Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma – QuckStep) rode away with Peter Sagan (Cannondale) in the final 21km and then managed to get the jump on the Slovakian rider on the final climb, just 500m from the finish. Alejandro Valverde rounded out the podium in third, 35” back.
The race lived up to its expectations of being a thrilling a spectacle. With a route that sent riders over 10 gravel sections of road and a number of short steep hills to contend with, there was action a plenty. Punctures, crashes and multiple attacks, the race had it all today and a real resemblance of an Italian Paris-Roubaix could be noted.
Early on the race saw 4 riders form the initial break of the day, Marco Frapporti (Androni), Angelo Pagani (Bardiani), Davide Frattini (UnitedHealthcare) and Andrea Fedi (Yellow Fluo) were the riders that escaped the bunch. 11 minutes was the largest their gap got over the peloton before the chase came from behind. With 42km to go, Pagani was the last of the original break to be caught by the Cannondale led peloton.
With the pressure being applied by Sagan’s team, the bunch split on the longest gravel road section and a select group of 22 riders formed at the front with another 11 riders just off the pace. After a few a cat and mouse tactics Sagan launched the race winning move with Kwiatkowski in tow.
Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung had an eventful day as DS Manel Lacambra explains at length, “This is a crazy, beautiful and hard race. The first 40km were very fast because everyone was trying to be in the break. We were in so many moves but finally the break went without us.”
“The Cannondale team took control of the bunch with high speed and all teams we were just following and trying to survive in the first group. It was really difficult because there were so many crashes and punctures from all the teams.”
“At the final selection Sergio was just 10seconds behind the front group at the top of the harder gravel section but it was just not possible to catch them. Sergio was able to make it to the final Kilometres with the 2nd main group.” I think top 30.
“This was the first time our African team has raced here and now we have the experience for next year. We saw some positive things from our performance today and for sure we will be better in the next events. The team is getting into a good rhythm now at the races, this is good for what is to come,” concluded Lacambra.
Dennis van Niekerk, the South African climber on Team MTN-Qhubeka, really enjoyed his first Strada Bianche. “It was quite an epic race. I mean to be racing with a field like today is really an honour. We raced for Sergio, Daniel and Kristian today. Trying to keep them in a good position before section 7, the 11.5km white road, as we knew this is where the selection would be made,” said Van Niekerk
The team now turn its attention to the Roma Maxima, starting tomorrow.