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The Spanish star escapes with Pozzovivo on the day's major climb but the duo is caught exactly on the finish line; Valverde holds on to take the win ahead of Appollonio and Colbrelli

Photo: Sirotti

ALEJANDRO VALVERDE

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DAVIDE APPOLLONIO

RIDER PROFILE
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MOVISTAR TEAM

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ROMA MAXIMA

RACE PROFILE
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09.03.2014 @ 17:14 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

One day after finishing third in the Strade Bianche, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) continued his excellent start to the season when he won today's second Italian one-day race, Roma Maxima. Having used his team to make the race hard, the Spaniard attacked on the day's major climb and got company from Domenico Pozzovivo whom he beat in the final sprint as the peloton caught them just on the line.

 

With an overall win and three stage victories in the Vuelta a Andalucia and a triumph in the one-day race Vuelta a Murcia, Alejandro Valverde has had an excellent start to the season. Today he continued where he left off in Spain when he won revived semi-classic Roma Maxima in amazing fashion.

 

Most riders expected the race which takes place in the hills around the Italian capital of Rome to come down to a sprint from a reduced group but Valverde had a clear plan to change that scenario. He used his strong team to set a hard pace for most of the day, making his rivals tired by the time they hit the race's main climb with around 40km to go.

 

Valverde and his teammate Nairo Quintana took turns attacking the peloton and while Quintana seemed to lack his usual strength, Valverde had plenty of reserves. His repeated attacks made the peloton crumble until he finally escaped on his own.

 

On the steepest part of the climb, however, he was passed by an excellent Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) who briefly opened a gap to Valverde. The Movistar captain rode wisely, setting his own pace and catching his Italian rival just at the top.

 

The duo combined forces to build up a 40-second gap over a chase group made up of the best climbers in the race. However, it was a long downhill run to the finish in front of the Colosseum in Rome and this didn't do the front duo many favours.

 

Behind, the reduced peloton had got organized and they managed to catch the chase group inside the final 10km. In the end , they got very close as Valverde and Pozzovivo started to look at each other but Valverde timed his sprint excellently to just hold off the main group.

 

Pozzovivo failed to do so and was passed by Davide Appollonio (Ag2r), Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani), and Matteo Di Serafino (Androni), and so had to settle for 5th. However, the sprinters didn't catch Valverde who took his sixth win this year.

 

With the Roma Maxima, the series of Italian one-day races have come to an end. The Italian season continues on Wednesday with the country's first WorldTour race, Tirreno-Adriatico.

 

A hilly race for fast riders

The second edition of the Roma Maxima which is a revived edition of the former Giro del Lazio, was held on a hilly course that took the riders over flat roads from the Italian capital of Rome to the hills in the hinterland. Inside the final third of the 195km race, the riders had to tackle two major climbs and a small hill but the final 35km mainly consisted of a downhill run to the finish in front of the Colosseum, meaning that a sprint finish was the expected outcome.

 

Last year the race was won by early escape Blel Kadri (Ag2r) and so many riders were eager to be part of the early break. Hence, the start was a fast one as several riders tried to take off.

 

Pirazzi tries his hand

The first one to get a significant gap was Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani) but the Giro king of the mountains was quickly brought back. Matthias Brandle (IAM) was particularly active in the early part and when the break finally went clear, he managed to join it.

 

Ben Gastauer (Ag2r) and Thomas Damuseau (Giant-Shimano) initiated the right move and they were joined by Brandle, Daniel Teklehaimanot, Dennis Van Niekerk (both MTN-Qhubeka), Niccolo Bonifazio (Lampre-Merida), and Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthCare) to form a strong 7-rider group. The peloton was content with the composition and quickly allowed them to open a gap that reached 6.40 after 35km of racing.

 

Movistar lead the chase

Movistar had a plan for the race and they hit the front with Pablo Lastras and Enrique Sanz who did a lot of work for most of the day. The duo started to bring down the gap which was down to 4.08 after 93km of racing.

 

They decided to temporarily slow down a bit, allowing the advantage to grow back up to 4.25 before they again accelerated. On the descent from the day's first climb they had it down to 3 minutes but as they took the time to refuel through the feed zone, it went back up to just below the four-minute mark.

 

The break splits up

The Spanish team kept it stable at around that mark until they hit the bottom of the Rocca Priora climb which signaled the start of the finale. Up ahead, the break started to splinter as Gastauer rode away from his former companions while Van Niekerk and Reijnen fell off the pace.

 

In the peloton, Bardiani decided that they wanted to make the race hard for the pure sprinters and so Enrico Barbin, Edoardo Zardini, and Stefano Locatelli on the front. The latter two rode a hard tempo all the way up the climb, causing a major reduction of the size of the peloton.

 

Valverde and Quintana attack

At the top, they took stock of the situation and again left it to Movistar to continue the pace-setting on the descent that led to the bottom of the main climb, Campo di Annibale. The gap to Gastauer was now down to less than a minute while Brandle, Teklehaimanot, Bonifazio and Damuseau were still in pursuit.

 

Valverde launched his first attack almost from the bottom of the climb and for a little while, he and Quintana took turns accelerating while the peloton crumbled behind them. Finally, one of Valverde's attacks were strong enough to get clear as he took off with Francesco Manuel Bongiorno (Bardiani).

 

A strong group of chasers

Behind, Matteo Rabottini (YellowFluo), Quintana, Pozzovivo, and Winner Anacona (Lampre-Merida) made up a small chase group. All the escapees had now been swallowed and were left behind.

 

When they hit the steepest section, Bongiorno fell off the pace while Pozzovivo rode an amazing tempo to pass both the front riders. Valverde had to dig really deep to get back just before the top while Anacona, Rabottini, and Quintana were their nearest chasers.

 

The front duo extend their gap

A group led by Ben Hermans (BMC) joined that trio to form a select group of strong climbers that took off in pursuit of the front duo. However, Valverde and Pozzovivo were working well together and continued to increase their advantage from the initial 30 to 40 seconds.

 

The chase group was composed of Hubert Dupont, Rinaldo Nocentini (both Ag2r), Franco Pellizotti (Androni), Tanel Kangert (Astana), Bongiorno, Hermans, Johann Tschopp (IAM), Anacona, Quintana, Sergio Pardilla (MTN-Qhubeka), Warren Barguil (Giant-Shimano), and Rabottini and they worked hard to try to catch the leaders. On the final small hill, however, Bongiorno tried to take off on his own and he managed to stay clear for a little while before being back in the group.

 

The peloton gets organized

Further behind, a peloton had got organized and with 15km to go, they were 1.30 behind. As they quickly closed the gap to the chasers, Rabottini took off on his own and he battled in lone pursuit for a long time with less than 10km to go.

 

Like the rest of the chase group, Rabottini was swallowed up by the peloton which was constantly getting closer to the leaders. With 6km to go, the gap was 40 seconds and it was clear that it would be close at the end.

 

Sanchez gives it a go

Samuel Sanchez (BMC) tried an unsuccessful solo move with 2km to go but he could do nothing against the fast-moving peloton.

 

Inside the final kilometre, Valverde and Pozzovivo finally started to play the game of cat-and-mouse and this made it possible for the peloton to get very close. However, Valverde seemed to have everything under control and he timed his final sprint perfectly to just hold off Appollonio and Colbrelli to take another win while Pozzovivo fell back to 5th.

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