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5th Montepaschi Strade Bianche - Report & Photos
By Staff
Date: 3/5/2011
5th Montepaschi Strade Bianche - Report & Photos

5th Montepaschi Strade Bianche
Philippe Gilbert, Alessandro Ballan and Damiano Cunego battle in the final kilometer for victory in Piazza del Campo in Siena

The Omega Pharma-Lotto's  Philippe Gilbert won the fifth edition of Montepaschi pitted in final kilometer three way battle with Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing) and Lampre's Damiano Cunego who blasted off a lead group of 20 riders on the uphill finish.  The Belgian launched his sprint at250 meters after Ballan made his move and won the day by two bike lengths on Ballan. 

Gilbert celebrates his win. Ballan, Cunego and Kocjan follow    Photo © 2011  Fotoreporter Sirotti

Cunego active throughout the chase of the early break with his team mates in the final 100 kilometers had little to give in give in the final 100 meters followed on Ballan's wheel to take third.

Team Type 1's Jure Kocjan of Slovenia finished fourth; Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) finished fifth of the lead group of 20 who finished in the same time.


5th Montepaschi Strade Bianche
190 riders started the race unlike many of the recent races, today the day it was under sunny skies and cool tempas...  riding on dry roads to take on the six gravel/dirt sections of the Italian classic. The race got off to a fast start but none of the early breaks met with success; notably Andy Schleck gave it a try  but his effort was put to naught with a flat putting paid to his chances.

With 147 km to go a break of 12 formed and opened a gap of 50 seconds.The gap would go to over 3 minutes by the 100 km to go as they neared the feed zome the pap fell to 1:45 with Lampre-ISD the major player in the chase.

Androni's Ciariro Ermeti and BMC's Martin Kohler lead the break   Photo © 2011  Fotoreporter Sirotti

The dozen riders included: Androni Giocattoli's Giairo Ermeti and Alessandro De Marchi, Keopard-Trek's Stuart O’Grady  and Joost Posthuma, HTC's Peter Velits, Martin Kohler (BMC), Federico Rocchetti (De Rosa), Davide Ricci and Patrick Sinkewitz of Farnese-Neri Sottoli, Matthias Brandle (Geox-TMC), Paolo Longo Borghini (Liquigas), Garmin's Thomas Peterson and  Adam Hansen and Greg Van Avermaet of OmegaPharma-Lotto. 

Lampre having missed the break took control leading the chase eventually the group was caught on the most difficult section of gravel road with 11.9 km to go. Lampre continued to hammer at the front reducing the selection to 20 riders hurtling to the finish in Siena.

Gilbert and Ballan positioned themselves for the sprint with Gilbert launching in the final 250 meters to take the win.

Allesandro Ballan and Damiano Cunego finish...

Gilbert expressed his love and good fortune for Italy after the finish, 
 "Italy is a country that I love; my palmares are full of Italian victories and I'm glad I started adding another in 2011 after winning the Lombardy at the end of 2010 season. Yesterday I took advantage of the day trying to do only the last 60 km: Montepaschi roads and a race that pretty much brings me back to my early days on such routes. The dirt roads are an area that belongs to the world of bicycle racing and always retains its charm. The paving is very different because it requires strength, control is used on roads, "said Gilbert.

"The race had a very fast start with the compact group and then the riders were able to keep cool enough. The finish however was very nervous I turned and saw that Cunego on Ballan's wheel about 50 meters back. I preferred to wait for the 250 meters sprint, because I knew it had to be taken in last corner on the right side."

Gilbert looks forward to the coming races on his schedule: Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo where he hopes to win before returning to Benelux to take on his targets there,  the Tour of Flanders and Liège,

An attack goes off the front of the peloton   Photo © 2011  Fotoreporter Sirotti

Team Comments
Ballan  2nd

Alessandro Ballan earned the BMC Racing Team a runner-up finish Saturday at Montepaschi Strade Bianche while teammate Greg Van Avermaet spent much of the race in a breakaway before finishing ninth.

Second Runner-Up Finish
Ballan said he was feeling good about his chances in the final moments of the 190-kilometer race featuring 57 km of dirt and gravel sections. "I was behind (eventual winner) Philippe Gilbert and Damiano Cunego was on my wheel," the former world champion said. "Gilbert took the inside and I didn't want to pass him on the outside because I was afraid that I would crash. Overall, I'm happy with my condition. It bodes well for the upcoming races." Ballan also finished runner-up on the opening stage of the Giro di Sardegna last month.

Van Avermaet, Kohler In Break
The BMC Racing Team had Van Avemaet and Martin Kohler in an early breakaway group of 12. "It wasn't the perfect situation to go with the early breakaway but (Stuart) O'Grady made the jump and I just followed him and we were gone," Van Avermaet said. "When you have such good legs, you try to make the best of it." The break never led by more than three minutes before Van Avermaet and O'Grady got away on their own, only to be caught with 12 km to go.

Damiano Cunego attacks. Cadel Evans and Giovanni Visconti respond  Photo © 2011  Fotoreporter Sirotti

Damiano Cunego on the podium of Strade Bianche.

The rider from Lampre-ISD obtained the 3rd place, preceded in th the final sprint by Gilbert (winner) and by Ballan.
The 8th dirty roads sectors (Radi, 13,5 km; Murio, 5,5 km; Lucignano d’Asso, 11,9 km; Pieve a Salti, 8 km; Monte Sante Marie, 11,5 km; Montechiaro, 3,3 km; Colle Pinzuto, 2,4 km; Le Tolfe, 1,1 km) performed a lower selection than the past editions of the race and so all the top athletes reached the final kilometre in a 20 riders, after that the main breakaway of 12 cyclists (it began at the 43rd km) were neutralized at 12 km to go.

In the head group of 20 cyclists there were for Lampre-ISD Bertagnolli, Niemiec and Mori that supported Cunego in view of the arrival in Siena, where the blue-fucsia captain could not overtake Gilbert and Ballan in the battle for the victory that characterized the last 1000 mt.

"I'm satisfied for my performance and for the support the team gave me, the only sorrow is the result - Cunego commented - I could pedal on a bike set in the best way by the mechanics and on my team that control the race after that we failed in inserting a man in the main breakaway. As in the past races, I had good feelings and so I knew that I could compete for the victory: unluckily, Gilbert too was in a good fit. Anyway, if my fit will be the same in the next races, I could achieve important results".

Blue-fucsia sport director Orlando Maini analyzed the race in the following way:
"The third place obtained by Damiano is the result of the perfect setting of the bikes made by the mechanics, of the efforts performed by Buts, Kostyuk, Szeghalmi and Malori with the aim of controlling the race and of the quality shown by Mori, Bertagnolli and Niemiec in the final kilometres. We did our best, maybe we only made one mistake when we missed the main breakaway: best compliments to Gilbert who was able to precede Cunego".

Fabian Cancellara attacks.  Photo © 2011  Fotoreporter Sirotti

Team Type 1 - sanofi-aventis
Jure Kocjan rode to a triumphant fourth place
Kocjan rode into the final selection of Saturday's race with Ardennes Classics winner Philipe Gilbert, former world champion Alessandro Ballan and Giro d' Italia winner Damiano Cunego on the last paved section into Siena after plowing through more than eight sectors of dirt farm roads over 60km in the hills of Tuscany.

Jure Kocjan on the race...
"The last 15 km I was watching Cunego and (Italian national champion Giovanni) VIsconti, because I knew they were strong at the finish. Some other teams missed the break, and I knew they would chase hard, so it was the perfect option to wait behind those guys for the sprint. The last climb into Siena was 300 meters uphill, and then a right turn. I'm very happy to be in such good company, but I have never felt fatigue like that on a bicycle," Kocjan said.

Team Type 1 - sanofi-aventis Director Sportif Vassili Davidenko said he was pleased with the result, and even more satisfied with the teamwork of his riders... 
"This was a brutal race, a really tough day in the saddle. Lots of very talented riders were taken out by the hills or the roads or by bad luck. We kept our heads when the race picked up and had the right people in the right places when they needed to be there. Martijn Verschoor was exceptionally strong today, and we're really happy to see all of our riders compete so well at the highest levels of the sport," Davidenko said.

Team Type 1 - sanofi-aventis rider Martijn Verschoor, who has type 1 diabetes and must monitor his blood glucose level constantly and periodically inject insulin to manage the disease, said his participation in an 8-day stage race in South Africa helped bring his fitness up this early in the season.

"The race had some steep climbs that tore things apart. Sector five was where it all started to go really fast, and where most of the peloton lost contact. Today's race was really important for us to get up in the front and push the speed. We have a lot of talent, and we're motivated to race," Verschoor said.

Verschoor said his blood glucose level at the start of the race was good, around 175, and dropped to around 120 at the halfway mark.
"I ate some food when I was at 120 and that brought me up to around 220 at the end of the race, which is good. The weather was around 10C all day and we had some pretty strong winds out there, but it's not like 41C in Cape Town," Verschoor said.

Based in Atlanta, GA, Team Type 1 competes around the world with an international squad of athletes to raise diabetes awareness and demonstrate that the disease does not prevent individuals from living their lives.

Six of the professionals on the men's team are type 1 diabetics, and 15 are non-diabetics. Team Type 1 also runs a women's professional team, a triathlon team, an elite amateur squad, a development team for T1 diabetics under 25, and a Type 2 team.

5th Montepaschi Strade Bianche Results UCI 1.1
 190 km - 4:44:26 - 40,079 km/h
Philippe Gilbert Bel Omega Pharma-Lotto 4:44:26
2 Alessandro Ballan Ita BMC Racing Team - 0:00
3 Damiano Cunego Ita Lampre-ISD - 0:00

4 Jure Kocjan Slo Team Type 1 - 0:00
5 Fabian Cancellara Sui Leopard-Trek - 0:00

6 Angel Vicioso Arcos Esp Androni Giocattoli - 0:00
7 Oscar Gatto Ita Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli - 0:00
8 Giovanni Visconti Ita Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli - 0:00
9 Greg Van Avermaet Bel BMC Racing Team - 0:00
10 Fabian Wegmann Ger Leopard-Trek - 0:00
Complete Results and Photos

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