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Buongiorno and welcome to the Cyclingnews.com live coverage of the Strade Bianche race. The 200km race includes 45.4km of dirt roads that wind through the Chianti vineyards south of Siena.
The Strade Bianche race began under a warm spring sun but with a strong wind blowing across the race route.
A total of 142 riders started from San Gimignano with Vladimir Gusev (Katusha) the only non-starter.
The opening 30km of the race were on normal roads. An early attack formed after 10km with Lucas Euser (UnitedHeathCare) in the quarter but they were quickly pulled back.
Another move by four other riders formed and this time they got a gap and the peloton let them go.
The four are Marco Frapporti (Androni Giocattoli), Marco Canola (Baridani CSF), Davide Frattini (UnitedHealthCare) and Andrea Fedi (Neri Sottoli-Yellow Fluo).
They had a gap of two minutes at the start if the first section of dirt roads after 32km but the lead grew rapidly, touching 11 minutes at the start of the third section of dirt road after 53km.
The first hour of racing was covered at a speed of 45.800km/h.
Peter Sagan (Cannondale) wears number 8 in the race, after his teammate Moreno Moser won last year. Moser has number 1.
Also in action are: Cadel Evans (BMC): 41; Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida): 77; Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida): 78; Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): 81; Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step): 101; Ian Stannard (Team Sky): 138 and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing); 151.
At the halfway point in the race, the four riders in the break have a lead of eight minutes.
The Cannondale team is setting the pace at the head of the peloton.
The gap between the break and the peloton after 100k m is exactly 7:06.
In 20km the riders will hit the section six of the dirt roads. It is 9.5km long and rolls through the hills between Lucignano d'Asso and Asciano.
The first major selection in the peloton often occurs here, with riders left behind opting to take a fast road back to Siena for an early shower.
The main peloton is at the feed zone; we could see several riders retiree here.
Cyclingnews spoke to Peter Sagan before the start of Strade Bianche.
The Cannondale team leader shrugged off the latest reports that he will ride for Tinkoff in 2015 due to a fusion of the tinkoff and Cannondale teams.
Read what Sagan had to say here.
Several riders have already retired. Surprisingly the latest is Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida).
He told Cyclingnews at the start that he was focused on doing well in Sunday's Roma Maxima race after finishing second last year.
A crash has taken seen several riders go down. Lucas Euser (UnitedHealthCare) has been forced to retire.
After three hours of racing, the hills are taking their toll. The average is now 38.3km/h.
The breakaway has a gap of just 4:30 now.
The break has hit the sixth section of dirt roads. It's 9.2km long.
The race is about to come alive.
Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), an outsider for victory, has punctured but quickly gets a wheel change.
As the peloton hits section six of the dirt roads, the gap to the peloton is 5:18.
Strade Bianche is Fabian Cancellara's first race of the season in Europe. He was upbeat at the start.
I did Dubai, Qatar and Omen. We'll see what happens in my first race in Europe and in Italy," he said.
"I'll give it everything and then see what happens. We need everything to go right but the team is good and I' feel good. We'll see…"
The break of the day has survived the sixth sector and the four are now feeding to refuel for the finale of the race.
The gap is down to 4:20.
The dirt road section has caused several punctures. Both Giant-Shimano and BMC have been delayed by wheel changes.
The break is heading towards the seventh dirt section but is losing ground. The gap down to 4:00.
Bernhard Eisel (Team Sky) is controlling the front of the peloton.
The Movistar team is also massing near the front, as is Tinkoff-Saxo.
Two riders have set off in pursuit of the break: Jim Songezo (MTN-Qhubeka) and Chris Juul Jensen (Tinkoff-Saxo). The peloton is letting them go.
The two are waiting for some other attackers.
However the peloton is also chasing them down.
Team Sky is now leading the chase as the race covers some stunning hilltops near Asciano. Tuscany is an amazing place to ride.
The peloton is closing the gap on the break as section seven of dirt road approaches. It is down to 3:00
BMC is also on the front protecting Cadel Evans before the peloton hits the dirt roads.
Sector seven has begun, with a steep section right from the start.
The peloton has also hit sector seven, with the gap to break at 2:20.
So onto the next section and the break have two minutes on the chasing peloton. There's a real fight for position in the peloton with Sky trying to control the field. There are several gaps starting to appear.
This is the longest sector of the race at 11.5km and it's going to play a major part in the make up of the peloton.
Boswell has done his work and he's now distanced by the peloton. There are some 20 per cent sections here.
Ian Stannard is one of the riders doing the damage at the front.
Paolini, a winner of a stage in the Giro last year has a flat.
The gap is down to 1'13 now with 50km to go .
Pagani is leading the race on his own as Benatti, who has featured in the race a number of times sets the pace on the front.
Pagani takes a corner at full speed but his rear wheel almost slides out from under him. Saxo have moved to the front with Roche, Kreuzinger also present.
The lone leader has just over one minute as he starts to climb once more. He's rocking from side to side but he's doing a decent job at the moment.
The peloton continues to string out but now Pagani pushes it too far, on an uphill section, and he comes off. He's up and riding though as Sagan moves up with Uran close by.
There's another crash, this time in the bunch, Zoidl, and he's pointing to his shoulder. Kessiakoff is off the road too.
The peloton have split to pieces though on this sector with gaps all over the road.
Pagani still leads with 51 seconds. There's Cipo on the side of the road to offer him a bottle but he doesn't take it. Movistar rider with a flat at the moment as the gap to the lone leader drops to 48 seconds.
Another Trek rider, not Cancellara, has a problem with his bike.
Pagani has 28 seconds with 47km of racing to go.
Pagani grips the drops, in the saddle, and grinds through the gears. Again he almost loses it on a corner, a sign of how tired he is and the number of risks he's being forced to take.
There are roughly 30 riders in the main peloton at the moment but that number could swell again.
Omega, BMC and Tinkoff are on the attack and I think that's Valverde joining the move.
Sky are near the front and they'll want to chase.
I think that's Evans in the second group with Valverde.
Rosa has joined up with Pagani at the front of the race.
A few more riders have joined the Evans group as Rosa falls.
The lone leader has just 11 seconds on the chasers.
Rosa took that corner far too fast and ran out of road.
Pagani looks for the smoothest part of the road but he's about to be caught.
Rosa's race is over as he's still waiting for a team car.
Stannard is in the chase group and Evans is at the back, two Tinkoff riders there and one from Omega. There are a few more names and we'll bring them to you as soon as we can.
Stannard is without teammates but he's right on the front and setting a furious pace.
There are two Omega riders in the Stannard/Evans group.
Valverde, Kreuzinger, Golas, they're in the move too. Trentin is there as well.
And Sagan is there as well. I think Cancellara has made it to the move as well. 11 riders are present.
Over with that section and back onto the roads with Valverde looking back to survey the damage. Omega have three riders in this group so they've taken control of the pace setting. They'l want to isolate Stannard and Sagan from their teammates.
Kwiatkowski in the third Omega rider in this select group, that now leads the race.
Cadel Evans leads the group and there's not much cooperation here at the moment and it's all come back together. Cunego is present too.
Omega continue to play the numbers game but the pace drops and now Lampre and Giant Shimano try and set something up. More and more attacks at the moment.
The leaders include: Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Franco Pellizotti (Androni Venezuela), Damiano Cunego e Diego Ulissi (Lampre Merida), Michal Golas, Michal Kwiatkowski, Wout Poels, Matteo Trentin e Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma Quick Step), Warren Barguil, Tom Dumoulin, Simon Geshcke e Georg Preidler (Giant Shimano), Angel Vicioso (Katusha), Salvatore Puccio e Ian Stannard (Sky), Daniele Bennati, Christopher Juul Jensen, Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff Saxo), Fabian Cancellara (Trek), Angelo Pagani (Bardiani), Alejandro Valverde and Andrei Amador (Movistar).
Omega with five riders on the front of the peloton set the pace. It looks like Stannard is the only Sky rider in the move.
Evans has Cancellara and Sagan on his wheel.
Still three sectors to come of dirt roads with just over 35km to go.
Stannard has a teammate there with Puccio in the mix.
There's a chasing group at 36 seconds but with Omega having five riders on the front it's going to be difficult to bring the leading group back.
It's Uran on the front taking a long so it might be that the team are working for Kwiatkowski.
There are about 6km to go until the next section..
And it's the first major attack from the front with Trentin taking off. Amador has been sent after him.
27km to go and that's a good move from Omega. It's up to the other riders to chase.
Giant Shimano have numbers so will they chase?
It looks like more riders are coming over and Stannard is present with Amador, Evans and Vicioso
Have Omega sent the rider man up the road? Evans Stannard, Amador, that's a very strong move but it's the Tinkoff team that are now chasing.
Th leaders have 8 seconds.
Trentin still leads with the Evans group a few seconds back.
He's taking in some food so it looks like he's going to wait.
Simon Geschke (Ger) is also in this move.
Evans has picked this move well and Cancellara and Sagan may end up cancelling each other out.
Trentin is caught by the Evans group just as they start this new sector.
The gap is at 18 seconds.
Vicioso is leading and Stanard is at the back of the group.
The gap is still at 17 seconds. Evans looks very strong.
And from behind it's Kruezinger who attacks with Valverde on his wheel.
This could bring it all back together.
Kreuzinger won't want to bring Valverde with him.
The gap is now at 13 seconds between the two groups.
And it's all back together and Sagan blows by everyone.
21km to go and that's a huge move from the Cannondale leader.
Kwiatkowski is with him and Cancellara has been distanced.
Sagan followed the wheels and as soon as the groups came back together he attacked. Kwiatkowski is the only man to match him, so far.
There's still 21km to go but Saxo will be looking to bring this back together.
Sagan leads through the twisting corners, making it look so easy. The pair have 17 seconds.
Onto the penultimate gravel section with Kwiatkowski and Sagan leading the race.
Both leaders look back to see the damage they've done but they're working well together as well.
The gap continues to go out, it's at 21 seconds with Sagan leading.
Giant are trying to organise some form of chase but they don't have the legs it seems with the gap at 28 seconds.
Omege are trying t slow things down and they're doing a fine job with the leaders now at 33 seconds.
The two leaders swap a few words before exchanging turns on the front.
The two leaders swap a few words before exchanging turns on the front.
One more section to come before the finish and there are still climbs as well. The race certainly isn't over just yet. The gap is at 38 seconds though.
The gap continues to grow though, it's now at 42 seconds.
It could all come down to the final climb between these two riders. Both with contrasting styles but they look equally strong.
Meanwhile Sky have joined the chase.
The lead has pushed out to 54 seconds. Almost game over for the chasers.
Kwiatkowski takes over at the front but keeps one eye on Sagan with a quick turn of the head.
There's more chatting between the leaders, they'll know each other so well from the u23 ranks.
As Valverde attacks but is brought back.
The leaders have 1'13. It's all over for the peloton as the two leaders tackle the final gravel section.
It's a tricky descent for the two riders at the front though.
They're climbing now with Sagan on the front.
Valverde tries to break clear once again.
12km to go for the two leaders, no more gravel for them as they head towards the finish.
Valverde, meanwhile, has a small gap on the riders behind him.
The two leaders, Sagan and Kwiatkowski are out of the saddle once again as they climb. The race will be settled between these two men.
Cancellara, Cunego and one more rider are trying to chase down Valverde.
Valverde is 58 second down on the leaders, the Cancellara group at 1'20.
Just over 8km remaining. Sagan is steadying himself for the finale.
Valverde has been caught by Cunego, Cancellara and Kreuzinger.
Kwiatkowski and Sagan are still taking turns and working well together.
Sagan leads, a flick of the arm to call Kwiatkowski through.
It's going to come down to the final climb to the finish with the 16 per cent ramps.
The chasers have the leaders at 47 sceonds with 4.9km to go.
Kwiatkowski tightens up his shoes and gets rid of his last bottle.
Just 2.4km to go.
Sagan comes over the top for another turn.
Will Kwiatkowski attack first on the last climb?
1.7km to go.
Kwiatkowski leads, Sagan right on his wheel.
The Cannondale rider comes through and takes a turn.
1.1km to go.
The road begins to ramp up.
The two leaders side by side as they climb.
The two leaders are slowing.
As Sagan takes to the front.
A left and then a right for the leaders.
Sagan still leads.
And Sagan opens up.
But there goes Kwiatkowski
Out of the saddle and a huge turn of speed for Kwiatkowski
He has the gap and he's going to take this.
Onto the downhill section and Sagan knows he's beaten.
And Kwiatkowski takes the win.
Sagan comes over to the line, head down, and second place.
And Valverde takes third, with Cunego just behind.
Evans and Cancellar both finish inside the top ten.
“I didn’t expect to drop him,” Kwiatkowski said after he crossed the line.
“I knew the final pretty. Well as a team were so good today, we had five riders in the front with 50km to go and we controlled the race. I can’t describe how I feel. Wining in Siena here is an amazing feeling.”
"I didn’t have any problems in the winter and was focused on my work. I started late compared to last year but I’m really happy with my condition.”
1 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 5:20:33
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale 0:00:19
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:36
4 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:00:40
5 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo
6 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek Factory Racing 0:00:59
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:01:42
8 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Shimano 0:02:01
9 Wout Poels (Ned) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:02:10
10 Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano 0:02:50
11 Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team Sky 0:02:51
12 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Shimano
13 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:02:53
14 Michal Golas (Pol) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
15 Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Team Katusha 0:02:56
Four riders in the top 15 for Omega, showing just how strong they were today. Saxo and Giant had numbers too but in the end, the team that dominated Kuurne last week, were in the thick of the action once again.
Thanks for joining us today. You can find our report, results, and photos all here.