Valverde wins Roma Maxima

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

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1Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team4:45:45
2Davide Appollonio (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale0:00:01
3Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bardiani CSFRow 2 - Cell 2
4Antonio Parrinello (Ita) Androni GiocattoliRow 3 - Cell 2
5Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La MondialeRow 4 - Cell 2
6Alessandro Bazzana (Ita) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling TeamRow 5 - Cell 2
7Jarlinson Pantano (Col) ColombiaRow 6 - Cell 2
8Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 7 - Cell 2
9Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 8 - Cell 2
10Mauro Finetto (Ita) Yellow FluoRow 9 - Cell 2
11Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Team KatushaRow 10 - Cell 2
12Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Lampre-MeridaRow 11 - Cell 2
13Reto Hollenstein (Swi) IAM CyclingRow 12 - Cell 2
14Christopher Sutton (Aus) Team SkyRow 13 - Cell 2
15Matthias Brandle (Aut) IAM CyclingRow 14 - Cell 2
16Daniele Ratto (Ita) CannondaleRow 15 - Cell 2
17Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 16 - Cell 2
18Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bardiani CSFRow 17 - Cell 2
19Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Col) ColombiaRow 18 - Cell 2
20Yannick Eijssen (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 19 - Cell 2
21Georg Preidler (Aut) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 20 - Cell 2
22Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Team KatushaRow 21 - Cell 2
23Jonathan Fumeaux (Swi) IAM CyclingRow 22 - Cell 2
24Dominik Nerz (Ger) BMC Racing TeamRow 23 - Cell 2
25Sergio Pardilla (Spa) MTN - QhubekaRow 24 - Cell 2
26Patrick Schelling (Swi) IAM CyclingRow 25 - Cell 2
27Marcel Wyss (Swi) IAM CyclingRow 26 - Cell 2
28Julien Berard (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 27 - Cell 2
29Diego Rosa (Ita) Androni GiocattoliRow 28 - Cell 2
30Guillaume Bonnafond (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 29 - Cell 2
31Matteo Rabottini (Ita) Yellow FluoRow 30 - Cell 2
32Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team SkyRow 31 - Cell 2
33Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 32 - Cell 2
34Winner Anacona Gomez (Col) Lampre-Merida0:00:06
35Sebastian Henao Gomez (Col) Team SkyRow 34 - Cell 2
36Alexander Kolobnev (Rus) Team KatushaRow 35 - Cell 2
37Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) CannondaleRow 36 - Cell 2
38Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Androni GiocattoliRow 37 - Cell 2
39Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro TeamRow 38 - Cell 2
40Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 39 - Cell 2
41Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 40 - Cell 2
42Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 41 - Cell 2
43Edoardo Zardini (Ita) Bardiani CSFRow 42 - Cell 2
44Stefano Pirazzi (Ita) Bardiani CSFRow 43 - Cell 2
45Ivan Basso (Ita) CannondaleRow 44 - Cell 2
46Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale0:00:11
47Johann Tschopp (Swi) IAM CyclingRow 46 - Cell 2
48Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 47 - Cell 2
49Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:00:13
50Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) BMC Racing TeamRow 49 - Cell 2
51Francesco Manuel Bongiorno (Ita) Bardiani CSF0:00:33
52Luca Paolini (Ita) Team KatushaRow 51 - Cell 2
53Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La MondialeRow 52 - Cell 2
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 TeamRow 59 - Cell 2
61Lawrence Warbasse (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 60 - Cell 2
62Marco Frapporti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli0:09:06
63Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN - QhubekaRow 62 - Cell 2
64Dennis van Niekerk (RSA) MTN - QhubekaRow 63 - Cell 2
65Thomas Damuseau (Fra) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 64 - Cell 2
66Simone Ponzi (Ita) Yellow FluoRow 65 - Cell 2
67Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 66 - Cell 2
68Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 67 - Cell 2
69Marcel Aregger (Swi) IAM CyclingRow 68 - Cell 2
70Benjamin Day (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling TeamRow 69 - Cell 2
71Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 70 - Cell 2
72Andrey Zeits (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 71 - Cell 2
73Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 72 - Cell 2
74Fabio Taborre (Ita) Yellow FluoRow 73 - Cell 2
75Francesco Failli (Ita) Yellow FluoRow 74 - Cell 2
76Rudiger Selig (Ger) Team KatushaRow 75 - Cell 2
77Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 76 - Cell 2
78Angelo Pagani (Ita) Bardiani CSFRow 77 - Cell 2
79Daniel Teklehaimanot (Eri) MTN - QhubekaRow 78 - Cell 2
80Dario Cataldo (Ita) Team SkyRow 79 - Cell 2
81Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) CannondaleRow 80 - Cell 2
82Nathan Earle (Aus) Team SkyRow 81 - Cell 2
83Ben Swift (GBr) Team SkyRow 82 - Cell 2
84Maxim Belkov (Rus) Team KatushaRow 83 - Cell 2
85Luca Dodi (Ita) Lampre-MeridaRow 84 - Cell 2
86Stefano Locatelli (Ita) Bardiani CSFRow 85 - Cell 2
87Daniele Colli (Ita) Yellow FluoRow 86 - Cell 2
88Tom Stamsnijder (Ned) Team Giant-ShimanoRow 87 - Cell 2
89Ian Boswell (USA) Team SkyRow 88 - Cell 2
90Dmitriy Kozonchuk (Rus) Team KatushaRow 89 - Cell 2
91Andrea Zordan (Ita) Androni GiocattoliRow 90 - Cell 2
92Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre-MeridaRow 91 - Cell 2
93Dayer Uberney Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team0:16:56
94Kiel Reijnen (USA) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team0:19:29
95Edward Fabian Diaz Cardenas (Col) ColombiaRow 94 - Cell 2
96Davide Frattini (Ita) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling TeamRow 95 - Cell 2
97Adrien Niyonshuti (Rwa) MTN - QhubekaRow 96 - Cell 2
98Matthias Krizek (Aut) CannondaleRow 97 - Cell 2
99Darwin Ferney Pantoja Tobar (Col) ColombiaRow 98 - Cell 2
100Enrico Barbin (Ita) Bardiani CSFRow 99 - Cell 2
101Songezo Jim (RSA) MTN - QhubekaRow 100 - Cell 2
DNSFredrik Carl Wilhelm Kessiakoff (Swe) Astana Pro TeamRow 101 - Cell 2
DNSJani Tewelde (Eri) MTN - QhubekaRow 102 - Cell 2
DNSLucas Euser (USA) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling TeamRow 103 - Cell 2
DNSChristopher Jones (USA) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling TeamRow 104 - Cell 2
DNFMarco Bandiera (Ita) Androni GiocattoliRow 105 - Cell 2
DNFManuel Belletti (Ita) Androni GiocattoliRow 106 - Cell 2
DNFJohnny Hoogerland (Ned) Androni GiocattoliRow 107 - Cell 2
DNFJacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 108 - Cell 2
DNFAlberto Bettiol (Ita) CannondaleRow 109 - Cell 2
DNFJuraj Sagan (Svk) CannondaleRow 110 - Cell 2
DNFFabio Andres Duarte Arevalo (Col) ColombiaRow 111 - Cell 2
DNFJonathan Paredes (Col) ColombiaRow 112 - Cell 2
DNFRodolfo Andres Torres Agudelo (Col) ColombiaRow 113 - Cell 2
DNFPirmin Lang (Swi) IAM CyclingRow 114 - Cell 2
DNFNiccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Lampre-MeridaRow 115 - Cell 2
DNFDavide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-MeridaRow 116 - Cell 2
DNFAndrea Palini (Ita) Lampre-MeridaRow 117 - Cell 2
DNFMaximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) Lampre-MeridaRow 118 - Cell 2
DNFPablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 119 - Cell 2
DNFEnrique Sanz (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 120 - Cell 2
DNFJasha Sütterlin (Ger) Movistar TeamRow 121 - Cell 2
DNFMeron Russom (Eri) MTN - QhubekaRow 122 - Cell 2
DNFVladimir Gusev (Rus) Team KatushaRow 123 - Cell 2
DNFMartijn Maaskant (Ned) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling TeamRow 124 - Cell 2
DNFAndrea Fedi (Ita) Yellow FluoRow 125 - Cell 2

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