Luca Paolini rides aggressively to seventh in Flanders
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Monday, April 2, 2012

Luca Paolini rides aggressively to seventh in Flanders

by Kyle Moore at 4:52 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Tour of Flanders
Katusha rider tried several escapes before taking top ten finish

Luca PaoliniRiding his best spring campaign in some time, Luca Paolini (Katusha) built on previous good results in the one-day Classics, coming home in seventh place at the Tour of Flanders.

Having worked tirelessly in support of team-mate Oscar Freire in last weekend’s Gent-Wevelgem, Paolini got to unleash a flurry of his own aggressive moves in the Ronde, and was rewarded with a top ten finish in Oudenaarde.

After making his presence felt near the front of the peloton as the bunch hit the day’s first decisive climbs, Paolini launched one of the first selective attacks as the race began to heat up. With 36 kilometers to race, he moved away from the main bunch, bringing out Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky Procycling) and Vincent Jerome (Europcar).

As the bunch approached the Paterberg, Johan Van Summeren (Garmin Barracuda) overcooked a right hand bend and briefly struck the barriers, bringing down John Degenkolb (Argus Shimano) and others. But Paolini’s previous attack meant that he was ahead of the mess, and while he was brought back, it left him in good position as the race moved forward.

After Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing), Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini) and eventual champion Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) sprung their race-winning move, it was again Paolini who did his best to haul back the trio. He put in a stirring solo chase but unfortunately for the Italian, he was unable to bridge before the Paterberg hit for the third and final time.

The Katusha rider ran out of gas and drifted back to the chasing bunch, which also pulled back a similar, later move by Peter Sagan (Liguigas-Cannondale), who also tried to catch the three ahead.

Paolini finished third in Milan-Sanremo back in 2006, then the following year took the same placing in the Ronde. He explained how he tried to maximize his recent good form and chase another strong result in the race.

“Today, I thought I was in a good shape, so I tried to do my race and fight for the win until the finish,” he admitted afterward. “The attack by Pozzato, Ballan and Boonen on the Oude Kwaremont was really unexpected – they’re great champions, so they could reach the finish line without being caught. Also, in our chasing group there were two riders from Omega Pharma-Quick Step, who obviously didn’t cooperate.”

Paolini jumped clear for fourth after Boonen had taken the win, but was overhauled by the other chasers in the sprint. First to the line from that group was Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), and Paolini settled for seventh. The Italian seemed okay with the result at the finish, though he did express a desire for more.

“When I saw the group had no chance to recover I tried myself, but it was too late,” he said. “So in the end I did my sprint just to get a good position in the top ten.

“It’s a pity because the team was really incredible. They gave me a lot of help with incredible work. Anyway, now we have a whole week before Paris-Roubaix. We’ll try to recover some energy and prepare to be at that competition at our best."

On the basis of yesterday’s performance, he can expect to be a factor in that race too.


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