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Gilbert sparkles on Strade Bianche

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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) takes the win in Siena.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) takes the win in Siena. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Stuart O'Grady (Leopard Trek) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) on the attack.

Stuart O'Grady (Leopard Trek) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) on the attack. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) didn't wear the tub around his shoulders all the way around.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) didn't wear the tub around his shoulders all the way around. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Giairo Ermeti (Androni Giocattoli) presses on.

Giairo Ermeti (Androni Giocattoli) presses on. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Oscar Gatto (Farnese Vini-Neri) in action in the Montepaschi Strade Bianche.

Oscar Gatto (Farnese Vini-Neri) in action in the Montepaschi Strade Bianche. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) was disappointed not to get the win.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) was disappointed not to get the win. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) shows Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Cannondale) how it's done.

Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) shows Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Cannondale) how it's done. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Daniele Bennati (Leopard Trek) was racing close to home in Tuscany.

Daniele Bennati (Leopard Trek) was racing close to home in Tuscany. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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A stirring scene from the Montepaschi Strade Bianche.

A stirring scene from the Montepaschi Strade Bianche. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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A typical view from the Strade Bianche.

A typical view from the Strade Bianche. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton negotiates a section of unmade road.

The peloton negotiates a section of unmade road. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The spectacular dust roads of the Strade Bianche.

The spectacular dust roads of the Strade Bianche. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) salutes the crowds in Siena.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) salutes the crowds in Siena. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alessandro Ballan (BMC) was second here in 2008, the year he won the world title.

Alessandro Ballan (BMC) was second here in 2008, the year he won the world title. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) basks in the glory of the Piazza del Campo.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) basks in the glory of the Piazza del Campo. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alessandro Ballan (BMC) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) had to give best to Philippe Gilbert.

Alessandro Ballan (BMC) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) had to give best to Philippe Gilbert. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) clocks up yet another Italian win.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) clocks up yet another Italian win. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was a deserving winner.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was a deserving winner. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Stuart O'Grady (Leopard Trek) was part of the day's main break.

Stuart O'Grady (Leopard Trek) was part of the day's main break. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) will have to adjust his mantlepiece once again.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) will have to adjust his mantlepiece once again. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega-Pharma Lotto) celebrates in Siena.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega-Pharma Lotto) celebrates in Siena. (Image credit: Riccardo Scanferla)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was an emphatic winner.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was an emphatic winner. (Image credit: Riccardo Scanferla)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) triumphs in the Piazza del Campo.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) triumphs in the Piazza del Campo. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The combination of crumbling roads and sharp inclines sting the legs.

The combination of crumbling roads and sharp inclines sting the legs. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Ballan (BMC) is showing significant signs of form this early season.

Alessandro Ballan (BMC) is showing significant signs of form this early season. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Ballan (BMC) crosses the line ahead of Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD).

Alessandro Ballan (BMC) crosses the line ahead of Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD). (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) is building towards April.

Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) is building towards April. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) was aggressive in the finale.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) was aggressive in the finale. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cadel Evans (BMC) won on similar terrain in last year's Giro d'Italia.

Cadel Evans (BMC) won on similar terrain in last year's Giro d'Italia. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) after crossing the line.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) after crossing the line. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was unstoppable in the finale.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was unstoppable in the finale. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) puts in a dig.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) puts in a dig. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) on the podium, flanked by Alessandro Ballan (BMC) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD).

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) on the podium, flanked by Alessandro Ballan (BMC) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD). (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) celebrates on the podium.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) celebrates on the podium. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) was present in Tuscany.

Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) was present in Tuscany. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Siena's famous Piazza del Campo.

Siena's famous Piazza del Campo. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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At the finish in Siena.

At the finish in Siena. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri) before the start.

Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri) before the start. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Ballan (BMC) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) couldn't compete with Gilbert.

Alessandro Ballan (BMC) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) couldn't compete with Gilbert. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was a dominant winner.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was a dominant winner. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) is on course for a great spring.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) is on course for a great spring. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Ballan (BMC) and Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) were watching every move.

Alessandro Ballan (BMC) and Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) were watching every move. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) puts in a dig on an unmade section.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) puts in a dig on an unmade section. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) was not on top form in Tuscany.

Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) was not on top form in Tuscany. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The crowds came out to see a race that harked back to another era.

The crowds came out to see a race that harked back to another era. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Longo Borgini (Liquigas-Cannondale) was very aggressive.

Paolo Longo Borgini (Liquigas-Cannondale) was very aggressive. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) battled gamely, seen here ahead of Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli).

Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) battled gamely, seen here ahead of Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli). (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cadel Evans (BMC) leads Italian champion Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri).

Cadel Evans (BMC) leads Italian champion Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri). (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Eventual winner Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was composed throughout.

Eventual winner Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was composed throughout. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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It's easy to see why Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) chose the Strade Bianche as part of his pre-Classics programme.

It's easy to see why Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) chose the Strade Bianche as part of his pre-Classics programme. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Adam Hansen (Omega Pharma-Lotto) rode well in support of Gilbert.

Adam Hansen (Omega Pharma-Lotto) rode well in support of Gilbert. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Longo Borghini (Liquigas-Cannondale) drives on the front.

Paolo Longo Borghini (Liquigas-Cannondale) drives on the front. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Cannondale) was fancied to do well on the strade bianche.

Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Cannondale) was fancied to do well on the strade bianche. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Emanuele Sella and Angel Vicioso (Androni Giocattoli) get stuck in on a dust section.

Emanuele Sella and Angel Vicioso (Androni Giocattoli) get stuck in on a dust section. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Tuscany's dust roads tested the peloton.

Tuscany's dust roads tested the peloton. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The bunch tackles the famous strade bianche.

The bunch tackles the famous strade bianche. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Italian champion Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri) tackles the dust roads.

Italian champion Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri) tackles the dust roads. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Philippe Gilbert won on the “white roads” of the Montepaschi Strade Bianche, after a hard-fought 190km of racing in Tuscany. Under impetus from the Omega Pharma-Lotto man, the lead group of 20 broke up on an uphill stretch in the final kilometre, and he went on to accelerate clear of Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing Team) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) in the streets of Siena to take a classy victory.

Gilbert’s win was his second of this campaign, after taking a stage of the Volta ao Algarve. It was also just the latest in a series of masterpieces that the Belgian has served up on Italian roads. He ended his 2010 season with a stunning solo win at the Tour of Lombardy, but he showed his dexterity on the Strade Bianche by holding his nerve and leaving his move until he reached Siena’s charming cobbled streets.

“Italy is my paradise,” Gilbert beamed after the finish. “My last race here in 2010 was Lombardia and the first one here this year is Strade Bianche, and they’re two wins that I’ll never forget.”

As the leading group of 20 splintered in the final kilometre, Gilbert knew that timing and positioning would be as important as brute strength on the technical approach to the finish line in Siena’s Piazza del Campo. Reaching the final corner in first position was crucial, but Gilbert allowed the dangerous Ballan test the waters before he unleashed his own fearsome sprint in earnest.

“It was a nervous finale on dangerous little streets,” Gilbert explained. “I let Ballan launch the sprint before starting my own. 250 metres from the line he came up alongside me and we battled for the last corner, but I was on the inside and I knew that could be a decisive advantage.”

The former world champion Ballan acknowledged that Gilbert had been clever to take the inside line, but he was pleased with his form in Tuscany.

"I was behind Philippe Gilbert and Damiano Cunego was on my wheel," Ballan said. "Gilbert took the inside and I didn't want to pass him on the outside because I was afraid that I would crash. Overall, I'm happy with my condition. It bodes well for the upcoming races."

Cunego admitted that there was little that he could do against the in-form Gilbert, who has signalled himself as the man to watch on all terrains this spring.

“Gilbert’s burst was deadly,” Cunego said. “I tried to hang tough, hoping to recover on the flat and on the descent before the Piazza del Campo. I tried, I pushed and I even almost got back on coming up to the line, but Gilbert had more than everyone.”

The early salvoes on the dust roads

Unlike the Giro d’Italia’s visit to this part of the world in 2010, there was no rain in Tuscany on Saturday, but the strade bianche still required the utmost of technical ability and daring from the peloton. While Gilbert left his signature move until the race reached Siena, there was no shortage of action on the dust roads themselves, as the combination of sharp inclines and technical, unmade surfaces broke up the peloton repeatedly.

Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) was among the aggressors on the first stretch of dust road, just 35km in, but a puncture forced him out of the move. Soon afterwards, the day’s main escape came together, when a 12-man group got away at the 43km mark: Alessandro De Marchi (Androni Giocattoli), Joost Posthuma (Leopard Trek), Giairo Ermeti (Androni), Martin Kohler (BMC), Federico Rocchetti (De Rosa), Davide Ricci Bitti, Patrick Sinkewitz (Farnese-Neri), Matthias Brandle (Geox-TMC), Peter Velits (HTC), Paolo Longo Borghini (Liquigas), Thomas Peterson (Garmin-Cervélo), Adam Hansen, Greg Van Avermaet (OmegaPharma-Lotto) and Stuart O’Grady (Leopard-Trek).

The break built a maximum advantage of three minutes but with no Lampre-ISD man in the move, it was always going to be difficult to stay clear of the pink and blue train at the head of the bunch. The lead group fragmented as the difficult surface began to take its toll and eventually O’Grady and Van Avermaert pulled clear, first with Ermeti for company, and then by themselves.

"It wasn't the perfect situation to go with the early breakaway. but O'Grady made the jump and I just followed him and we were gone," Van Avermaet said. "When you have such good legs, you try to make the best of it."

They managed to stay clear of the peloton until just after the final section of dust road, but the 18% slopes there were to put paid to their hopes of victory. They were swallowed up with 12km to go, as Lampre-ISD began to wind things up for a finale that they felt was well-suited to Damiano Cunego’s talents. Indeed, the Italian was himself a prominent figure at the head of the bunch, but in the end, he too would have to yield to the sparkling Gilbert, who toasted another fine win.

.

Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto4:44:26
2Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team
3Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD
4Jure Kocjan (Slo) Team Type 1 - Sanofi Aventis
5Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Leopard Trek
6Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Androni Giocattoli
7Oscar Gatto (Ita) Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli
8Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli
9Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
10Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Leopard Trek
11Michael Albasini (Swi) HTC-Highroad
12Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Team Garmin-Cervelo
13David De La Fuente Rasilla (Spa) Geox-TMC
14David Gutierrez Gutierrez (Spa) Geox-TMC
15George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team
16Massimo Codol (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
17Patxi Javier Vila Errandonea (Spa) De Rosa - Ceramica Flaminia
18Emanuele Sella (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
19Marco Pinotti (Ita) HTC-Highroad
20Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Team Type 1 - Sanofi Aventis0:00:40
21Francesco Failli (Ita) Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli
22Craig Lewis (USA) HTC-Highroad0:00:45
23Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre - ISD0:01:00
24Hayden Roulston (NZl) HTC-Highroad0:01:15
25Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale0:01:50
26Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Lampre - ISD0:02:30
27Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Leopard Trek0:03:20
28Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad
29Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) Omega Pharma-Lotto
30Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
31Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek
32Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
33Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) Acqua & Sapone
34Paolo Ciavatta (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
35Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Team Garmin-Cervelo
36Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli
37Alessandro Donati (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
38Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
39Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Liquigas-Cannondale
40Daniele Ratto (Ita) Geox-TMC
41Alan Marangoni (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
42Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre - ISD
43Davide Ricci Bitti (Ita) Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli
44Leonardo Giordani (Ita) Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli
45Bernhard Eisel (Aut) HTC-Highroad
46Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
47Marcel Wyss (Swi) Geox-TMC
48Giampaolo Cheula (Ita) Geox-TMC
49Tom Stamsnijder (Ned) Leopard Trek
50Matthias Brandle (Aut) Geox-TMC
51André Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
52Martin Kohler (Swi) BMC Racing Team
53Fabio Taborre (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
54Dmitry Kozontchuk (Rus) Geox-TMC
55Cameron Wurf (Aus) Liquigas-Cannondale
56Chad Beyer (USA) BMC Racing Team
57Thomas Peterson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo
58Giairo Ermeti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli

 

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