Fabian Cancellara powers away to second Strade Bianche victory
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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Fabian Cancellara powers away to second Strade Bianche victory

by Ben Atkins at 10:15 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Race Reports and Results, Montepaschi Strade Bianche
Swiss champion in unstoppable Classics form across Tuscany’s white roads

Fabian CancellaraFabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) proved himself well and truly ready for the Classics season with a emphatic solo victory in the Strade Bianche, in the historic Piazza del Campo in Siena, Tuscany. The Swiss champion, who won the 2008 edition of the race, escaped a large breakaway group, loaded with race favourites, on the final section of the region’s iconic white road, and managed to use his considerable time trialling power to stay away and win alone.

Behind Cancellara, a group of five gave chase, made up of two Astana riders in Roman Kreuziger and Maxim Iglinskiy, two BMC Racing Team riders in Alessandro Ballan and Greg Van Avermaet, along with Farnese Vini-Selle Italia’s Oscar Gatto.

“I’m very happy. Today was a special day,” said Cancellara after his victory.  “This is a nice win. The Strade Bianche is a race that is booming and again it offered some really attractive racing. The team had a precise tactic today and all the little things just came together. Ben Hermans was in the first break and then when the elite group formed, [Daniele] Bennati did a fantastic job by attacking. I could stay calm behind and let the teams work that had more than one rider in the group.”

The group put its all into the chase, but Cancellara managed to get a minute clear by the time he climbed the steep streets of Siena to the finish. Aggression from Ballan split the group, but it was Iglinskiy and Gatto that sprinted for second place, with the Kazakh winning the battle some 42 seconds behind the winner.

Ballan and Van Avermaet trailed over a few seconds later, with Kreuziger - who had started the move with 55km to go - in sixth, 1’03” behind.

The sixth edition of the new Italian Classic was to take in an identical course to the previous four years; covering a total of 190km, 57.2km of which would be made up of Tuscany’s iconic, unpaved white roads. With barely a cloud in the sky, and with very little wind, conditions could not have been better for the race, with the dry roads ensuring that there would be plenty of dust for the 111-strong peloton.

“This race is similar to Roubaix, I think, and it’s really important to be in the front when you hit one of the sectors,” explained Cancellara.  “On the second to last climb, when Daniele was still out there, I saw that everybody was really tired, so I decided to try something on the last climb.”

A big group goes early but those missing out don’t let it go far

The break of the day - consisting of Marco Pinnotti (BMC Racing), Claudio Corioni (Acqua & Sapone), Borut Bozic (Astana), Marco Coledan (Colnago-CSF Inox), Jarlinson Pantano and Juan Pablo Suarez (both Colombia-Coldeportes), Kevin Hulsmans (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), Massimo Graziato (Lampre-ISD), Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas-Cannondale), Ramon Sinkeldam (Project 1t4i), Ben Hermans (RadioShack-Nissan) and Gabriele Bosisio (Utensilnord-Named) - escaped after just 10km.

By kilometre 16 the twelve riders were 1’16” ahead, and by the 26km point, as the leaders passed through the city of Siena for the first time, the gap was up to two minutes. As one of the few teams to have missed out on the move, Team Type 1-Sanofi was pulling the peloton in pursuit however; as the race hit the first section of Strade Bianche after 35km, the gap was reduced to 1’28”; as they exited the second section, after 59.4km, it was down to 1’07”, but began to increase once more.

At 98km, halfway through the fourth Strade Bianche section, the lead had grown to 1’36”; the group was down to nine riders by now though, as Pinotti, Bozic and Suarez were left behind. With the led approaching two minutes again Garmin-Barracuda, then BMC Racing, came forward and the lead quickly tumbled.

As they entered the fifth Strade Bianche section, after 132.4km, the nine riders were just ten seconds ahead of the peloton and, just two kilometres into the 11.5km section, it was all over and the peloton was all together.

There were now just 55km to go, of which 15km were Strade Bianche.

As one group is caught, Kreuziger pulls another one clear

Almost immediately Kreuziger attacked; he managed to get away, but another group pulled clear of the peloton and bridged up to the Czech rider.

In the leading group with Kreuziger were Ballan, Cancellara, Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale).

Disaster struck for Garzelli though, as he punctured and dropped back as he waited for a new wheel; with the break less than 30 seconds clear the team cars had not been allowed forward yet, and he was forced to let the next chase group pass before he could get a change.

Garzelli’s Acqua & Sapone teammate Francesco Ginanni was in the first group of chasers, but for some reason he didn’t offer his captain his wheel. By the time the former Giro d’Italia winner managed to get a replacement from his team car the peloton was streaming past. This group also contained defending champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), and was 40 seconds behind the leaders as they left the gravel road and rejoined the tarmac.

The two leading groups came together but, with so many riders present, the pace was not very high and the gap to the peloton grew only slowly; with 40km to go it was still just 42 seconds.

The lead group now consisted of: Kreuzinger and Iglinskiy (both Astana), Nibali and Daniel Oss (both Liquigas-Cannondale) Cancellara and Benatti (both RadioShack-Nissan), Ballan and Van Avermaet (both BMC Racing), Hulsmans, Elia Favilli and Gatto (all Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Barracuda), Francisco Ventoso, Andrey Amador and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Ginnani and Francesco Reda (both Acqua & Sapone), Coledan, Corioni and Pantano.

Impatient to get things moving, Oss jumped off the front of the group, and was quickly joined by Bennati; as they entered the final 35km they had managed to get 20 seconds ahead of the rest. On a small climb a few kilometres later though, Oss lost contact and Bennati continued alone.

It’s all over for the peloton, but surely Bennati can’t make it alone

Colnago-CSF Inox was leading the peloton, having missed the move, but was already 1’30 behind the RadioShack-Nissan sprinter and wouldn’t see the front of the race again. With 30km to go, he was 37 seconds ahead of Oss, and 47 seconds ahead of the rest of the group.

On section seven though, the group began to make progress as a number of riders tried to split things up. Gatto, Visconti and Pantano were dropped on the steep gradient but managed to pull themselves back up; the riders at the front had Bennati in sight at this point, and Van Avemaet pulled them up to him with 16.5km to go.

With 14km to go, a move from Amador was countered by Van Avermaet, who managed to get a few seconds clear. On the eighth and final section of Strade Bianche though, which contained the climb to Le Tolfe with its slopes of up to 18%, the Belgian was caught and passed by a big jump from Cancellara; the Swiss champion had Ballan and Iglinskiy on his wheel as he caught Van Avermaet, but left them standing as he breezed by on the steep gravel.

“When Greg van Avermaet went, I bridged across and when I looked back there was a gap,” explained Cancellara.  “I knew that I had to keep the momentum. It’s not really like I attacked there, because I was on my limit, but I just kept going.”

Ballan, Van Avermaet, Iglinskiy and Gatto were now giving chase, just a few seconds back, with the rest of the group all over the road behind them. Kreuziger fought his way across to them, meaning that the five-man chase group now contained two Astana and two BMC Racing riders.

Cancellara was just eight seconds clear with 10km to go, but was now in time trial mode; a kilometre later had opened the gap to 18 seconds.

Four out of five against one, but the one is winning

Four of the five chasers were doing all they could to pull back the four-time World time trial champion, with only Gatto sitting in. Cancellara was forced to brake a little behind an official car as he hit a roundabout, and incidents like this began to look like the chasers’ best chance to catch him, as with 6km to go his lead was up to 24 seconds.

Ballan misjudged the same roundabout, having to go right as the course went straight on, and this delayed the chase further as he caught up again. Inside the final 4km as he followed the gentle descent to the foot of the final climb to Siena itself, Cancellara’s lead was up to 38 seconds.

Cancellara was looking a little laboured as he climbed the steep, flagstoned streets up to the hilltop city, but was more than a minute clear of the five chasers by now. Ballan gritted his teeth behind, in a effort to drop the rest and secure himself a second runner up spot.

He pointed to the sky and crossed himself, in dedication to his recently deceased uncle Giovanni, as he rolled into the historic piazza, and cruised over the line with both arms in the air to take his second victory in the six editions of Italy’s newest Classic.

Ballan’s acceleration had only had the effect of dropping Van Avermaet and Kreuziger however, and it was Iglinskiy that hit the final bend into the piazza first; he managed to hold off Gatto to take second place, with the two BMC Racing riders trailing over behind him.

With the big northern Classics now less than a month away, Cancellara’s victory sends a message out to his rivals that he is ready to make amends for last year’s disappointments.

“Today I won because I’m mentally 100 percent strong,” said the Swiss champion.  “You have mental strength and physical strength. Physically I’m not yet 100 percent. The training I have been doing in the last days was not specific for this race.

“The schedule for me and the team around me is to be in the best shape at the end of March and the first part of April,” he added ominously. “That’s still the plan, but of course it’s very nice to get such a victory.”


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2012 Strade Bianche Results

  Click on the arrowsat the top of the column to sort the race results.
Country Result Name Team Time
sui SUI 1 Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack - Nissan) 04:44:59
kaz KAZ 2 Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana) 00:00:42
ita ITA 3 Oscar Gatto (Farnese Vini - Selle Italia) s.t.
ita ITA 4 Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing Team) 00:00:46
bel BEL 5 Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) 00:00:48
cze CZE 6 Roman Kreuziger (Astana) 00:01:03
ita ITA 7 Francesco Reda (Acqua & Sapone) 00:01:45
ita ITA 8 Francesco Ginanni (Acqua & Sapone) 00:01:47
ita ITA 9 Elia Favilli (Farnese Vini - Selle Italia) s.t.
bel BEL 10 Johan Vansummeren (Team Garmin - Barracuda) 00:01:57
ita ITA 11 Daniele Bennati (Radioshack - Nissan) 00:03:58
col COL 12 Jarlinson Pantano Gomez (Colombia - Coldeportes) s.t.
crc CRC 13 Andrey Amador Bikkazakova (Movistar Team) s.t.
ita ITA 14 Giovanni Visconti (Movistar Team) s.t.
ita ITA 15 Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas - Cannondale) s.t.
esp ESP 16 Francisco Jose Ventoso Alberdi (Movistar Team) 00:04:02
ned NED 17 Tom Dumoulin (Project 1t4i) 00:07:50
lux LUX 18 Laurent Didier (Radioshack - Nissan) s.t.
ger GER 19 Fabian Wegmann (Team Garmin - Barracuda) s.t.
esp ESP 20 Patxi Javier Vila Errandonea (Utensilnord - Named) s.t.
col COL 21 Wilson Alexander Marentes Torres (Colombia - Coldeportes) s.t.
ita ITA 22 Simone Ponzi (Astana) s.t.
aut AUT 23 Georg Preidler (Team Type 1 - Sanofi) s.t.
fra FRA 24 Remy Cusin (Team Type 1 - Sanofi) s.t.
esp ESP 25 Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Movistar Team) s.t.
svk SVK 26 Peter Sagan (Liquigas - Cannondale) s.t.
ita ITA 27 Luca Ascani (Farnese Vini - Selle Italia) s.t.
usa USA 28 Peter Stetina (Team Garmin - Barracuda) s.t.
slo SLO 29 Kristjan Koren (Liquigas - Cannondale) s.t.
ita ITA 30 Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) s.t.
esp ESP 31 Pablo Lastras Garcia (Movistar Team) s.t.
col COL 32 Robinson Eduardo Chalapud Gomez (Colombia - Coldeportes) s.t.
ita ITA 33 Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) s.t.
ita ITA 34 Luca Mazzanti (Farnese Vini - Selle Italia) s.t.
can CAN 35 Ryder Hesjedal (Team Garmin - Barracuda) s.t.
pol POL 36 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre - ISD) s.t.
col COL 37 Carlos Julian Quintero Norena (Colombia - Coldeportes) s.t.
ita ITA 38 Angelo Pagani (Colnago - CSF Inox) s.t.
ita ITA 39 Massimo Codol (Acqua & Sapone) s.t.
ita ITA 40 Filippo Savini (Colnago - CSF Inox) s.t.
esp ESP 41 Jose Herrada Lopez (Movistar Team) s.t.
ita ITA 42 Adriano Malori (Lampre - ISD) s.t.
ita ITA 43 Gianluca Brambilla (Colnago - CSF Inox) s.t.
sui SUI 44 Rubens Bertogliati (Team Type 1 - Sanofi) s.t.
fra FRA 45 Tony Gallopin (Radioshack - Nissan) s.t.
kaz KAZ 46 Sergey Renev (Astana) s.t.
por POR 47 Rui Alberto Faria Costa (Movistar Team) s.t.
bel BEL 48 Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) s.t.
sui SUI 49 Grégory Rast (Radioshack - Nissan) s.t.
ita ITA 50 Daniele Colli (Team Type 1 - Sanofi) s.t.
ukr UKR 51 Yaroslav Popovych (Radioshack - Nissan) s.t.
ita ITA 52 Moreno Moser (Liquigas - Cannondale) s.t.

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