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Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana) wins the sprint to the line
Teide training camp helps Kazakh defeat Löfkvist and Rogers
Scoring "the most beautiful win of my career," Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana) entered Siena's famous Piazza del Campo on Saturday afternoon to claim the Montepaschi Strade Bianche title from a three-man escape that included the defending champion, Thomas Löfkvist (Team Sky), and an on-form Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia).
This trio proved themselves the strong men from an eleven-rider lead group, with Iglinskiy's win coming after he performed a late and audacious overtaking maneuver in the final 200 metres, seizing the initiative - and the lead - from Löfkvist on the final approach to the Piazza.
It was a move that the Kazakh rider timed to perfection, after he had pounced on Löfkvist as the Swede attacked at the foot of the final climb, inside the final kilometre, then trailing him over the top as the bumpy, uneven road wound around the back of the Piazza.
He made his race-winning move as the road narrowed, squeezing through the tiniest of gaps on the inside. It bordered on dubious, too. As Iglinskiy drew level, he and Löfkvist's shoulders seemed to touch; had the Swede deviated from his line, both might have gone into the barriers. But Löfkvist held his line and Iglinskiy held his nerve, with the Kazakh doing well to control his bike as he entered the final corner at speed, before crossing the line a couple of lengths clear.
"It's the first time I've ridden this race, so I had never seen the finale," said Iglinskiy. "I knew where I had to get to the front, and then I used the tyres to get around the final corner; I had to brake hard in the [final] curve not to crash.
"It is the most beautiful win of my career," added the 28-year-old, who counted stages in the Tour of Romandie in 2008 and the Dauphine Libere in 2007 as his best wins before Saturday. "And I am happy because it such a beautiful race."
Iglinskiy arrived in Tuscany almost directly from a training camp at altitude on the island of Teide. "I just arrived back from the camp three days ago, so I was a little afraid after being at altitude," he said. "The race was difficult and hard, but when I made it to the line in first place, with the sun shining, it made it all the better. I was going well, and I had good legs for the sprint at the end."