Torrential downpours and a tricky circuit in Florence spelled the end of rainbow jersey dreams for a large number of riders in the peloton, but Team USA suffered the loss of both team leaders Tejay van Garderen and Chris Horner on the first of ten finishing circuits, and all but two others - Peter Stetina and Alex Howes - over the subsequent laps.
Speaking after seven and a half hours of racing, most of which took place in torrential rain, Stetina recounted the world championship road race as one of "luck and survival".
"It was lucky if you were in the right spot and if you weren't in the wrong spot," Stetina told Cyclingnews. "I saw Tejay have wheel problems and I tried to wait for him, but he wasn't going anywhere fast. I saw Taylor do some kind of pirouette but keep it up just waiting for Tejay. Chris crashed, and Matthew slid on his belly and Andrew stopped, so then it was just me and Alex all of a sudden."
When he found himself one of the last men standing, Stetina decided to try an attack with four laps to go. "We had to try something, it's the world championships. For USA Cycling to have the faith to bring me here after my wild September... I tried something with four to go just to get the race moving. As Americans, we have to go down blazing instead of just fizzle out. I tried that and it didn't go anywhere. Then we had to at least finish it out strong, and ride hard to the end. Then the sun came out, go figure."
Stetina described the race as one spent avoiding crashes and then chasing back on, the constant surges wearing everyone down by the end.
"I think everyone was just so tired at the end, they all just said we have enough punch for one final climb. That's where you saw the big separation of the favorites.
"My first goal was to not crash, so I decided I didn't care about the corners or losing positions. It seemed like a lot of guys took themselves out of the race, and all of a sudden you found yourself in the top 50 if you just didn't fall down."
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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.
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