Valverde wins Roma Maxima

Movistar Spaniard just holds off peloton

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) won a thrilling edition of Roma Maxima, holding off the peloton to round out a great weekend of racing after finishing third in Strade Bianche on Saturday.

The Spaniard broke clear with Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) on the steep Campi di Annibale climb with 35 kilometres to go and they managed to carve out a 30-second lead. The peloton swelled in strength during the fast run-in to Rome and closed to within a few metres by the line. They cruelly swept up Pozzovivo in the final metres but Valverde wisely started his sprint early and managed to hold off the rest of the race and win by a single second.

Pozzovivo hung on for a fifth place result, while his teammate Davide Appollonio took the field sprint for second ahead of Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF). Thirty-two riders finished in the front group with the sprinters cursing in anger that they had failed to catch Valverde.

With race radios not permitted in non-WorldTour races, some of the riders, including Colbrelli, didn’t know that there was an attack off the front and the confusion helped Valverde win.

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) finished seventh but was also angry and frustrated due to problems with cars on the course as he worked to get back to the chasing peloton in the finale.

Valverde was happy to have won and celebrated with his family in Rome. Surprisingly it was his first ever victory in Italy. The Spaniard has endured difficult relationship with Italy after the Italian anti-doping investigators pursued his involvement in Operacion Puerto and used a DNA test taken when the 2008 Tour de France visited Italy to prove he was linked to the blood doping ring.

Valverde was eventually banned for two years and has shown little remorse since returning to racing in 2012.

Asked about his feeling for Italy and the CONI investigation, he told Italian television: "I don’t want to look back into the past, I'm just interested in the present and the future."

He was more willing to talk to the media about his victory.

"In the finale we calculated things perfectly. I'd seen that the sprinters were coming after us in the finishing straight and so I decided to go early to avoid being caught," he said.

"I launched the attack and Pozzovivo came with me and did some good turns, so that I could recover between my turns. It was close but we made it."

Despite his excellent form, Valverde will not ride Tirreno-Adriatico.

"No, I'm going to enjoy some time in Rome with my family. I'll focus on my big goals later in the season: the Tour de France, the Vuelta and then the world championships in Spain," he said.

How it happened

This second edition of Roma Maxima started under a warm spring sun, with the stunning Roman ruins of the Fori Imperiali, the Coliseum and Piazza Venezia offering the same back drop as that of the Oscar winning movie The Great Beauty. It was perhaps a sign of the spectacular finale that would unfold later in the day.

Most of the 16 teams fielded the same riders that rode Saturday's Strade Bianche race. Key changes included the arrival of Philippe Gilbert in the BMC line-up and Nairo Quintana joining forces with Alejandro Valverde in the Movistar squad.

A total of 122 riders rolled out of Rome in the sun, with Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana), Tewelde Weldegabir (MTN-Qhubeka), Lucas Euser and Chris Jones (UnitedHealthcare) the only non-starters. Kessiakoff and Euser were involved in nasty crashes at the Strade Bianche.

The racing started fast as riders fought to get in the break of the day. After 15km the right combination formed, with seven riders going clear. They were Matthias Brandle (IAM Cycling), Niccolò Bonifazio (Lampre Merida), Daniel Teklehaimanot and Dennis Van Niekerk (MTN Qhubeka), Kiel Reijnen (United Healthcare), Ben Gastauer (AG2R La Mondiale) and Thomas Damuseau (Giant-Shimano).

The seven quickly opened a lead on the flat roads heading south from Rome. The gap reached 6:30 after 50km, with the peloton beginning a gradual chase. The fast start meant the first hour of racing was covered at an average of 45.5km/h.

The first hills of the race came after 100km and the 10km climb up to the summit of Rocca Massima and Colle Callaccio saw the gap fall significantly. The seven led the peloton by just three minutes at the summit, with the big teams careful not to make the same mistake of 2013 and let the break stay away. Movistar did a lot of the chasing at the head of the peloton, with Bardiani-CSF giving them a hand with the work.

The climb to Rocca Priora after 144km was more controlled, with the teams knowing the break was within reach. The break also fell apart with Gastauer going clear alone, trying to imitate his teammate Bel Kadri, who won alone last year.

The decisive move by Valverde and Pozzovivo came on Campi di Annibale climb. Valverde made the first dig and inspired Pozzovivo, who danced up the cobbled climb. Valverde joined him over the top and they began to carve out a slight lead as the chasers hesitated.

The final Cappuccini climb gave Valverde and Pozzovivo a final chance to gain time and they had a 30-second gap with 20km to go. Their chances of staying clear seemed slim but Valverde was incredibly strong. Pozzovivo generously did some turns but often struggled to get back on Valverde's wheel when he moved over.

A chase group of a dozen riders stayed at 30 seconds but was unorganised and was eventually swept up by the peloton. The gap slowly came down but Valverde refused to give up, even on the cobbles of the Appia Antica in the final five kilometres.

Matteo Rabottini (Neri Sottoli-Yellow Fluo) tried a brave lone chase, as did Samuel Sanchez (BMC), who made a late surge. The race suddenly seemed wide open when the chasers had Valverde and Pozzovivo in sight after the loop of the Coliseum. Yet they were unable to catch them before the final three hundred metres.

Valverde was as quick-witted as he was strong and timed his sprint to escape the grasp of the peloton and so finally win a race in Italy.

Full Results

1Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team4:45:45 
2Davide Appollonio (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale0:00:01 
3Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF  
4Antonio Parrinello (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
5Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale  
6Alessandro Bazzana (Ita) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team  
7Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Colombia  
8Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team  
9Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano  
10Mauro Finetto (Ita) Yellow Fluo  
11Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Team Katusha  
12Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Lampre-Merida  
13Reto Hollenstein (Swi) IAM Cycling  
14Christopher Sutton (Aus) Team Sky  
15Matthias Brandle (Aut) IAM Cycling  
16Daniele Ratto (Ita) Cannondale  
17Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
18Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bardiani CSF  
19Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Col) Colombia  
20Yannick Eijssen (Bel) BMC Racing Team  
21Georg Preidler (Aut) Team Giant-Shimano  
22Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Team Katusha  
23Jonathan Fumeaux (Swi) IAM Cycling  
24Dominik Nerz (Ger) BMC Racing Team  
25Sergio Pardilla (Spa) MTN - Qhubeka  
26Patrick Schelling (Swi) IAM Cycling  
27Marcel Wyss (Swi) IAM Cycling  
28Julien Berard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
29Diego Rosa (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
30Guillaume Bonnafond (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
31Matteo Rabottini (Ita) Yellow Fluo  
32Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team Sky  
33Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Movistar Team  
34Winner Anacona Gomez (Col) Lampre-Merida0:00:06 
35Sebastian Henao Gomez (Col) Team Sky  
36Alexander Kolobnev (Rus) Team Katusha  
37Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) Cannondale  
38Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
39Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team  
40Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Shimano  
41Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Team Giant-Shimano  
42Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
43Edoardo Zardini (Ita) Bardiani CSF  
44Stefano Pirazzi (Ita) Bardiani CSF  
45Ivan Basso (Ita) Cannondale  
46Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale0:00:11 
47Johann Tschopp (Swi) IAM Cycling  
48Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Shimano  
49Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:00:13 
50Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) BMC Racing Team  
51Francesco Manuel Bongiorno (Ita) Bardiani CSF0:00:33 
52Luca Paolini (Ita) Team Katusha  
53Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale  
54Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team0:00:46 
55Joshua Edmondson (GBr) Team Sky0:00:50 
56Darwin Atapuma Hurtado (Col) BMC Racing Team0:01:13 
57Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team0:01:29 
58Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale0:06:40 
59Rafael Andriato (Bra) Yellow Fluo0:07:50 
60Marc de Maar (AHo) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team  
61Lawrence Warbasse (USA) BMC Racing Team  
62Marco Frapporti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli0:09:06 
63Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN - Qhubeka  
64Dennis van Niekerk (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka  
65Thomas Damuseau (Fra) Team Giant-Shimano  
66Simone Ponzi (Ita) Yellow Fluo  
67Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar Team  
68Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team  
69Marcel Aregger (Swi) IAM Cycling  
70Benjamin Day (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team  
71Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
72Andrey Zeits (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
73Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
74Fabio Taborre (Ita) Yellow Fluo  
75Francesco Failli (Ita) Yellow Fluo  
76Rudiger Selig (Ger) Team Katusha  
77Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano  
78Angelo Pagani (Ita) Bardiani CSF  
79Daniel Teklehaimanot (Eri) MTN - Qhubeka  
80Dario Cataldo (Ita) Team Sky  
81Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Cannondale  
82Nathan Earle (Aus) Team Sky  
83Ben Swift (GBr) Team Sky  
84Maxim Belkov (Rus) Team Katusha  
85Luca Dodi (Ita) Lampre-Merida  
86Stefano Locatelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF  
87Daniele Colli (Ita) Yellow Fluo  
88Tom Stamsnijder (Ned) Team Giant-Shimano  
89Ian Boswell (USA) Team Sky  
90Dmitriy Kozonchuk (Rus) Team Katusha  
91Andrea Zordan (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
92Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre-Merida  
93Dayer Uberney Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team0:16:56 
94Kiel Reijnen (USA) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team0:19:29 
95Edward Fabian Diaz Cardenas (Col) Colombia  
96Davide Frattini (Ita) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team  
97Adrien Niyonshuti (Rwa) MTN - Qhubeka  
98Matthias Krizek (Aut) Cannondale  
99Darwin Ferney Pantoja Tobar (Col) Colombia  
100Enrico Barbin (Ita) Bardiani CSF  
101Songezo Jim (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka  
DNSFredrik Carl Wilhelm Kessiakoff (Swe) Astana Pro Team  
DNSJani Tewelde (Eri) MTN - Qhubeka  
DNSLucas Euser (USA) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team  
DNSChristopher Jones (USA) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team  
DNFMarco Bandiera (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
DNFManuel Belletti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
DNFJohnny Hoogerland (Ned) Androni Giocattoli  
DNFJacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Astana Pro Team  
DNFAlberto Bettiol (Ita) Cannondale  
DNFJuraj Sagan (Svk) Cannondale  
DNFFabio Andres Duarte Arevalo (Col) Colombia  
DNFJonathan Paredes (Col) Colombia  
DNFRodolfo Andres Torres Agudelo (Col) Colombia  
DNFPirmin Lang (Swi) IAM Cycling  
DNFNiccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Lampre-Merida  
DNFDavide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida  
DNFAndrea Palini (Ita) Lampre-Merida  
DNFMaximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) Lampre-Merida  
DNFPablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Movistar Team  
DNFEnrique Sanz (Spa) Movistar Team  
DNFJasha Sütterlin (Ger) Movistar Team  
DNFMeron Russom (Eri) MTN - Qhubeka  
DNFVladimir Gusev (Rus) Team Katusha  
DNFMartijn Maaskant (Ned) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team  
DNFAndrea Fedi (Ita) Yellow Fluo  

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