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."
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month*
Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Richard Moore is a freelance journalist and author. His first book, In Search of Robert Millar (HarperSport), won Best Biography at the 2008 British Sports Book Awards. His second book, Heroes, Villains & Velodromes (HarperSport), was long-listed for the 2008 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.
He writes on sport, specialising in cycling, and is a regular contributor to Cyclingnews, the Guardian, skyports.com, the Scotsman and Procycling magazine.
He is also a former racing cyclist who represented Scotland at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and Great Britain at the 1998 Tour de Langkawi
His next book, Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France, will be published by Yellow Jersey in May 2011.
Another book, Sky’s the Limit: British Cycling’s Quest to Conquer the Tour de France, will also be published by HarperSport in June 2011.