Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM Cycling) put in a dogged performance in Strade Bianche, escaping the early break and then surviving a flurry of attacks to finish fifth.
Saramotins, 30, broke clear after 40 kilometres of racing, infiltrating a break that also included Michael Schär (BMC), Maxim Belkov (Katusha), and Giairo Ermetti (Androni)
The four covered 44.8km in the first hour and quickly opened a gap of four minutes after the first section of dirt road. The gap grew to a maximum of 10:50 after 69km and the second section of dirt roads near Buonconvento.
IAM Cycling, which is competing in its first season in the Pro Continental ranks were invited to the race as one of the wildcard entries. Keen to make an impression, Saramotins kept in touch with the leaders as they tackled section after section of the dirt roads. Despite clearly struggling whenever the terrain pointed up, Saramotins hung on.
"I am still happy with my 5th place even though I had hopes of figuring more at the finish. I was really spent by the end, and was pushing my pain threshold to the max. Even though I was not feeling at my best today, I was still able to race in the top three for most of the course even after having had a couple of falls."
When eventual winner Moreno Moser (Cannondale) came across to the remnants of the break and Ermeti was dropped, Saramotins sped towards the finish with new purpose and belief. Even on the lower slopes of the final climb it looked as though the three riders on Moser’s rear wheel would be engulfed by the surging peloton. Schär was the first to lose contact before Belkov was also swallowed up. However, Saramotins hung onto the chase group that included Fabian Cancellara.
At the finish, IAM Cycling’s director sportif Marcello Albasini praised his rider’s efforts. "Aleksejs put in a great performance. He managed to bridge up to the three escapees just before the first sector of gravel. Tactically it was perfect. Then he succeeded in rejoining the lead group even after he suffered two crashes and fell behind by 30 seconds. Though he was dropped with 10 kilometres to go before the finish, he was able to grab onto Moreno Moser’s wheel when Moser was charging forward, and returned to the front of the race again."