Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) kick-started his 2012 season with a dominant display in Saturday’s Strade Bianche. The 2008 champion finished 42 seconds clear of Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana) and Oscar Gatto (Farnese Vini - Selle Italia). The BMC duo of Alessandro Ballan and Greg Van Avermaet were forced to settle for 4th and 5th, despite being two of the main protagonists in the race.
Until today RadioShack-Nissan had been shy of wins outside of team classifications but if all the plaudits are directed towards Cancellara then surely this was as good as a team performance the Luxembourg squad has displayed this season.
"I still hadn’t won this year and so it’s great to win this race," Cancellara said.
Present in the first significant break of the day with Ben Hermans, RadioShack-Nissan was able to save its reserves for the most testing sections of dirt roads in the final 60 kilometres. After 10 kilometres the day’s first significant break formed. Marco Pinotti (BMC), Claudio Corioni (Acqua & Sapone), Borut Bozic (Astana), Marco Coledan (Colnago-CSF Inox), Jarlinson Pantano and Juan Suarez (Colombia - Coldeportes), Kevin Hulsmans (Farnese Vini - Selle Italia), Massimo Graziato (Lampre), Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas-Cannondale), Ramon Sinkeldam (Project 1T4i), Ben Hermans (RadioShack-Nissan), and Gabriele Bosisio (Utensilnord Named) built up a healthy lead, and allowed for Cancellara and the rest of his team to remain in the safety of the bunch.
With the early break caught after 135 kilometres, and the first major selection made soon after, Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Nissan) broke free from the leading group with 38 kilometres to go. He was marked by Liquigas-Cannondale’s Daniel Oss and the two gradually built up a gap of 40 seconds as BMC and Garmin-Barracuda began to chase.
But Oss was no match for Bennati and on a small, but steep, rise the Liquigas man was quickly dispatched. Bennati gave one look back before tucking into an aero position and pressing on alone. With him up the road and Cancellara finally isolated from his teammates, the Italian had no option but to press on.
Cancellara, meanwhile, kept a low profile in the group of favourites, as BMC, Astana and Garmin’s Johan Vansummeren began to drag Bennati back.
"Before Bennati made his attack, we were on the climb and I looked to see how the other riders were. I was tired, it was a hard, intense, fast race. When Bennati attacked, nobody went after him and that made me realise that I wasn’t the only tired one. That motivated me. When Van Avermaet went I knew there were more dirt roads, I know how to ride them and so I rode at my tempo and then give it everything before Siena. I know it’s difficult to make it to Siena alone because are a lot of little climbs but I kept going," Cancellara said.
On the 6th strade bianche sector, San Giovanni, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) cut a menacing figure on the front of the chase group and along with Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) began to detach weaker riders still in contention.
Ballan was the next rider to try and make a decisive move with 21 kilometres remaining and while his telegraphed attack saw the likes of Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) go into the red, he was matched by nearly all of the main contenders.
But it wasn’t until just before the 8th strade bianche sector that the race winning move was created. Van Avermaet, again the aggressor, came to the front, Ballan left a small gap and the Belgian threw down a brutish acceleration. For the first time Cancellara moved to the front.
Just before the top of the dusty climb the 2008 winner caught Van Avermaet, with Ballan and Iglinskiy desperately trying to come on terms, knowing that if Cancellara had even the slightest gap on the descent he would be difficult to catch. But in no time Superman had flown.
Over the top Cancellara assessed the damage behind and with a 50 meter gap, decided to press on.
In a flashback to the Tour of Flanders in 2011, this was BMC versus Cancellara, as Ballan and Van Avermaet organised their chase. Iglinskiy, joined by his Astana teammate Roman Kreuziger, plus Gatto also made the selection, creating a formidable chasing pack of five over the final testing ten kilometres.
The smoothness in pedal stroke and relaxed posture were missing and this was not the same Cancellara that romped to the Flanders-Roubaix double in 2010 and certainly not the Superman who rode through a lead group in E3 last year, but the Swiss time trialist appeared to have the measure of his rivals, increasing his lead to over 30 seconds.
However the gap dropped to 20 seconds with 7 kilometers remaining, giving the chasers the briefest of hopes. But when Ballan took a wrong turn at a roundabout the chase lost its momentum. The Italian was able to rejoin the chase group but by then Cancellara’s lead was touching a minute.
|1||Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan||4:44:59|
|2||Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||0:00:42|
|3||Oscar Gatto (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia|
|4||Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team||0:00:46|
|5||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team||0:00:48|
|6||Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Astana Pro Team||0:01:03|
|7||Francesco Reda (Ita) Acqua & Sapone||0:01:45|
|8||Francesco Ginanni (Ita) Acqua & Sapone||0:01:47|
|9||Elia Favilli (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia|
|10||Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin - Barracuda||0:01:57|
|11||Daniele Bennati (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan||0:03:58|
|12||Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes|
|13||Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar Team|
|14||Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar Team|
|15||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale|
|16||Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar Team||0:04:02|
|17||Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Project 1T4i||0:07:50|
|18||Laurent Didier (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan|
|19||Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Garmin - Barracuda|
|20||Patxi Javier Vila Errandonea (Spa) Utensilnord Named|
|21||Wilson Alexander Marentes Torres (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes|
|22||Simone Ponzi (Ita) Astana Pro Team|
|23||Georg Preidler (Aut) Team Type 1 - Sanofi|
|24||Rémi Cusin (Fra) Team Type 1 - Sanofi|
|25||Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Spa) Movistar Team|
|26||Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale|
|27||Luca Ascani (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia|
|28||Peter Stetina (USA) Garmin - Barracuda|
|29||Kristijan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-Cannondale|
|30||Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana Pro Team|
|31||Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Movistar Team|
|32||Robinson Eduardo Chalapud Gomez (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes|
|33||Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone|
|34||Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia|
|35||Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Barracuda|
|36||Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre - ISD|
|37||Carlos Julian Quintero (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes|
|38||Angelo Pagani (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox|
|39||Massimo Codol (Ita) Acqua & Sapone|
|40||Filippo Savini (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox|
|41||José Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team|
|42||Adriano Malori (Ita) Lampre - ISD|
|43||Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox|
|44||Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Team Type 1 - Sanofi|
|45||Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack-Nissan|
|46||Sergey Renev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team|
|47||Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team|
|48||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team|
|49||Grégory Rast (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan|
|50||Daniele Colli (Ita) Team Type 1 - Sanofi|
|51||Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) RadioShack-Nissan|
|52||Moreno Moser (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale|