as Sagan declined to work with a teammate up the road.
Moser continued to pursue the leaders with Saramotins on his wheel, and with just under 6km remaining the two had joined Schar and Belkov. They had just 20 seconds over the Cancellara-Sagan group.
As the break dithered Schar punched it, but got nowhere. Behind, a chase had escaped the chase — Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r La Mondiale), Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha), Andrey Amador (Movistar) — but they would not stay clear.
Moser led the front-runners onto the final climb and then attacked as the pitch hit double digits, opening a solid gap, while the chase closed in.
With 250 meters to go Moser had the victory locked, while his teammate Sagan broke away to make it a one-two finish for Cannondale. Nocentini took third, while Cancellara had to settle for fourth.
“Yesterday I said that I liked this race and I thought I was suited for it,” said Moreno. “My tactic in this type of race is to race by instinct. When the group slowed, I attacked and I think the others expected the tactic that for sure, Peter was going to help me. He was the one everyone else had to keep an eye on and control, so I benefited from this.”
Sagan, for his part, was pleased with his second place and happy for his teammate.
“I think the team did a perfect performance. Our teammates made a lot of effort to lead the group and in the final we had double the chances to win,” he said. “Moreno had the role of the joker and claimed a beautiful win. My second place? If a teammate wins I’m happy too.”