Sky's Thomas Löfkvist and HTC-Columbia's Michael Rogers fell just short in a battle of the greats over Siena's rolling gravel roads Saturday. In Piazza del Campo, after 190 kilometres, Maxim Iglinsky (Astana) pipped duo in a close sprint to win Strade Bianche.
Löfkvist, catching his breath in Siena's city centre one year after his win, said "I thought I could do a double."
He led on the final 16% climb to the Piazza, but Iglinsky squeezed by at 200 metres remaining. "He passed me on the inside, in the narrow bit. I didn't want to squeeze him in."
Rogers formed the winning group of four riders, including Canadian Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions), with an attack at seven kilometres remaining, after the last of eight gravel sectors. Roger's attacked freed the four from a group select group of ten with Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky), 2008 winner Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) and Filippo Pozzato (Katusha).
"I felt strong," continued Löfkvist, "disappointed not to win, but it's a good indication of my shape at the moment."
Sky team-mate Mathew Hayman featured in the day's first major escape. He formed part of a group of 10 through the first two sectors of the race. However, before the start of sector three, the main group caught the ten and stayed together until sector five.
The 11.5-kilometre sector five through Monte Sante Marie shaped the race and produced two significant groups. Rogers, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo), Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone), Simon Spilak (Lampre-Farnese Vini) and Francesco Ginanni (Androni) left the sector with 18" on a group of 23 and 1'18" on the main group.
Flecha, however, was in the group of 23 with team-mate Löfkvist, Francesco Failli and Luca Paolini (Acqua & Sapone), Leonardo Bertagnolli (Androni), Enrico Gasparotto, Assan Bazayev and Iglinsky (all Astana). And, by the start of sector seven, the 28 riders were together with a 2'20" lead and the final fight ahead.
Cancellara and Pozzato both tried to break free, but Rogers' move stuck and helped position Iglinsky for his first win in two years.
Sky had two riders in the top ten with Flecha's eighth, though it lost one of its riders today to a crash. Brit Peter Kennaugh crashed with near 70 kilometres to race and abandoned with a likely fractured left collarbone.
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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