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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, August 2, 2020

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2019 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. - Marcus Aurelius

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Strade Bianche team reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Winner Wout van Aert's Jumbo-Visma team sent me this:

Wout van Aert has won the fourteenth edition of the Strade Bianche. The twenty-five-year-old Fleming arrived solo after a one-man show at the Piazza del Campo in Siena. It is the fifth victory of the season for Team Jumbo-Visma.

Wout van Aert

Wout van Aert wins a big one. Sirotti photo

A leading group of six riders opened up a gap in the beginning of the Italian classic. The high temperatures combined with the sloping gravel sectors made for 184 tough kilometres. Team Jumbo-Visma constantly remained in the front with Van Aert. On the last sector of the day, Van Aert attacked, after which no one could keep him from winning.

“It was extremely exhausting”, Van Aert said. “I was the strongest in the last part of the race. Everyone in the leading group had good legs. I always believed in myself and in my plan. On the last sector I went full throttle and my technique worked to my advantage. It was an all-or-nothing attempt. Fortunately, it worked out very well.”

It is the ninth pro win for Van Aert. Earlier he won a stage in the Tour de France and two stages in the Critérium du Dauphiné. The Strade Bianche suits the Belgian time trial champion. In all the three editions he participated, he was on the podium.

“It was a goal to win this race sometime in my career. The fact that I have already succeeded makes me very proud. I live for these races. After a period of a lot of training, this naturally feels fantastic.”

Here's the report from third-place Max Schachmann's Bora-hansgrohe team:

The temperatures were in the high 30°s as riders set out for the first UCI WorldTour race since the season was suspended in March. The dry conditions would make the famous white roads of Tuscany even more dusty as the racing covered the undulating 184km parcours, starting and finishing in Siena.

While none of the riders knowing what their own form would be like, let alone each other’s, this didn’t stop the attacks going out from the start, a small group allowed to build a two-minute advantage. This group tried hard, but BORA-hansgrohe’s Daniel Oss and Marcus Burghardt led the charge, catching them with 78km to go. The small leading group was made up of just twenty-five riders, and multiple attacks stretched this group along the road, with eight riders – Maximilian Schachmann among them – eventually forming a lead and steadily building on their advantage. Shrinking in size as the racing took its toll, with 30km to go it was six riders on the front with a 1:30 lead, the German National Champion still up there – although the chasers were closing in.

Knowing they were losing time, Maximilian went on the attack with 21.5km to go, taking one other rider with him, forcing the remaining members of the break to respond. With just over 10km remaining, Team Jumbo-Visma’s Wout Van Aert went on the attack and, with only two riders able to react to this move, the day’s winner would come from this trio of riders.

Racing through Siena’s famous streets to the line and up the brutal 12.4% final climb to the line, Maximilian just didn’t have the legs to take second place behind Van Aert, but his excellent performance, fighting hard throughout the race, saw the German National Champion take the final spot on the podium.

StradeBianche podium

The podium, from left: Davide Formolo (2nd), Wout van Aert (1st) & Max Schachmann (3rd). Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line :
"It was a very hard, very tough race and I knew one of the key factors today would be how to manage the heat. So, I cooled myself often, I rode the first four sectors really easy at the back and I could see that everybody was tired. In Santa Maria I felt I had quite good legs and I tried a little bit in the last part. In Santa Maria I almost crashed twice, we could barely see anything with the dust, so in the last sector I went a little bit easy and I think it was a mistake. Van Aert was able to go away, I tried to catch him but that meant I spent all my energy and couldn't make it for the sprint. However, overall, I think it was a good start to the second part of the season." - Maximilian Schachmann

"I would say BORA-hansgrohe had a good race today even if it wasn't the luckiest day of the team. Our leaders suffered from punctures in the gravel sectors. Peter had a puncture, Max changed bikes on sector 6 and it wasn't easy for him to come back, Gregor had issues with this bike as well, so it wasn't easy to handle everything. Still, we kept the morale high, we focused on the race and I think we managed it well. Unfortunately, in the finale, Max missed that extra bit of power to follow Van Aert but still, every rider in the team performed very well. I think we can be happy with this result and we look forward to the next races." - Enrico Poitschke 

EF Pro Cycling sent me this report:

As the World Tour restarted again today after its 2020 hiatus, the scorching Tuscan hills left the peloton in pieces as it battled its way to Siena’s Piazza del Campo. By the time the riders took to the start line the mercury was already touching close to 40 degrees centigrade with a menu of leg breaking climbs and dust for the day.

Right from the start, the team helped control the race with Sean Bennett, Magnus Cort, Mike Woods and Mitch Docker playing an active part in helping control and set up for the final. At 78 km to go, Lawson Craddock (EF Pro Cycling), Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Marcus Burghardt (Bora-Hansgrohe) made a move attacking off the front which was soon caught by the bunch. When the race hit sector eight, Monte Santa Marie loomed with a painfully sharp gradient, and Simon Clarke (EF Pro Cycling) attacked, quickly leaving chasers behind.

On the descent it was next Alberto Bettiol’s turn to make sure he was up there at the front putting himself in contention to take the win. As a small bunch formed, it was clear that this group containing Alberto Bettiol (EF Pro Cycling), Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team), Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) had the strength to stay away till the finish. A strong attack from Bettiol at 20 km to go unfortunately didn’t last, it was Van Aert’s at less than 10 km to go who reduced the group down even further. Bettiol eventually lost contact with Formolo and Schachmann on the final climbs into Siena.

As predicted, this race was a beautiful mix of chaos and few riders actually made it to the finish, providing fans with the racing drama we’ve all missed over the last five months. As far as curtain raisers go, this Tuscan season restart act will be a tough one to follow.

Here’s what the team had to say:

Fabrizio Guidi, Sport Director:
The 4th place...
“It’s not all about the top four result, it’s about the race and the team. We were more and less perfect as a team. In the final we were missing just a little something with Alberto. But the first race is never easy and I’m really happy about Alberto’s form. He tried to win and took some risks and he paid for it in the final, but if you never try, you never win.

The tactics...
“We controlled the first part with Mitch, and Sean. And then in the middle of the race we made some moves with Lawson, Simon and Alberto. The goal for this race is never to try to anticipate and be behind. It’s about being in front and doing the work and the team executed exactly how we wanted them to. Alberto was in front during the hardest parts of the race and he probably thought that he was stronger than expected and he might have made his move a little early, but I am really happy with his performance. You never know in the final stages of a race what could happen. We can always discuss tactics and how to deal with the legs in the closing stages of the race, but it's never easy to hit the target immediately. Personally, I am really happy with the performance of the team.”

The chaos...
“It was really chaotic. There were many crashes, there were many flat tires, and we were really lucky to have really great equipment. Our sponsors really pulled through and we only experienced a few mechanical issues out on the road. We were probably the best team out there today in terms of dealing with equipment. No crashes and few flat tires even though it was a very nervous and hard race, as expected. We dealt with everything in a good way and the riders remained calm from the start. They executed perfectly and at the end of the day there’s only one winner and we just weren’t that team today. Onto the next one!”

Mike Woods, rider
The first timer..
Today went pretty well for me. My legs felt really good but obviously it was a bit nervous initially in the peloton. This race was just crazy from the get go. The fight for position, the crashes, the dust, the visibility, all of it. I had a flat tire at one point and ended up in the cars and couldn’t see anything. So for me, just getting over, getting through that and finishing was a big accomplishment considering I broke my femur five months ago. I think this will probably be the scariest race all season for me and to get through it with no problems and to feel confident in my bike handling skills gives me confidence for the races to come.

Alberto Bettiol, rider
The fourth placer...
“Today, the team did a really amazing job. We were focused from kilometer zero. Everybody did what they were supposed to do and we raced as a team. Simon, Magnus and Woods didn’t have the best days out there, but they were still helping me by keeping me covered and anticipating moves that were coming. We all did our best which is the most important. For me, I tried to play my card in the final and tried to anticipate the moves and attack. It was really special for me because I was in front of my fans and racing in my region so I had a lot of people supporting me. At the end I got dropped by climbers on a climb so I have no regrets and I did my best. In the end this fourth place finish is great to restart the race season with.”

“After Sante Marie there were only six of us in front and we didn’t talk but it was clear that we had to work together to grow the gap because there were some chasers behind. In the final, Greg Van Avermaet got dropped and then Fuglsang got dropped. I tried to catch Van Aert but he was really strong and was the strongest out there. This race is won by the strongest rider, and he was the strongest out there today. Schachmann and Formolo dropped me and maybe I paid for my previous efforts but for me I have no regrets because I tried to win this race. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. We all did a really great job today.”

Finally...should the race stick to August next year?
“After today’s result, I think it’s better it stays on the 1st August.”

And here's the report from Julian Alaphilippe's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

Julian Alaphilippe came at the start of the 14th Strade Bianche hoping to be again in the mix and have a shot at defending his title, but he was constantly struck by bad luck throughout the day. This cavalcade of mechanicals began just ten kilometers into the race, when a broken rear wheel forced him to chase so he could return in the pack, and ended on the Monte Sante Marie gravel sector, where Alaphilippe had his fifth puncture, at a moment when he was part of the main group.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe couldn't repeat his 2019 triumph in Siena.

Despite this, he carried on, battling the insane temperatures, which hit 40 degrees Celsius, and the heavy dust on the course, and concluded the race in 24th position, a remarkable result giving the circumstances: “It was impossible today, I lost track how many times I stopped and came back. The mechanicals made it very difficult, as if the race wasn’t hard enough, but out of respect for this race which I love, I wanted to finish it. It was my first appearance since Paris-Nice and a useful test as I get my season back on track, despite all the bad luck I faced.”

Victorious in the breathtaking Piazza del Campo in 2015, Zdenek Stybar carried the flag for Deceuninck – Quick-Step and finished in sixth place after a tremendous effort that saw him come from behind in the last 50 kilometers and catch several riders on his way to a morale-boosting result in this leg-sapping race.

“It’s nice that I finished again in the top 10, but I was aiming for more before the start”, explained Zdenek after his sixth consecutive presence in the Strade Bianche top 10. “The condition is good, but I struggled due to the heat and because of this I missed a bit when it came to responding when the attacks were launched and the peloton split. But I knew from experience that there was no need to panic, so I maintained a steady pace and was the race progressed, I began feeling better.”

“Today was tough, but it felt good to be back racing with this team I missed so much! I am satisfied with the result and am really happy that we are racing again after five long months”, concluded Stybar.

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