Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) soloed to victory after jumping clear 1km from the summit of the final climb of the Superga which overlooks Turin. He displayed the same form that saw him animate last weekend’s World Championships road race to take – incredibly – his maiden one-day race victory since turning professional in 2002. Rounding out the peloton was Diego Ulissi (Lampre-ISD) ahead of Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana). Pre-race favourite Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) finished fourth.
Contador dedicated his unexpected win to Victor Cabedo, the young Euskaltel-Euskadi rider who was killed after colliding with a car in training the week before, and his teammates. He explained afterwards:
This is a great win. My teammates believed I could do it from the start of the race and so I couldn’t mess it up. After all the work they did for me at the Vuelta, I still feel indebted to them and wanted to pay them back with another win.
This morning, when I woke up, I weighed 2.4 kg more than in the Vuelta, I knew there were 190km, that I hadn’t trained yesterday, and the day before yesterday I did only 40km, but the point was to get to the finish line with strength in my legs.
It was a maximum effort. Joaquim [Rodriguez] took a few metres and I started to work, I caught him, I took a breath on his wheel, and then tried to go. I’m very, very happy to win, especially in Italy.
Milano – Torino 2012 podium (image courtesy of official race site)
How the race unfolded
The 193.5km race was dominated by a breakaway duo of Alfredo Balloni (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) and Federico Rocchetti (Utensilnord-Named), who slipped away early on and managed to gain a lead of over eight minutes after 60km. At this point Liquigas-Cannondale assumed control of affairs and led the peloton in hot pursuit. With 25km to go and the advantage down to around 90 seconds, Balloni went off on his lonesome.
This encouraged Eros Capecchi (Liquigas) and Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-ISD) to bridge across on the first ascent of the Superga and leave behind the early leaders. With only the final ascent remaining, they were joined by a group that included Kessiakoff, Kevin De Weert (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Contador and his teammate Chris Anker Sorensen, Ulissi, Marco Marzano (Lampre-ISD) and Stefano Locatelli (Colnago-CSF Inox).
Initially, it looked very much as if either Ulissi or Kessiakoff was going to win, but Contador put in one of his trademark accelerations to ride alone to the finish to take victory in the first edition of the race to be held since 2007.
Alberto Contador wins Milano-Torino 2012 (image courtesy of official race site)
Contador might be a couple of kilos over his ideal racing weight but it didn’t seem to slow him down today – quite the opposite – and he declared he was looking forward to riding in the Giro di Lombardia this weekend.
In the end, Rodriguez’s fourth place garnered him sufficient points to keep him in pole position on the UCI leader board. But the day’s main protagonists were largely those that figured in last weekend’s World Championships road race. With Philippe Gilbert (BMC) opting to skip tomorrow’s Giro del Piemonte, the racing in Saturday’s Il Lombardia will be eagerly awaited.
1. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) 3:32:12
2. Diego Ulissi (Lampre-ISD) same time
3. Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) s/t
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) s/t
5. Carlos Betancur (Acqua & Sapone) s/t
6. Fabio Taborre (Acqua & Sapone) s/t
7. Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago-CSF Inox) s/t
8. Chris Anker Sorensen (SaxoBank-Tinkoff Bank) s/t
We’re all familiar with the ‘Orange tide’ which lines the upper slopes of the Tours of France and Spain each year. These Basque fans hail largely from the lush emerald green regions of northern Spain and south-western France (coloured yellow on the map) where the mild climate and roads empty of traffic make it ideal for riding all year round. And cycling is a way of life here. Known as Euskadi in Basque and Pais Vasco in Spanish, this region is home to some 1,500 cycling clubs and thousands of cyclists. Both Spanish WorldTour teams are based in the region: Euskaltel-Euskadi in Bilbao and Movistar in Navarra (green on map: Nafarroa). Continue reading →