Strade Bianche review: Magnificent Moser

Strade Bianche logo 2013The stunning Strade Bianche race took place in the rolling hills and on the gravel roads of Tuscany today, where an unlikely Italian stole the win on home turf. A perfectly timed attack from talented youngster Moreno Moser saw him hold off the peloton, with his teammate Peter Sagan coming across the line in second place, capping a Cannondale one-two.

Race summary

The victor (image courtesy of Petit Brun/Flickr)

Winner! (image courtesy of Petit Brun/Flickr)

Key to how the race played out was the composition of the day’s main breakaway and the lead they were able to build up. Four riders, Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM), Maxim Belkov (Katusha), Giairo Ermeti (Androni Giocattoli) and Michael Schar (BMC) were allowed to escape, and at one point had an advantage over the peloton of over nine minutes.

With over 50km to go, and with the peloton seemingly reeling the escapees in comfortably, Vacansoleil’s Classics man Juan Antonio Flecha took an interesting decision and attacked off the front. However, it seemed like he’d left himself too much work to do when he still had a couple of minutes to close down with 20km remaining.

Instead, he was just left dangling between the break and the bunch, serving as much of a purpose advertising his team’s title sponsor’s camping holidays as contesting the victory. Astana and Vini-Fantini took up the chase before, with around 17km to go, a solo move came from the 22-year old Trentini Moreno Moser (Cannondale), who only turned professional last season.

He dropped Flecha as quickly as he’d bridged the gap, before setting about capturing the race leaders. While doing so there was some agitation amongst the favourites in the peloton, with Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) twitching behind. They weren’t allowed to get a gap.

With 6km to go Moser and the dropped Saramotins hit the front of the race, rejoining the two leaders Belkov and Schar, with Ermiti now chucked out of the back. Meanwhile back down the road a strong second group had got some time, featuring Tom Jelte Slagter (Blanco), Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r La Mondiale), Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) and Andrey Amador (Movistar).

However, that move didn’t stick, and soon enough things came back together in the group behind. After some initial hesitation as the race came into the stunning surroundings of Siena, Moser stopped glancing behind at the remnants of the peloton and attacked. Soon enough, he was all alone going up the final ramp.

Despite his burning legs he managed to make the move stick, coming across the line with a five-second advantage over teammate Sagan, with Nocentini third.

Analysis & opinion

The victory was an exercise in great strategy from Moser and Cannondale. After the race, Moser stated that he “used Peter for the win,” and it’s certainly true that Sagan played a crucial role in his teammate’s win, without ever actively contributing.

While this may seem odd, it all comes down to the early break and the riders present. BMC brought a strong team to this race, with Greg Van Avermaet and Cadel Evans both possible winners. Therefore, placing their man Michael Schar in the early break put the onus on other teams to do the chasing, while they preserved their energy for a late surge. They were the key team, who would have a vital role in determining how the race played out.

By contrast, RadioShack and Cannondale weren’t as strong, and weren’t really in a position to chase a break down. However, where Cannondale had the key advantage was that they had both Moser and Sagan capable of winning, rather than just one rider. With Sagan a race favourite, he was always going to be a marked man – and this was demonstrated in how he was constantly riding alongside fellow hopeful Fabian Cancellara throughout the day.

This allowed his teammate Moser, to slip off the front quietly with a perfectly timed attack, while the focus was on Sagan’s jousting with Cancellara behind. With BMC not chasing because Schar was still out in the lead group, RadioShack not able to chase with a one-man team and Cannondale not willing to do so with Moser out front, the peloton’s work was left up to Astana and Vini Fantini in the closing kilometres. The big players were simply not involved.

This, ultimately, bought Moser the crucial five seconds which saw him take victory, in an excellent one-two for Cannondale. Something tells me he won’t be able to escape as easily next time.


1. Moreno Moser (Cannondale) 5:01:53

2. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) +0:05

3. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r La Mondiale) +0:07

4. Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard) same time

5. Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM) s/t

6. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) s/t

7. Alexander Kolobnev (Katusha) s/t

8. Francesco Reda (Androni Giocattoli) s/t

9. Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) +0:10

10. Maxim Belkov (Katusha) +0:13

Links: PreviewOfficial website

Tour de Langkawi review: Arredondo scales the heights

Tour de Langkawi 2013 logoJulian Arredondo (Nippo-De Rosa) continued the recent domination by South American climbers of the Tour de Langkawi, taking his first career overall victory courtesy of first and second places on the race’s two key mountain stages. Two wins each for Theo Bos, Bryan Coquard and Francesco Chicchi, plus one each for Tom Leezer and 2011 and 2012’s king of the sprints Andrea Guardini ensured the spoils on the flat stages were well shared out too.

Race summary

Astana’s Guardini (then riding for Farnese Vini) had dominated the sprints in the previous two editions, winning five times in 2011 and six last year. However, these victories had come against relatively weak opposition. With the number of ProTeams in Malaysia this year rising from two (Astana and Garmin-Sharp) to five (Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Blanco and Orica-GreenEDGE), so too did the quality of the sprint competition. Fresh from a win at the Volta ao Algarve, Blanco’s Theo Bos stamped his authority on both the opening stages in lively sprint finishes.

Bos bossed the early stages (image courtesy of Blanco)

Bos bossed the early stages (image courtesy of Blanco)

On stage one Bos benefitted from an impressive lead-out from Graeme Brown to take victory over Bryan Coquard (Europcar) and Guardini by several lengths. If anything, though, his victory the following day was even more impressive as he opened up the sprint more than 300 metres out and held on just long enough to beat Guardini and GreenEDGE’s Aidis Kruopis.

After the initial sparring, it was on stage three into the Cameron Highlands that the battle for the general classification really commenced, with the first of two tough mountain summit finishes. China’s Meiyin Wang (Hengxiang) launched a solo attack out of an all-Asian five-man lead group with 40km to go and stayed strong to become the first Chinese rider ever to win a stage in this race. He crossed the line with a handsome 2:27 margin over Julian Arredondo, who in turn was the best part of a minute in front of a gaggle of 25 other leading contenders including 2010 winner Jonathan Monsalve (Vini Fantini), Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Sergio Pardilla (MTN-Qhubeka). Wang ended the day with the distinction of leading all four jersey classifications: the overall, King of the Mountains, sprint and best Asian rider.

Having finished third and second in the opening two sprint stages, Guardini nearly went one better the following day. However, Vini Fantini’s Francesco Chicchi popped out of his slipstream to deny him and claim his first victory of 2013, with Kruopis again third.

Stage five provided the big GC showdown, with Wang attempting to protect his 2:43 advantage over Arredondo on the daunting 25km Genting Highlands climb which steepens as it rises and touches 20% in places. However, the Chinese rider could not live shoulder to shoulder with the best climbers and was rapidly popped out of the back of the leaders’ group. It was Arredondo who had the best legs, surging forward into the cloud layer to break away from Weening and passing lone breakaway man Travis Meyer (GreenEDGE) as if he was standing still. The Colombian pressed home his advantage, arriving 26 seconds ahead of Weening and 44 in front of RTS’ Victor Nino, who was third overall last year. So strung out was the peloton that each of the top 16 riders arrived at the finish in separate times, with most several seconds apart.

Once the mist had settled, Arredondo emerged wearing yellow with a decisive 1:22 advantage over Weening, who in turn held a 48-second cushion over Pardilla. Game over, at least as far as the overall was concerned.

Theo Bos had to withdraw with reported food poisoning ahead of stage six, but his team were firing anything but Blancos as Tom Leezer won in conditions that were initially damp, then wet and finally monsoon-like. The Dutchman took his first win, in his sixth year as a pro, by overhauling Meyer’s attack from the day’s break and jumping clear in the final 7km to solo home.

After the energetic Meyer again featured in the following day’s breakaway, it turned out to be lucky stage seven for Guardini. The Astana sprinter got the jump on Chicchi to claim his 12th career Langkawi stage. Kruopis maintained his run of consistent results with his third third-place finish. The Lithuanian could perhaps lay claim to the nickname ‘The Eternal Third’.

Two wins for Coquard (image courtesy of Europcar)

Two wins for Coquard (image courtesy of Europcar)

However, Kruopis’ luck abandoned him altogether on stage eight, when an early crash in greasy conditions forced him to abandon ahead of another bunch gallop. The diminutive 58kg Coquard selected the right wheel from which to launch his sprint – Chicchi’s – to edge out OPQS’ British sprinter Andrew Fenn.

In addition to Kruopis, Orica-GreenEDGE lost Wesley Sulzberger and Luke Durbridge prior to stage nine with suspected food poisoning, with Blanco losing Leezer and Jos Van Emden to similar complaints as several others failed to start or complete the day. Coquard claimed his second consecutive win, this time using Astana’s Allan Davis as his inadvertent lead-out before holding off the fast-finishing Chicchi.

However, Chicchi would not be denied a second win. On the tenth and final circuit stage around Kuala Terengganu, the Vini Fantini rider duly took victory ahead of Synergy Baku’s Rico Rogers and Blanco’s Graeme Brown as the sprinters enjoyed one final hurrah.

Throughout all this Arredondo, with a lead in excess of a minute and ably protected by his Nippo team, rode on serenely and was never seriously threatened as the second half of the parcours offered little peril other than wet roads and food poisoning. The young Colombian will never enjoy an easier ride to what was nonetheless a well-deserved victory.

Chicchi overhauled Guardini, who was unwell for the last couple of days, to take the sprint jersey, while Wang finished as both the best Asian rider and King of the Mountains. MTN-Qhubeka won the team prize, as well as placing Pardilla on the bottom step of the podium.

Analysis & opinion

Arredondo was the race's outstanding climber (image courtesy of Cycling Archives)

Arredondo was the race’s outstanding climber (image courtesy of Cycling Archives)

For the fifth year in a row, the Tour de Langkawi was won by a South American climber on a relatively small team. 24-year old Julian Arredondo clearly had the best legs on the climbs, finishing second behind Meiyin Wang‘s solo break in the Cameron Highlands and dominating the Genting climb himself. A second-year pro, he had already shown his climbing prowess on last year’s Tour of Japan, where he finished second overall behind Nippo teammate Fortunato Baliani (who finished seventh here), winning a mountain stage at Shinshu and finishing second behind Baliani in the Mount Fuji time trial.

It was good to see the Asian teams making the most of their opportunity to rub shoulders with the big boys on the European teams. Even though their sprinters were outgunned, they animated every stage by hurling riders repeatedly into breakaways. And in Wang, who ultimately finished fifth, we may just have seen the start of a Chinese revolution in world cycling. With their resources and the population, it is surely only a matter of time before we see a Chinese rider winning a stage or a jersey at a decent European race.

As for the sprints, the presence of more of the big European teams prevented a one-man show. Blanco will once again have been delighted with their early season form. Theo Bos had the upper hand until his retirement and Tom Leezer‘s win gilded the lily. But both Coquard and Chicchi will be delighted with two wins each, while Guardini and even the winless Kruopis can be happy with the consistency of their performances.

While Bos was clearly a level above the others it was interesting to see Coquard’s emergence in the second half of the race as the Olympic track silver medalist showed excellent positional sense and a feel for whose wheel he needed to follow. It will be intriguing to see how well he can mix it in the bigger stage races where he will come up against the heavy-hitters of sprinting.

All in all, this was one of the more interesting Tours de Langkawi, despite the battle for the overall being effectively sealed by its mid-point. If the trend towards having more WorldTour teams continues, this can only be good for raising the profile of both the event and as an opportunity for the region’s star riders to test themselves against the best in the world.

General classification

1. Julian Arredondo (Nippo-De Rosa) 34:53:07

2. Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEDGE) +1:15

3. Sergio Pardilla (MTN-Qhubeka) +2:10

4. Peter Stetina (Garmin-Sharp) +2:30

5. Meiyin Wang (Hengxiang) +2:40

6. Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp) +2:43

7. Fortunato Baliani (Synergy-Baku) +2:49

8. John Ebsen (Nippo-De Rosa) +2:55

9. Tsgabu Grmay (MTN-Qhubeka) +2:58

10. Amir Kolahdozhagh (Tabriz Petrochemical) same time

Links: PreviewOfficial website

Paris-Nice preview

This eight-day race is viewed as the traditional European season opener. It starts on Sunday in the cold, grey Parisian suburbs and heads south to finish the following Sunday in the traditionally warmer weather of Nice on the Cote d’Azur.

As with many of cycling’s oldest races, Paris-Nice was originally the brainchild of two newspapers: Paris’ Le Petit Journal and Nice’s Le Petit Niçois. The papers’ owner thought a race that he called ‘Le Six Jours de la Route’ would both connect his two papers and stimulate tourism on the Cote d’Azur.

What kind of race is it?

Paris-Nice offers something for everyone: a time trial for men who excel against the clock, flat stages for the sprinters and undulating rolling stages for the breakaway artists. This year’s parcours is again bookended by a prologue and an individual time trial, the latter finishing atop Col d’Eze.

Thanks to its varied terrain, Paris-Nice is typically won by an all-rounder, many of whom have also won the Tour de France. Jacques Anquetil won five times, while the great Eddy Merckx is a three-time winner. Alberto Contador won in 2007 and 2010. Bradley Wiggins won last year. But the race’s greatest champion is Irishman and now Eurosport commentator Sean Kelly, who won the Race to the Sun an amazing seven consecutive times from 1982 to 1988.

In 2002, organisation of the race was assumed by Tour de France organiser ASO and since 2005 it’s been part of the UCI’s ProTour. Paris-Nice is a WorldTour event so all 19 ProTeams are taking part, plus wild-cards Sojasun, Cofidis, Europcar and IAM.

The most recent winners of the race are:

  • 2008: Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner)
  • 2009: Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d’Epargne)
  • 2010: Alberto Contador (Astana)
  • 2011: Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad)
  • 2012: Bradley Wiggins (Sky)

What happened last year?

Bradley Wiggins (Sky) became only the second British rider to win Paris-Nice, 45 years after Tommy Simpson. His victory was forged in the pouring rain on day one’s time trial, cemented on stage two’s wind-wrecked course, held together by impressive tactics and strong team support and, finally, crowned today atop Col d’Eze with a measured display of power and precision.

After the race Bradley commented on his victory:

In terms of pressure, it was nothing compared to an Olympic final on track. You can also enjoy the moment. I was confident in my ability, I stayed in the front all week and did not put a foot wrong.

I know the history of the sport and to be on that list and to become the second Brit after Tom Simpson to win Paris-Nice means a lot for me. I’m on that list of riders who won Paris-Nice, the Dauphine. There’s just one left now to win.

I said Paris-Nice was a stepping stone, no disrespect for Paris-Nice. But I must continue that progression to July now.

And we all know how that story ended …

Here’s the link to the review of last year’s race.

1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) 28:12:16

2. Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) +0:08

3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +1:10

4. Simon Spilak (Katusha) +1:24

5. Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) +1:54

6. Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ-BigMat) +2:13

7. Maxime Monfort (RadioShack-Nissan) +2:21

8. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +2:42

9. Robert Kiserlovski (Astana) +3:30

10. Angel Vicioso (Katusha) +3:59

This year’s racePN2013mapjpg

The route starts with a flat, technical 2.9km prologue in the suburbs of Paris before heading south across the exposed plains of the Loire Valley. The overall contenders will need to be vigilant if it’s windy, the peloton splits and echelons form, while the sprinters will be relishing the 4km straight run-in to the finish where their trains will be able to demonstrate their craft. Day three also favours the sprinters but finishes on a false flat after two circuits of the final 18km loop.

On the next two stages, fortune should favour the baroudeurs on an undulating route across the Massif Central to finish first in Brioude and then onto the rolling terrain of the Haute-Loire and Ardèche to Saint-Vallier. These will serve as the warm-up event to this year’s queen stage.


On stage five, the Cat 1 summit finish on Montagne de Lure – dubbed Mont Ventoux’s ‘little sister’ – will whittle down the GC contenders, if not determine the outright winner. The 13.8km climb to 1,600 metres is the highest point in Paris-Nice’s history.

The following day’s 220km stage across a string of hard climbs – the most taxing being the 7.6km Cote de Cabris averaging 5.8% – from Manosque to Nice will mean whoever’s in yellow will need to be particularly attentive. Tour director Christian Prudhomme said this year’s course would guarantee an exciting, down-to-the-wire GC battle by keeping the time gaps relatively tight before the final day decider on Col d’Eze where some of the sport’s greatest champions have triumphed. Who will join them? (For a 3D view of the climb, see Cycling the Alps’ website here.)

Stage 8 individual time trial profile

Who to watch

With the defending champion and many of the other Paris-Nice habitués opting for Tirreno-Adriatico, those who turn up should provide us with an intriguing battle. It may well give an opportunity to one of the up-and-coming talents to stamp their name on this prestigious event.

The first few days have the sprinters’ names written all over them: Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Merida) and Heinrich Haussler (IAM) have won stages in previous editions while French national champion Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ), Elia Viviani (Cannondale), Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) and Mark Renshaw (Blanco) will be looking for maiden wins.

On the fertile ground for punchy riders we should expect to see world champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) to the fore. There’s no shortage of mountain goats hoping to shine on the queen stage. Will Euskaltel take their first win of the season with Mikel Nieve? We’ll have to wait and see.

2013 contender Richie Porte (image courtesy of Sky)

Richie Porte (image courtesy of Sky)

A dozen or so riders have announced that the top step of the podium in Nice is one of their targets. Seven of last year’s top ten are back for more, including runner-up Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM), as well as best young rider Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), who finished fifth in the last Tour de France, plus Sylvain Chavanel (OPQS), who always performs well here.

Local resident, Cofidis’ Rein Taaramae has done well here in previous years – seventh in 2010 and fourth in 2011 – but watch out also for Rui Costa and Nairo Quintana (both Movistar), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), Robert Gesink (Blanco), Richie Porte (Sky) and Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale). One thing’s for sure, it’ll be a tightly fought contest.

Race details

March 3rd: Prologue – Houilles, 2.9km individual time trial

March 4th: Stage 1 – Saint-Germain-en-Layeto- Nemours, 195km

March 5th: Stage 2 – Vimory to Cerilly, 200.5km

March 6th: Stage 3 – Chatel-Guyon to Brioude, 170.5km

March 7th: Stage 4 – Brioude to Saint Vallier, 199.5km

March 8th: Stage 5 – Chateauneuf-du-Pape to la Montagne de Lure, 176km

March 9th: Stage 6 – Manosque to Nice, 220km

March 10th: Stage 7 – Col d’Eze, 9.6km individual time trial

Paris-Nice starts on Sunday 3rd March and concludes on Sunday 10th. Daily live coverage will be shown by Eurosport and France 3. For other options check For detailed 3D maps and profiles of all the climbs, visit

Link: Official website