Vincenzo Nibali snatches last-gasp Tirreno-Adriatico victory in San Benedetto time trial
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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Vincenzo Nibali snatches last-gasp Tirreno-Adriatico victory in San Benedetto time trial

by Ben Atkins at 11:26 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Tirreno-Adriatico
 
Chris Horner loses race in final flat test; Fabian Cancellara blitzes stage victory

vincenzo nibaliVincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) snatched final overall victory in the 2012 Tirreno-Adriatico with a strong performance in the final time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto. The Sicilian, who started the day in third place, posted a time of 10’56” on the completely flat out-and-back course; he was significantly faster than race leader Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan), who clocked 11’16”, and second place Roman Kreuziger (Astana), with 11’23”.

This was more than enough for Nibali to overhaul his overnight deficit of six seconds to Horner, and just one to Kreuziger, but both had enough time in hand on fourth place Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) to hold to their places on the podium.

“This is an important win. I’ve always dreamed about winning Tirreno-Adriatico,” said Nibali. “I’ve won stages but now I’ve won overall too, so I’m really happy.

“Today was about concentrating on the 9km time trial,” he explained. “Prati di Tivo [stage five, which he won - ed] was about attacking and I managed to earn a lot of time quickly. The TT was about mental strength.”

Having taken the Race of the Two Seas, Nibali is now setting his sights on the next big Italian race, where he will share responsibility with Slovakian champion Peter Sagan.

“My Liquigas-Cannondale team is very strong for Milan-Sanremo,” Nibali said. “Me and Sagan will be the team leaders. He’ll focus on the final sprint, while I’ll have to do something before that. There are always a lot of surprises at Milan-Sanremo.

“Of the Italian contenders, Oscar Gatto is going well,” he added. “Cavendish is on form and so we’ll have make some allies and make it a hard race right from the start.”

The stage was won by former four-time World time trial champion Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan), whose time of 10’36”, at an average speed of 52.641kph - set at the end of the first third of the 148 riders - effectively ended the stage as a competition with almost two hours worth of riders to go. The Swiss powerhouse beat an earlier time, set by RadioShack-Nissan teammate Daniele Bennati, by 12 seconds; late starter Cameron Meyer (GreenEDGE) edged just a fraction of a second ahead of teammate, Canadian champion Svein Tuft - the second man to start - to go third, 16 seconds back.

Unfortunately for Meyer, his performance was not quite good enough to seize back the white, young riders’ jersey from Wout Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM), who was just eleven seconds slower.

“It was a tough one,” said Cancellara, “especially when I had in mind my best time from last year; but the conditions today were totally different.

“We had a tailwind to go out but a full headwind to come back,” he explained.  “I see that I did three seconds slower than last year’s ride but I still think I did a great ride. I also wanted to provide good split times for Chris to compare. I didn’t feel under pressure to win this. I know where my form is now after 30 hours on the bike in this race and I have a lot of confidence.”

A flat stage and a sea breeze, and it’s all to play for

The stage was made up of a completely flat, 9.3km, out-and-back course along the seafront of the Adriatic resort town; the same course used in the previous year’s race. A light southerly wind was blowing, meaning that riders would be blown to the turn by a tailwind, but would have to fight it all the way back.

More hopefuls for the following Saturday’s Milano-Sanremo dropped out of the race at this stage, with Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), and Luca Paolini and Oscar Freire (both Katusha) electing not to ride the short time trial, along with Tony Gallopin (RadioShack-Nissan).

Alex Rasmussen (Garmin-Barracuda) was the first man off, but his time of 11’05” was immediately eclipsed by Canadian champion Svein Tuft (GreenEDGE), who was the very next rider, dropping it to 10’52”.

Manuele Boaro (Saxo Bank) came within a fraction of a second of Tuft’s time but, almost half an hour after the Canadian had finished, Bennati - rider number thirty - went four seconds quicker with 10’48”.

The Italian as only to stay at the top for a little over a quarter of an hour though, as RadioShack-Nissan teammate Cancellara - setting the best intermediate time of 5’14” - shattered Bennati’s time with 10’36”; catching Federico Canuti (Liquigas-Cannondale), who had started a minute before him, in the process.

The stage is won but the race is now up for grabs

With Cancellara having blasted around his course, setting a time that nobody was to come close to, the stage was effectively over as a contest with more than a hundred riders still to finish. In the meantime though, another RadioShack-Nissan rider Hayden Roulston, and Team Sky’s Ian Stannard both pushed themselves close to the stage podium with 10’53” and 10’54” respectively.

2010 race winner Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) emulated Cancellara by catching his minute man, Pablo Lastras (Movistar), but could only manage to stop the clock on exactly eleven minutes; some 24 seconds behind the Swiss champion’s time.

Of the late starters Meyer was the only rider to look like he was going to threaten a Cancellara victory; the young Australian stopped the clock on 10’52” however, 16 seconds slower than the Swiss champion, but marginally quicker than Tuft, to move himself into third place.

Meyer needed to take twenty seconds from Poels to take back the white jersey that the Dutchman had taken from him the previous day. Poels posted a respectable 11’03” however, which was good enough to hold on.

Joachim Rodriguez (Katusha), Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM), Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) were all locked together in a battle for fourth place, with just five seconds separating the four riders overall. Nocentini’s time of 11’10” was enough for him to hold on to the position, but Hoogerland (11’14”) and Rodriguez (11’28”) both stepped over Scarponi, whose disappointing time of 11’31” meant he was almost caught by Poels.

Nibali puts himself in pole position and Kreuziger and Horner under pressure

Nibali’s intermediate time of 5’21” put him just seven seconds behind Cancellara at the halfway point, and the 2010 Vuelta a España winner managed to hold his speed to the finish to stop the clock in 10’56”. This was good enough for provisional ninth but, more importantly, it put pressure on the two riders still to come

Roman Kreuziger (Astana) was already way behind at halfway - crossing the checkpoint in 5’34” - and the time ticked away as he entered the final few hundred metres; the rider that Horner had identified as his biggest threat slumped to a disappointing 11’23”. The Czech rider had lost out to Nibali, but it remained to be seen if he had done enough to unseat Horner and hold on to second overall.

Horner looked to be going well, but he too was behind Nibali at the halfway point. The American’s time of 5’32” meant that the Liquigas-Cannondale rider was the virtual race winner, but Horner still might pull it back in the return leg.

As Horner passed under the flamme rouge his time was up to 10’02” though, meaning that he would need a miracle final kilometre to hold on. The Italian crowd cheered as the magic figure of 11’03” ticked by - meaning that Nibali had won - and the American finally stopped the clock on 11’16”.

Keuziger, whom Horner had thought was the bigger threat, actually finished seven seconds slower; meaning that the American was knocked off the top step by Nibali, but he held on to finish second overall in his first race of the season.

“I have no mixed feelings about this,” said a happy Horner after the stage. “It’s been a fantastic week.

“This is not a course that is ideal for me, but to stay on the podium is good for me,” he added.  “I was concerned that I might not stay in the top three.”

Result stage 7
1. Fabian Cancellara (Sui) RadioShack-Nissan 10’36”
2. Daniele Bennati (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan @ 12s
3. Cameron Meyer (Aus) GreenEDGE @ 16s
4. Svein Tuft (Can) GreenEDGE
5. Manuele Boaro (Ita) Saxo Bank
6. Hayden Roulston (NZl) RadioShack-Nissan @ 17s
7. Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky @ 18s
8. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick Step @ 20s
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
10. Marco Pinotti (Ita) BMC Racing Team@ 21s

Final overall standings
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
2. Chris Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan @ 14s
3. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Astana @ 26s
4. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale @ 53s
5. Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM @ 1’00”
6. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha Team @ 1’16”
7. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD
8. Wout Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM @ 1’25”
9. Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale @ 1’31”
10. Cameron Meyer (Aus) GreenEDGE @ 1’33”

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