ROME (VN) — Blel Kadri (Ag2r-La Mondiale) slipped away to confound the sprinters and win the Roma Maxima after a 127km breakaway.
Kadri was alone as he crossed the finish line in Via dei Fori Imperiali, on the cobblestones of central Rome, just 37 seconds ahead of the chasing group of sprinters.
Filippo Pozzato (Lampre) led the group home to win the bunch sprint and celebrated, believing he had won the race.
Not so — Kadri, who had joined a four-man breakaway after 52km, attacked on the Salita dei Cappuccini and rode alone to the victory. Behind him, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) joined a counterattack with four others, but they fell short.
“It’s a beautiful race,” said Kadri. “The middle section reminded me of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The race start and finish is incredible. I’ve never been to Rome before, and it is really magical.”
Still, the Frenchman was surprised to be even starting the race, much less winning it.
“The race wasn’t even on my program until Friday, when my teammate Steve Chainel fell ill,” he said. “I could have gone home after Strade Bianche, but the team asked me if I wanted to ride and I said, ‘Yes.’”
Kadri said he didn’t intend to launch a solo attack.
“There were still 37km to go. But, on the spur of the moment, I went alone,” he said. “The Caja Rural rider [Andre Fernando Cardoso] stayed with me for a while, then I dropped him on the pavé.’”
Once gone, he fought all the way to the finish.
“I believed in my attack. I said to myself, ‘Give it 100 percent. If you blow up, too bad.’ I knew there was a group of chasers, but I thought it was the remains of the breakaway, not Nibali. The final profile helped me hold off the peloton.”