One of Italian cycling's most famous surnames is now on the roll of winners of the country's youngest Classic, the Strade Bianche, with Cannondale's Moreno Moser attacking from a chase group some 15 kilometres from the finish in Siena, getting across to the remains of an escape group ahead, and then launching a burst on the final climb to the Tuscan city's famous Campo to claim victory. Behind, team mate Peter Sagan finished second, ahead of AG2R's Rinaldo Nocentini and two-time winner Fabian Cancellara of RadioShack Leopard.
The 22-year-old Moser becomes the first Italian winner of the race. His uncle Francesco, former wolrd champion and a winner of Italian cyling's two Monuments, Milan-Sanremo and the Giro di Lombardia, had been retired for nearly two decades by the time the Strade Bianche, which has its roots in the ultimate retro sportive, L'Eroica, was first raced in 2007.
Despite its infancy, today's race showed once again why it has captured the imagination, with a number of riders, including some of the biggest names in the sport, still in contention until Moser launched his late attack on that final climb.
The rain that had threatened to churn up the race’s eight signature stretches of white gravelled roads from which it takes its name – known in Italian as sterrati – had subsided overnight, and the 188km race got underway in glorious sunshine in Gaiole In Chianti this morning, though the elements remained a factor with strong winds posing a hazard on the zig-zagging, mostly exposed parcours.
Four riders went on the break, Giairo Ermeti of Androni-Giocattoli, Latvian champion Aleksejs Saramotins of IAM, Katusha’s Maxim Belkov and BMC Racing’s Michael Schar.
Heading into the final 25 kilometres of the race, they held an advantage of around 3 minutes over a 35-strong group of riders including big names such as Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde, BMC’s Greg van Avermaet, and the two pre-race favourites, Cancellara and Sagan.
Vacansoleil-DCM’s Juan Antonio Flecha had attacked from that group, and in the ensuing 10 kilometres would get to within a minute of the men ahead of him on the road, but once the Spaniard was caught by Moser, he was soon dropped.
Meanwhile, there was a split in the front group as Schar and Belkov dropped their companions, though Saramotins, once Moser joined him, gained fresh legs and got back across to the leading pair with the Cannondale rider.
Cancellar, who had the incentive of having one of the sections of sterrato named after him for becoming the first three-time winner of the race, a had tried to launch an attack from the chasing group with a little over 8 kilometres left but was shut down immediately by Sagan who was marking him closely.
Belatedly, riders in the same group including Nocentini and Movistar’s Andrey Amador decided to take matters into their own hands as the group started to break up, launching attacks of their own. While those moves had the effect of shedding riders out of the back, none stuck.
With 5 kilometres to go, the four riders up ahead were just 20 seconds ahead of their pursuers and the catch looked inevitable ahead of that tough, final climb through Siena’s medieval streets.
But going under the flamme rouge and then through a small arch in the city walls, Moser and his companions still had nearly a quarter of a minute in hand, and the young Italian, winner of the Tour of Poland last year, had kept enough in reserve to power away on the climb and seal the first home victory in a race that grows in reputation year by year.
Strade Bianche 2013 result 1 MOSER, Moreno (CANNONDALE) 5:01:53 2 SAGAN, Peter (CANNONDALE) + 5 3 NOCENTINI, Rinaldo (AG2R LA MONDIALE) + 7 4 CANCELLARA, Fabian (RADIOSHACK LEOPARD) 5 SARAMOTINS, Aleksejs (IAM CYCLING) 6 VAN AVERMAET, Greg (BMC RACING) 7 KOLOBNEV, Alexandr (KATUSHA) 8 REDA, Francesco (ANDRONI GIOCATTOLI) 9 CARUSO, Giampaolo (KATUSHA) + 10 10 BELKOV, Maxim (KATUSHA) + 13 11 NIEMIEC, Przemyslaw (LAMPRE-MERIDA) + 15 12 PONZI, Simone (ASTANA) + 17 13 VALVERDE BELMONTE, Alejandro (MOVISTAR) 14 IGLINSKIY, Maxim (ASTANA) + 19 15 AMADOR BAKKAZAKOVA, Andrey (MOVISTAR) + 21 16 CUNEGO, Damiano (LAMPRE-MERIDA) 17 VISCONTI, Giovanni (MOVISTAR) + 23 18 SLAGTER, Tom Jelte (BLANCO) 19 LAGUTIN, Sergey (VACANSOLEIL-DCM)
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.