–Reported by Ben Goddard —
The Italian version of Paris Roubaix is run on twisting white gravel roads around Siena and had looked to be won by a 12 man breakaway up until 12 kilometres to go. The race included eight sections of dry gravel road making up 60 KM with sections four to eight being the most difficult. The same roads saw an epic stage won by Cadel Evans in last year’s Giro D’Italia.
Oe’r hill and dale – 190kms of great racing across the Tuscan countryside.
All the classic contenders wanted first bragging rights with their big races just weeks away, and 110 riders from 14 teams set of from Sienna on a sunny morning which made the dirt tracks dry and fast – very different from the ones seen in the Giro. Last year’s winner Maxim Iglinsky of Team Astana and 2009 winner Thomas Lovkvist did not start as both teams Astana and Sky were absent.
The first hour of racing was fast and didn’t let anyone get away with an average speed of 42 KM/H. The day long break of 12 went after 43KM and had a maximum gap of just over 3 minutes, consisting of Alessandro De Marchi (Androni Giocattoli), Joost Posthuma (Leopard Trek ), Giairo Ermeti (Androni), Martin Kohler (BMC), Federico Rocchetti (De Rosa), Davide Ricci Bitti, Patrick Sinkewitz (Farnese-Neri), Matthias Brandle (Geox-TMC), Peter Velits (HTC), Paolo Longo Borghini (Liquigas), Thomas Peterson (Garmin-Cervйlo), Adam Hansen, Greg Van Avermaet (OmegaPharma-Lotto) and Stuart O’Grady (Leopard-Trek).
This was followed by a break of three after 82KM including Jeremy Hunt which gained 2min:15sec on the bunch, but they couldn’t close the gap of a minute to the break away and were caught before the fifth gravel sector at 132 KM.
The break looked to have the race won until section 5 when Leopard Trek tried to set up former winner in 2008 Fabian Cancellera and Lampre looking after Damiano Cunego came to the front on the hardest section which mostly rises in the 11KM of tracks. The pace kept increasing up the 15 percent gravel climb on section seven, but the bunch swelled and no attacks were launched. With the teams driving the peloton after a long break of over a hundred kilometres the gap soon came down from 3 minutes to a minute in 30 KM.
The leaders splintered in section five with O’Grady and Van Avermaet jumping clear of the breakaway but they never really got more than a minute and by the end of section six their gap was 20 seconds to the chasers and 35 to the peloton. The race came together with 12 KM to go setting up an exciting finish for the depleted 20 man peloton.
Lampre led the charge up the final climb to set up Cunego but it was Phillip Gilbert who took the honours. His attack was just too quick for the bunch and only Cunego and Ballan were able to go with him, but were nowhere near him in the final gallop and sprinted for second. He took the win by several bike lengths for Omega Pharma Lotto in front of hundreds of excited Italians in the packed Piazza Del Campo.
Tune in Monday as we report our man Ale’s full day of roadside adventures.
Results: 2011 Montepaschi Strade Bianche
1 Gilbert Philippe 4.44‘26 OMEGA LOTTO PHARMA
2 Ballan Alessandro 4.44‘26 BMC RACING TEAM
3 Cunego Damiano 4.44‘26 LAMPRE – ISD
4 Kocjan Jure 4.44‘26 TEAM TYPE 1 – SANOFI AVE
5 Cancellara Fabian 4.44‘26 TEAM LEOPARD – TREK
6 Vicioso Arcos Angel 4.44‘26 ANDRONI GIOCATTOLI
7 Gatto Oscar 4.44‘26 FARNESE VINI – NERI SOTT
8 Visconti Giovanni 4.44‘26 FARNESE VINI – NERI SOTT
9 Van Avermaet Greg 4.44‘26 BMC RACING TEAM
10 Wegmann Fabian 4.44‘26 TEAM LEOPARD – TREK
11 Albasini Michael 4.44‘26 HTC – HIGHROAD
12 Hesjedal Ryder 4.44‘26 TEAM GARMIN – CERVELO