Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Monte Paschi Eroica

RCS Sports, sponsor of the Giro d'Italia, hopes to make this race into a one day classic along the lines of Paris-Roubaix. The main sponsor is the Banca dei Monte Paschi which was founded in 1472, 20 years before Columbus discovered the new world. Today, Alexander Kolobnev of Team CSC conquered the first-ever running of the Monte Paschi Eroica, a 180-kilometre race composed of 'le strade bianche' (seven sections of 'white gravel roads' totalling 60 Km) around Siena, Italy. The 26 year-old Russian, silver medallist at the World Championships nine days prior, completed the last forty kilometres solo. Second was taken by his Swedish CSC team-mate, Marcus Ljungqvist, and third by Ukrainian Mikhaylo Khalilov (Ceramica Flaminia).

Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval-Prodir) was the first Italian, in fourth. Two-time Giro d'Italia Champion Gilberto Simoni, who rode the cyclo-tourist version (L'Eroica) on Sunday, finished tenth. Noted Classics riders Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) and Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital) finished with the main group.

"It was a very particular race," said Kolobnev after the finish. "At the beginning of the day I did not think I could do something for the finale."

The race went well for him when he made an escape of 11 men at kilometre 74. "It was good to be at the front in this race. I had made the selection, and then my solo move. Plus, having Marcus behind gave me confidence."
His teammate attacked upon reaching the city limits of Siena, the city famous for its bi-annual horse races, Palio di Siena.

"It is a great zone, with olive trees. Unfortunately, I could not see but 30 metres in front of me because of the dust." Paolo Bettini beat Kolobnev for the World Championship title, and although he was not racing he was in Siena to watch the racing. "It was a spectacular race to watch with all the dust." Andrea Tafi, the only Italian to win both Northern Classics Paris-Roubaix and Ronde van Vlaanderen, was also in Siena to watch the race unfold, and was happy with what the organizers had created. "Starting today Italy has its own Roubaix," said the retired cyclist to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "It was a spectacular show. The Eroica has become a Classic. Let's mark a date, put it at the beginning of March, like our Het Volk, leading to the [Northern] Classics." In total, 113 riders started the race and 42 made it to the historic Piazza del Campo.

Photos: a classic in the making