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The race started – and finished – in the shadow of The Colosseum. (©BMC/Graham Watson.)
The race started – and finished – in the shadow of The Colosseum. (©BMC/Graham Watson.)

Gilbert Eighth At Roma Maxima

9. March 2014

BMC Racing Team's Philippe Gilbert finished eighth at Roma Maxima Sunday as a furious bunch sprint nearly foiled a solo victory by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team).

The Course:
Starting and finishing in the shadow of The Colosseum in Rome, the 195-kilometer course was divided into three sections, with the significant climbs of the day coming in the final two-thirds of the race.

The Day's Breakaway:
Seven riders slipped the peloton in the first 15 kms and enjoyed a more than six-minute lead before the chasing peloton started absorbing the remnants of the escapees as the climb of Campi di Annibale began, about 40 kilometers from the finish.

The Decisive Moment:
Attacks by Movistar Team riders Nairo Quintana and Valverde on the ascent of Campi di Annibale animated the race with 38 km to go. Over the top, Valverde and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) went clear, with BMC Racing Team's Ben Hermans leading the pursuit. Eventually, 15 riders formed a concerted chase group. But the remnants of the peloton swallowed them up inside the last five kilometers.

At The Finish:
Valverde and Pozzovivo initially built a 30-second lead on the first chase group that included Hermans and enjoyed a minute's lead on the peloton. But the peloton never gave up the chase and caught Hermans's group. From there, BMC Racing Team's Samuel Sánchez attacked out of it in the last two kilometers. But the past Olympic road race champion was swallowed up – along with Pozzovivo – just before the line.

The Podium:
Valverde had a moment to celebrate, crossing the finish line one second ahead of runner-up Davide Appollonio (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) in third. In addition to Gilbert in the top 10, BMC Racing Team's Yannick Eijssen (20th) and Dominik Nerz (24th) were also in the leading group that finished a second behind Valverde.

What Sport Director Fabio Baldato Said:
"Phil had a problem because someone dropped a piece of clothing into his derailleur and blocked everything on the downhill. We waited, stopped, changed the bike and then came back. We still had Ben in the front and the guys were waiting for Phil. They came back severn or eight kilometers from the finish, but it was too late to organize something."

What Gilbert Said:
"We were 20 seconds behind the main group – about 15 kilometers from the finish, but the traffic was open and we were having to ride between the cars. It was very, very dangerous. I hope we never see this again in cycling. It was a real shame."

What Hermans Said:
"The last climb, Quintana and Valverde started attacking. I tried to go with them because I thought Samuel and Phil would stay patient. Suddenly I was in the front group with a group of about 15 riders. The last kilometer was too steep and Valverde broke there and had Pozzovivo with him. I was a maximum 100 meters from them at the top but I couldn't close the gap and they went. In our group, we had some collaboration. But then the team cars came from behind on the big road and everyone wanted to go to the team cars to talk to their sport directors. So that's why they caught us back."

View photos from the race in the BMC Racing Team Flickr gallery.

Listen to complete comments from Baldato and Hermans on the BMC Racing Team Audio Line.