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“If we were going to come into the last climb in a group with a rider like Sagan it obviously wasn’t the ideal situation for a rider like Ian. We told him that if a good group went inside the last 30km with some big guys it woul...

Photo: Sirotti








09.03.2014 @ 11:18 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

One week after winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Ian Stannard was back in the mix in a big one-day race when he was a key protagonist in yesterday's Strade Bianche. In the end, the new course was a bit too hard for the strong Brit whose teammate Salvatore Puccio did a good race to almost make it into the top 10.


Salvatore Puccio narrowly missed out on a top 10 at Strade Bianche after Ian Stannard had enlivened the tough one-day spectacle. The Team Sky pairing rode hard to make their way into an elite front group heading into the closing stages as Puccio backed up a strong ride at GP Camaiore with 11th place in his homeland.


Stannard looked to be in inspired form and spent much of the race at the head of the peloton, following two significant moves as the race began to split apart.


With 27 kilometres to go the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner helped create a dangerous six-man escape on the run for home but after that group was reeled in on the penultimate sector of gravel road the balance of power swung quickly and decisively.


Peter Sagan rocked his rivals with a punishing attack and only Michal Kwiatkowski was able to follow the Slovakian as the race reached its pivotal point, 20km out.


In the end the day came down to a two-man battle as Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma –Quick-Step) prevailed over Sagan (Cannondale), attacking on the steepest 16 percent section of the climb into the Piazza del Campo.


Sagan followed the Pole home 19 seconds later, taking a second consecutive runner-up finish in the prestigious race after running out of legs at the key moment.


The group behind had no answer and despite chase efforts from Giant-Shimano and Puccio the duo were untroubled as they rode into Siena. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) bested his rivals from a secondary group to round out a hard-fought podium.


“We knew that the course was harder than last year and that there would be more of a natural selection," sports director Dario Cioni said. "The plan was to sit tight at the start and then with 60-70km to go we knew it would be a good time to start moving up. Ian was one of our guys today coming off his big win in Belgium and Salvatore was also going well after a top 10 in the week. They were both up there fighting which was good to see.”


Cioni also admitted the team had to gamble in a bid to try and get Stannard up the road ahead of the finale.


“If we were going to come into the last climb in a group with a rider like Sagan it obviously wasn’t the ideal situation for a rider like Ian. We told him that if a good group went inside the last 30km with some big guys it would be good to be in there. He did just that and it was really positive to see him riding so well. If you look at the course there was probably a bit too much climbing in there for him. The top positions were mostly taken by stage race guys which shows you how hard it was.”



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