Ponzi 12th, Iglinskiy 14th on the white roads of Siena
Astana Pro Team riders Simone Ponzi and Maxim Iglinskiy fought for the finish at Saturday's Strade Bianche, but were unable to crack the Top-10 in a race that came down to excellent team tactics and a lot of wind and dirt.
Iglinskiy, who won Strade Bianche in 2010, said the team's plan went well, with four riders from Astana Pro Team at the front of the race in the final 50km of racing.
"We tried to all come to the front in the second to last dirt section, because there is a very steep hill there and it's a good place to attack. The team worked very well to make this happen, and I was able to attack and get away with about 10 other riders as we got close to the finish.
Iglinskiy's attack reduced the number of competitors in the final selection from around 40 to around 10, bringing Ponzi along to reinforce Astana's options. With time running down, a complex set of calculations began to play out among the remaining riders as they chased a day-long breakaway that had at one time been more than seven minutes ahead of the peloton.
The race came into the final 5k with Ponzi and Iglinskiy's group around 25 seconds behind the leaders. All that remained was a 1k climb up a narrow pedestrian walkway into Siena's Piazza del Campo.
Italian rider Francesco Moser won the day, relying on his powerful teammate Peter Sagan behind him to anchor Iglinskiy's elite group and prevent them from bringing a dangerous sprinter like Sagan into the narrow, inclined streets of Siena's old quarter.
"Sagan just closed down every attack, every attempt to breakaway from him. It just didn't work out," Iglinskiy said.
Ponzi came to the line 17 seconds behind the winner, an excellent showing for a day of extremely high winds but bright, sunny skies.
Astana Pro Team suffered only two punctures during Strade Bianche, a remarkable showing for a race with more than 50km of non-paved roads. However rider Paolo Tiralongo crashed in the first dirt section, and withdrew from the race some time later with slight cuts to his leg. He is expected to recover fully in time for Tirreno-Adriatico next week.