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"Ian had a crash so couldn't be up there which is a shame as we know he's in good form. He has a bruised knee but he is okay.

Photo: Etixx - Quick-Step/ Tim De Waele








07.03.2015 @ 18:46 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Salvatore Puccio led home Team Sky's challenge at Strade Bianche after finishing in 13th place in Siena.


The Italian was well positioned heading onto the key gravel section of the Monte Sante Marie but, as the attacks fired clear, it was a select group of nine riders that went away up the road.


Puccio sat in the reduced peloton as the gap to the leaders fluctuated, but was eventually resigned to finishing among the chasers, one minute and three seconds back on the day's winner Zdenek Stybar.


Stybar (Etixx - Quick-Step) found himself in a three-way battle for the victory and prevailed over Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) on the famous run into the Piazza del Campo.


The Czech rider followed the attack of van Avermaet on the steep incline as Valverde faded, before pushing on through the narrows streets to take the win by two seconds.


Conditions in the exposed Tuscan hills made life incredibly difficult for the peloton, who battled severe winds across 10 sections of white gravel road.



With Ian Stannard forced out of the race through a crash, that left Puccio and Xabier Zandio as the team's representatives in the main group, with Andy Fenn battling to get back on, only for the pace to shoot up immediately as the Scot bridged.


Sports Director Dario Cioni talked through the race, difficult conditions and an update on Stannard.


"It was quite extreme racing today," he confirmed. "With the wind out there that meant the riders started racing hard even earlier today. So you ended up with a bit of a natural selection process, but also with some luck involved. You didn't want to have a flat, as with the narrow roads it's really hard to give assistance from the car.


"Ian had a crash so couldn't be up there which is a shame as we know he's in good form. He has a bruised knee but he is okay.


"Salva did a good ride. Tactically he didn't make any mistakes. He just didn't have the horsepower those lead guys had. But if you look at who they were they are all really impressive riders. He had prepared for the race and studied the course. He knew where he had to be, but once you are there if you cannot follow then there is nothing you can do.


"He finished just outside the top 10 for the second year in a row. He could certainly have got inside the top 10, he just ran out of energy on what is a really tough finish."



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