Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) kick-started his 2012 season with a dominant display in Saturday’s Strade Bianche. The 2008 champion finished 42 seconds clear of Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana) and Oscar Gatto (Farnese Vini - Selle Italia). The BMC duo of Alessandro Ballan and Greg Van Avermaet were forced to settle for 4th and 5th, despite being two of the main protagonists in the race.
Until today RadioShack-Nissan had been shy of wins outside of team classifications but if all the plaudits are directed towards Cancellara then surely this was as good as a team performance the Luxembourg squad has displayed this season.
"I still hadn’t won this year and so it’s great to win this race," Cancellara said.
Present in the first significant break of the day with Ben Hermans, RadioShack-Nissan was able to save its reserves for the most testing sections of dirt roads in the final 60 kilometres. After 10 kilometres the day’s first significant break formed. Marco Pinotti (BMC), Claudio Corioni (Acqua & Sapone), Borut Bozic (Astana), Marco Coledan (Colnago-CSF Inox), Jarlinson Pantano and Juan Suarez (Colombia - Coldeportes), Kevin Hulsmans (Farnese Vini - Selle Italia), Massimo Graziato (Lampre), Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas-Cannondale), Ramon Sinkeldam (Project 1T4i), Ben Hermans (RadioShack-Nissan), and Gabriele Bosisio (Utensilnord Named) built up a healthy lead, and allowed for Cancellara and the rest of his team to remain in the safety of the bunch.
With the early break caught after 135 kilometres, and the first major selection made soon after, Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Nissan) broke free from the leading group with 38 kilometres to go. He was marked by Liquigas-Cannondale’s Daniel Oss and the two gradually built up a gap of 40 seconds as BMC and Garmin-Barracuda began to chase.
But Oss was no match for Bennati and on a small, but steep, rise the Liquigas man was quickly dispatched. Bennati gave one look back before tucking into an aero position and pressing on alone. With him up the road and Cancellara finally isolated from his teammates, the Italian had no option but to press on.
Cancellara, meanwhile, kept a low profile in the group of favourites, as BMC, Astana and Garmin’s Johan Vansummeren began to drag Bennati back.
On the 6th strade bianche sector, San Giovanni, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) cut a menacing figure on the front of the chase group and along with Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) began to detach weaker riders still in contention.
Ballan was the next rider to try and make a decisive move with 21 kilometres remaining and while his telegraphed attack saw the likes of Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) go into the red, he was matched by nearly all of the main contenders.
But it wasn’t until just before the 8th strade bianche sector that the race winning move was created. Van Avermaet, again the aggressor, came to the front, Ballan left a small gap and the Belgian threw down a brutish acceleration. For the first time Cancellara moved to the front.
Just before the top of the dusty climb the 2008 winner caught Van Avermaet, with Ballan and Iglinskiy desperately trying to come on terms, knowing that if Cancellara had even the slightest gap on the descent he would be difficult to catch. But in no time Superman had flown.
Over the top Cancellara assessed the damage behind and with a 50 meter gap, decided to press on.
In a flashback to the Tour of Flanders in 2011, this was BMC versus Cancellara, as Ballan and Van Avermaet organised their chase. Iglinskiy, joined by his Astana teammate Roman Kreuziger, plus Gatto also made the selection, creating a formidable chasing pack of five over the final testing ten kilometres.
The smoothness in pedal stroke and relaxed posture were missing and this was not the same Cancellara that romped to the Flanders-Roubaix double in 2010 and certainly not the Superman who rode through a lead group in E3 last year, but the Swiss time trialist appeared to have the measure of his rivals, increasing his lead to over 30 seconds.
However the gap dropped to 20 seconds with 7 kilometers remaining, giving the chasers the briefest of hopes. But when Ballan took a wrong turn at a roundabout the chase lost its momentum. The Italian was able to rejoin the chase group but by then Cancellara’s lead was touching a minute.
|1||Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan||4:44:59|
|2||Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||0:00:42|
|3||Oscar Gatto (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia||Row 2 - Cell 2|
|4||Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team||0:00:46|
|5||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team||0:00:48|
|6||Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Astana Pro Team||0:01:03|
|7||Francesco Reda (Ita) Acqua & Sapone||0:01:45|
|8||Francesco Ginanni (Ita) Acqua & Sapone||0:01:47|
|9||Elia Favilli (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia||Row 8 - Cell 2|
|10||Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin - Barracuda||0:01:57|
|11||Daniele Bennati (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan||0:03:58|
|12||Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes||Row 11 - Cell 2|
|13||Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar Team||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|14||Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar Team||Row 13 - Cell 2|
|15||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 14 - Cell 2|
|16||Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar Team||0:04:02|
|17||Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Project 1T4i||0:07:50|
|18||Laurent Didier (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan||Row 17 - Cell 2|
|19||Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Garmin - Barracuda||Row 18 - Cell 2|
|20||Patxi Javier Vila Errandonea (Spa) Utensilnord Named||Row 19 - Cell 2|
|21||Wilson Alexander Marentes Torres (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes||Row 20 - Cell 2|
|22||Simone Ponzi (Ita) Astana Pro Team||Row 21 - Cell 2|
|23||Georg Preidler (Aut) Team Type 1 - Sanofi||Row 22 - Cell 2|
|24||Rémi Cusin (Fra) Team Type 1 - Sanofi||Row 23 - Cell 2|
|25||Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 24 - Cell 2|
|26||Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 25 - Cell 2|
|27||Luca Ascani (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia||Row 26 - Cell 2|
|28||Peter Stetina (USA) Garmin - Barracuda||Row 27 - Cell 2|
|29||Kristijan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 28 - Cell 2|
|30||Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana Pro Team||Row 29 - Cell 2|
|31||Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 30 - Cell 2|
|32||Robinson Eduardo Chalapud Gomez (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes||Row 31 - Cell 2|
|33||Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone||Row 32 - Cell 2|
|34||Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia||Row 33 - Cell 2|
|35||Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Barracuda||Row 34 - Cell 2|
|36||Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre - ISD||Row 35 - Cell 2|
|37||Carlos Julian Quintero (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes||Row 36 - Cell 2|
|38||Angelo Pagani (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox||Row 37 - Cell 2|
|39||Massimo Codol (Ita) Acqua & Sapone||Row 38 - Cell 2|
|40||Filippo Savini (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox||Row 39 - Cell 2|
|41||José Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 40 - Cell 2|
|42||Adriano Malori (Ita) Lampre - ISD||Row 41 - Cell 2|
|43||Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox||Row 42 - Cell 2|
|44||Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Team Type 1 - Sanofi||Row 43 - Cell 2|
|45||Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack-Nissan||Row 44 - Cell 2|
|46||Sergey Renev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||Row 45 - Cell 2|
|47||Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team||Row 46 - Cell 2|
|48||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team||Row 47 - Cell 2|
|49||Grégory Rast (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan||Row 48 - Cell 2|
|50||Daniele Colli (Ita) Team Type 1 - Sanofi||Row 49 - Cell 2|
|51||Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) RadioShack-Nissan||Row 50 - Cell 2|
|52||Moreno Moser (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||Row 51 - Cell 2|
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