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Valverde wins Roma Maxima

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Luca Paolini (Team Katusha) celebrates coming over the line in 52 place

Luca Paolini (Team Katusha) celebrates coming over the line in 52 place
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Nairo Quintana congratulates Alejandro Valverde

Nairo Quintana congratulates Alejandro Valverde
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Gilbert and Sanchez talking tactics pre-race?

Gilbert and Sanchez talking tactics pre-race?
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The Roma Maxima Podium

The Roma Maxima Podium
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Valverde on the 2014 Roma Maxima podium with Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF)

Valverde on the 2014 Roma Maxima podium with Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF)
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The podium sprays the crowd and photographers with champagne

The podium sprays the crowd and photographers with champagne
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The peloton has Valverde in its sights but couldn't catch him

The peloton has Valverde in its sights but couldn't catch him
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) with his first ever win in Italy

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) with his first ever win in Italy
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) wins Roma Maxima 2014

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) wins Roma Maxima 2014
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) wins Roma Maxima 2014

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) wins Roma Maxima 2014
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The peloton roll by the The Colosseum

The peloton roll by the The Colosseum
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The peloton roll by the The Colosseum

The peloton roll by the The Colosseum
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Matteo Rabottini (Neri Sottoli-Yellow Fluo) tried a brave lone chase

Matteo Rabottini (Neri Sottoli-Yellow Fluo) tried a brave lone chase
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) goes on the attack

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) goes on the attack
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC) had to chase back to the bunch

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) had to chase back to the bunch
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Fabio Taborre (Yellow Fluo) in action

Fabio Taborre (Yellow Fluo) in action
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC) had to change bikes

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) had to change bikes
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Yellow Fluo lead the charge after Alejandro Valverde

Yellow Fluo lead the charge after Alejandro Valverde
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Rafael Andriato (Yellow Fluo)

Rafael Andriato (Yellow Fluo)
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Luca Paolini (Team Katusha) battles with the climbs in Roma Maxima

Luca Paolini (Team Katusha) battles with the climbs in Roma Maxima
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has started the season strongly

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has started the season strongly
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Davide Appollonio takes the sprint for second

Davide Appollonio takes the sprint for second
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) drives the winning move

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) drives the winning move
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) goes on the attack

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) goes on the attack
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) goes on the attack

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) goes on the attack
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The podium in Roma Maxima

The podium in Roma Maxima
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Davide Appollonio (AG2R) has to settle for second

Davide Appollonio (AG2R) has to settle for second
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) on the top step of the podium in Roma Maxima

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) on the top step of the podium in Roma Maxima
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) with his first ever win in Italy

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) with his first ever win in Italy
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton in action at Roma Maxima

The peloton in action at Roma Maxima
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team)

Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team)
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale)

Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale)
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Ben Hermans (BMC Racing Team)

Ben Hermans (BMC Racing Team)
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Ivan Basso (Cannondale)

Ivan Basso (Cannondale)
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Samuel Sanchez (BMC Racing Team)

Samuel Sanchez (BMC Racing Team)
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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The podium at Roma Maxima

The podium at Roma Maxima
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Davide Appollonio

Davide Appollonio
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF).

Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF).
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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The bunch sprint for second place

The bunch sprint for second place
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) wins Roma Maxima

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) wins Roma Maxima
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) wins Roma Maxima

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) wins Roma Maxima
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) wins Roma Maxima

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) wins Roma Maxima
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Julien Berard (AG2R La Mondiale) awaits the start of Roma Maxima

Julien Berard (AG2R La Mondiale) awaits the start of Roma Maxima
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) heads to the sign on stage at Roma Maxima

Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) heads to the sign on stage at Roma Maxima
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The Roma Maxima peloton passes by the Colosseum

The Roma Maxima peloton passes by the Colosseum
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

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

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

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