Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team sprinter Francesco Chicchi put the finishing touches on a 189.3 km race in occasionally dangerous, and mostly poor weather on Monday in San Luis. Chicchi beat out JJ Haedo (Saxo Bank) by mere inches in a sprint that came down to 60 riders for the final km of the race. "It was a gruelling stage," said Chicchi after the arrival. "I must thank the entire team for the great work they did and the trust they placed in me. We attacked with about 50 kilometres to go to the arrival, with team Saxo Bank taking advantage of the wind. My team mates did a splendid job and we managed to break up the group into several parts." The race was postponed 15km before the category 3 king of the mountain (KOM) climb, at the 46.3 km marker, due to a hail storm. Omega Pharma - Quick-Step rider Frantisek Rabon took a tumble at that point, and they did not report his condition during the race. It did not appear to be serious.
Emanuel Guevara (SLS) escaped from the pack around the time the race resumed, and his lead grew to as much as 11 minutes and 30 seconds at one point.
Cesar Berti (URU) and Maximiliano Badde (SLS) eventually briddged to Guevara, but the trio begain to wear with 55 km remaining. By 35 km remaining the peloton caught the three riders, and the group remained all together through the final 15 km, when a few riders tried to escape.
The escape did not work, which is what led the 60 riders barreling down a flat and slightly downhill finish. The wind was a factor all the way through the final 5 km.
As the riders crossed the finish line, initial reports claimed Haedo was the winner. However, they confirmed Chicchi was the winner after looking at photos of the finish.
"When I lifted my head I would see athletes in front of me like (Sylvain) Chavanel, (Levi) Leipheimer and (Tom) Boonen, all working for me, and my only thought was that I couldn't let them down," Chicchi said. "Having a last man like Boonen was super. Tom launched me perfectly. In the final metres I saw that Haedo was catching up to me. So I gave it everything I had and managed to just barely stay ahead of him. It's an enormous joy."
This is the first road race victory of the team this season.
"Today the team was perfect," said Sport Director Davide Bramati. "The guys supported Chicchi all day long, and he was really ready for this event. We decided to bet on him. We knew he could do well and even Tom put himself at Francesco's service, proving that he's a champion of altruism. The weather was horrible but fortunately all our guys arrived in the first group except for Rabon, who fell after having worked very hard. Luckily there were no serious consequences and he'll be able to take to the starting line tomorrow, too."
For stage 1 results, click here.