ALSO READ.Annemiek van Vleuten corrects the crooked situation in the mad final and wins Strade Bianche for women
After months of waiting, it was finally time for a big one-day race in cycling country. On the Tuscan gravel roads, the peloton went looking for a successor to Julian Alaphilippe, who won the last edition of the Strade Bianche in the spring of 2019. Alaphilippe appeared at the start to defend his title. Greg Van Avermaet (CCC), Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo-Visma), Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-McLaren) and ex-winners Tiesj Benoot (Team Sunweb) and Philippe Gilbert (Lotto-Soudal) were eager to stop this. stabbing. And with Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe), Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), Alberto Bettiol (EF Pro Cycling) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), many interesting names from abroad were also on the way.
The peloton did not start for 14 hours in a scorching hot Siena. Was on the menu: a hellish, dusty ride of 184 kilometers. Eleven gravel strips, the so-called dirt sector, were waiting for the riders. And for the Fleming who likes the dirty work, a well-known name immediately appeared in the front: cyclo-cross rider Corné van Kessel (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) teamed up with the Swiss Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli – Sidermec). However, Van Kessel soon dropped out, so Pellaud continued his company solo.
Pellaud was soon joined by the Italians Nicola Bagioli and Iuri Filosi, both from Bardiani – CSF – Faizanè. Van Kessel and a Belgian, Benjamin Declercq (Arkéa-Samsic), also moved forward. Quentin Pacher (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) brought the total number of names in the leading group to six.
However, for the industrious Pellaud, things didn’t go fast enough in the front, so he soon left his five companions behind. The Swiss never got more than a few minutes, but he was allowed to drive alone for a long time. Behind him, the first selection had already started: several riders had to deal with the inevitable breakdown of material and a heavy crash threw a spanner in the works. Among other things, former winner Tiesj Benoot fell behind: the Gentenaar later also quit. Dylan Teuns, Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) and Xandro Meurisse (Team Wanty-Gobert) would not finish the Strade Bianche either.
Lonely leader Pellaud had been seized in the front. Simon Clarke (EF Pro Cycling) opened the debates for the victory at 60 kilometers from the finish. A few kilometers away, Jakob Fuglsang next dropped a bomb. And what kind of one: the Dane took off with a rotten speed. Five riders give chase: Wout van Aert and Greg Van Avermaet were joined by Alberto Bettiol, Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates) and Maximilian Schachmann (BORA-hansgrohe). Julian Alaphilippe and Mathieu van der Poel were out of the question: they had to be removed irrevocably.
Decisive attack Van Aert
A little further on, Fuglsang was caught again. And so, a leading group of six was created that would color the rest of the game. Van Avermaet was the first to find his Waterloo on the penultimate gravel strip, 20 kilometers from the finish. Alberto Bettiol tried it, without success. A few kilometers away, on the last gravel strip of Le Tolfe, it was then Van Aert who attacked. With success: the three-time cyclocross world champion left the competition on the spot.
Bettiol tried to cling, but the winner of the Tour of Flanders soon had to bow his head. Schachmann and Formolo then give chase. The duo lingered for about 10 seconds, until they too had to give up a handful of kilometers from the finish. Van Aert was able to start the sloping final kilometer with a half minute lead and only crossed the finish line on the empty Piazza del Campo in Siena: what a triumph!
Formolo and Schachmann crossed the line in second and third half a minute behind Van Aert. With Greg Van Avermaet, there was a second Belgian in the top ten: he finished eighth. Mathieu van der Poel finished fifteenth at more than 10 minutes from the winner: afterwards it turned out that he had fallen and had a flat tire, after which he got a wheel from teammate Floris De Tier. Ex-winners Julian Alaphilippe and Philippe Gilbert crossed the finish line in more than 15 minutes as 24th and 25th.