Philippe Gilbert wins Montepaschi Strade Bianche
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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Philippe Gilbert wins Montepaschi Strade Bianche

by Ben Atkins at 9:26 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Montepaschi Strade Bianche
Belgian classics star is the strongest of the favourites over Tuscan white roads

Philippe GilbertPhilippe Gilbert (OmegaPharma-Lotto) won the fifth edition of the Montepaschi Strade Bianche, which crosses the iconic, unsurfaced white roads of the Tuscan region of Italy. The Belgian classics star outsprinted 2008 World champion Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) after a trademark final kilometre attack from Gilbert pulled them clear of a group of 20 riders on the approach to the race finish in the Piazza del Campo, Siena.

“Italy is a Country I love deeply as I have achieved so much here,” said Gilbert after the race. “I am glad that 2011 has started with this Italian success after my Italian win at Il Lombardia at the end of 2010 racing season.

“Yesterday I had the chance to test the final 60 kms of today’s challenge,” he continued. “The Montepaschi Strade Bianche is a great race and reminds me of my beginnings. Dirt roads are a very peculiar surface that keeps its interest from the very old times of cycling. The “pavé” is faster and requires strength, while here control is important overall.

“The race was very fast at the beginning and the group kept tight,” said the Belgian. “Riders had the chance to stay strong longer. The end was very nervous instead.”

Ordinarily Gilbert’s attacks are too fast for anyone to follow, but on this occasion he found himself with the two Italians for company.

“As I turned, I realised that Ballan was just behind me and Cunego followed in 50 meters,” he explained. “I waited until 250m to the finish line to sprint out: at the very last turn I bent to the right and the three of us braked thus leaving heavy rubber prints on the road…”

A fast start, and a big breakaway

Almost immediately the flag had been dropped Alessandro De Marchi (Androni Giocattoli) and Joost Posthuma (Leopard Trek) escaped the peloton; pressure from the BMC Racing team saw them pulled back at the 17km point though.

From that point the peloton stayed together until it reached the first, and longest, sector of white road in the race. Towards the end of the 13.5km of dusty gravel a group of ten riders pulled off the front, consisting of Giairo Ermeti (Androni Giocattoli), Martin Kohler and Greg Van Avermaet (both BMC Racing), Federico Rocchetti (De Rosa-Ceramica Flaminia), Davide Ricci Bitti (Farnese Vini-Neri), Matthias Brändle (Geox-TMC), Peter Velits (HTC-Highroad), Paolo Longo Borghini (Liquigas-Cannondale), Tom Peterson (Garmin-Cervélo) and Stuart O’Grady (Leopard Trek).

"It wasn't the perfect situation to go with the early breakaway but O'Grady made the jump and I just followed him and we were gone," Van Avermaet said afterwards. "When you have such good legs, you try to make the best of it."

Just a few kilometres later, on the second sector of white road, Adam Hansen (OmegaPharma-Lotto) and Patrik Sinkewitz (Farnese Vini-Neri) also managed to escape and joined the front group; there were now twelve riders in the lead.

Despite its numbers the breakaway group was never allowed to build a meaningful advantage over the peloton. At the start of the third sector, after 82km, the twelve led by just 1’20”; by the end of it though, the gap had risen to 3’12”, although Diego Caccia (Farnese Vini-Neri), Vitaliy Buts (Lampre-ISD) and Alan Marangoni (Liquigas-Cannondale) were now in pursuit, almost a minute ahead of the peloton.

The peloton decides that enough is enough

The three riders were not to stay ahead for long though as, with Liquigas-Cannondale at its head, the peloton pulled them back shortly after the feedzone; the gap to the front group had now reduced to under 3 minutes.

As the peloton approached the fifth, and toughest section of white road the Lampre-ISD and Leopard Trek teams began to increase the pace and the gap to the fugitives reduced further. Meanwhile, up ahead, O’Grady and Van Avermaet accelerated and were followed by Ermeti and Brändle. There were now four riders at the front, with seven following; Ricci Bitti was swallowed up by the peloton and the eleven riders reunited once more.

On the approach to sector six O’Grady and Van Avermaet got away again; as they hit the white road though the peloton was just 43 seconds behind, which had reduced to 35 seconds as they exited the sector with 23km to go.

With just two fugitives to worry about the peloton allowed O’Grady and Van Avermaet to stay ahead across the final two sectors of white road; at 13km to go though the intrepid pair was finally caught.

Philippe GilbertThe peloton breaks up and Gilbert attacks

On the rolling Tuscan roads, with just 8km to go, Cunego’s Lampre-ISD team applied the pressure and the peloton split into pieces; there were now just 20 riders in the lead group but most of the favourites were still present.

On the final climb to the hilltop city of Siena, with just over 1km to go, Gilbert put in on of his trademark attacks, and he was followed by Ballan and Cunego. The three riders got together as they raced through the mediaeval streets, but Gilbert’s final kick was too strong for the two Italians and he won by a clear margin.

For the Belgian this is just the start of his classics campaign and he is now focused on the higher-ranking races to come.

“Now I will focus on the Tirreno Adriatico and the Milano-Sanremo,” he said. “The Tirreno-Adriatico will be key to my training to conquer the Milano-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders and Liège.”


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2011 Montepaschi Strade Bianche Results (190 km)

  Click on the arrowsat the top of the column to sort the race results.
Country Result Name Team Time
bel BEL 1 Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 04:44:26
ita ITA 2 Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing) s.t.
ita ITA 3 Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) s.t.
slo SLO 4 Jure Kocjan (Team Type 1-sanofi aventis) s.t.
sui SUI 5 Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) s.t.
esp ESP 6 Angel Vicioso Arcos (Androni Giocattoli) s.t.
ita ITA 7 Oscar Gatto (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) s.t.
ita ITA 8 Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) s.t.
bel BEL 9 Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) s.t.
ger GER 10 Fabian Wegmann (Leopard-Trek) s.t.
sui SUI 11 Michael Albasini (HTC-Highroad) s.t.
can CAN 12 Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Cervelo) s.t.
esp ESP 13 David De La Fuente Rasilla (Geox-TMC) s.t.
esp ESP 14 David Gutierrez Gutierrez (Geox-TMC) s.t.
usa USA 15 George Hincapie (BMC Racing) s.t.
ita ITA 16 Massimo Codol (Acqua & Sapone) s.t.
esp ESP 17 Patxi Javier Vila Errandonea (De Rosa-Ceramica Flaminia) s.t.
ita ITA 18 Emanuele Sella (Androni Giocattoli) s.t.
ita ITA 19 Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad) s.t.
sui SUI 20 Rubens Bertogliati (Team Type 1-sanofi aventis) 00:00:30
ita ITA 21 Francesco Failli (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) s.t.
usa USA 22 Craig Lewis (HTC-Highroad) 00:00:35
pol POL 23 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-ISD) 00:01:00
nzl NZL 24 Hayden Roulston (HTC-Highroad) 00:01:15
ita ITA 25 Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Cannondale) 00:01:40
ita ITA 26 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Lampre-ISD) 00:02:30
aus AUS 27 Stuart Ogrady (Leopard-Trek) 00:03:20
gbr GBR 28 Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) s.t.
esp ESP 29 Vicente Reynes Mimo (Omega Pharma-Lotto) s.t.
aus AUS 30 Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) s.t.
lux LUX 31 Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) s.t.
ita ITA 32 Tiziano Dallantonia (Liquigas-Cannondale) s.t.
col COL 33 Cayetano Jose Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Acqua & Sapone) s.t.
ita ITA 34 Paolo Ciavatta (Acqua & Sapone) s.t.
ltu LTU 35 Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Cervelo) s.t.
ger GER 36 Patrik Sinkewitz (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) s.t.
ita ITA 37 Alessandro Donati (Acqua & Sapone) s.t.
ita ITA 38 Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli) s.t.
pol POL 39 Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas-Cannondale) s.t.
ita ITA 40 Daniele Ratto (Geox-TMC) s.t.
ita ITA 41 Alan Marangoni (Liquigas-Cannondale) s.t.
ita ITA 42 Manuele Mori (Lampre-ISD) s.t.
ita ITA 43 Davide Ricci Bitti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) s.t.
ita ITA 44 Leonardo Giordani (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) s.t.
aut AUT 45 Bernhard Eisel (HTC-Highroad) s.t.
ita ITA 46 Paolo Longo Borghini (Liquigas-Cannondale) s.t.
sui SUI 47 Marcel Wyss (Geox-TMC) s.t.
ita ITA 48 Giampaolo Cheula (Geox-TMC) s.t.
ned NED 49 Tom Stamsnijder (Leopard-Trek) s.t.
aut AUT 50 Matthias Brändle (Geox-TMC) s.t.
ger GER 51 Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) s.t.
sui SUI 52 Martin Kohler (BMC Racing) s.t.
ita ITA 53 Fabio Taborre (Acqua & Sapone) s.t.
rus RUS 54 Dmitriy Kozontchuk (Geox-TMC) s.t.
aus AUS 55 Cameron Wurf (Liquigas-Cannondale) s.t.
usa USA 56 Chad Beyer (BMC Racing) s.t.
usa USA 57 Thomas Peterson (Garmin-Cervelo) s.t.
ita ITA 58 Giairo Ermeti (Androni Giocattoli) s.t.

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