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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, March 7, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2020 Giro d'Italia

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Strade Bianche team reports

We posted the report from second-place Julian Alaphilippe with the results.

Here's the report from third-place Egan Bernal's INEOS Grenadiers team:

Egan Bernal finished third at Strade Bianche after a tremendous battle on the white roads of Tuscany as Mathieu van der Poel powered to victory.

Bernal was part of an elite trio containing Van der Poel and Julian Alaphilippe heading into the final kilometre but was unable to match the attacks on the climatic Via Santa Caterina climb into the Piazza del Campo.

Egan bernal

Egan Bernal finished third. Sirotti photo

Tom Pidcock was part of the first chase group, having been with the leaders until the last 10 kilometres, fighting to an impressive fifth on his Strade debut. 
Earlier, Pidcock had suffered misfortune when he punctured shortly before the pace picked up in the peloton. Salvatore Puccio gave him a wheel, allowing Pidcock to re-join a dwindling bunch.

The attacks began in earnest in the final 90 minutes of the race, with Owain Doull picking an opportune moment to join a large group which eased the pressure on his teammates behind.

After this group was caught, the decisive move then came when Alaphilippe attacked on the Monte Sante Marie, with Bernal and Pidcock joining the world champion with five other escapees.

This elite group of seven quickly gained an unassailable advantage, only reducing in size as Pidcock was briefly distanced on the Monteaperti climb, but he put in a gritty ride to re-join the break with Wout van Aert.

Finally, Van der Poel attacked on the final gravel sector with only Bernal and Alaphilippe able to respond, the trio staying away and setting up a grandstand finish in Siena.

Egan Bernal:
“I was a bit surprised as I am not a specialist in one-day races and to be on the podium with Mathieu and the world champion is a big honour for me. I really am surprised, but now I am really motivated for the next goal.

“We tried just to keep going with [the front group], because it was too hard to go away alone because riders like Mathieu and Van Aert were really strong so we needed to wait for the last few kilometres and just try to do our best and the final was just about the legs. We tried to play it well and I think in the end it was good.

“It’s really motivating for me to be here on this podium, I’m trying to have some more confidence in myself again, just trying to enjoy the races. We’ll see what happens next, but at the moment I’ll just enjoy this podium.”

Tom Pidcock:
"It was good fun, but a hard day out. I punctured just before Santa Maria, in the sector before, so it wasn't ideal. But Puccio gave me his wheel so I didn't lose too much time and got back in before the end of the sector.

"It was pretty good, Egan finished on the podium. We were coming to win, but a podium is good. I was quite happy with how I went, I didn't have much of a punch, but it was good fun.

"In the lead group I was thinking, 'yeah this is quite cool', these six guys are some of the biggest riders in the world and I was there as well, so that was pretty cool. 

"I didn't have the legs to go any faster to be honest, I can't complain. I'm there in the front group with those guys and it'll take a few more races, a few more miles in the legs and I'm sure I'll be there soon."

Here's the report from 4th-place Wout van Aert's Jumbo-Visma team:

Wout van Aert has finished fourth in Strade Bianche. The winner of last year made a strong impression, but had to let go of the decisive attacks in the final. Mathieu Van der Poel soloed to victory on the Piazza del Campo in Siena.

Team Jumbo-Visma took the initiative during the Italian spring classic. With Van Aert as its leader, the team nestled itself at the head of the peloton. Tobias Foss jumped along with several attacks. On the sloping Tuscan gravel strips, the yellow-black formation set the Belgian off perfectly. Van Aert was among the better riders in his first race of the season, but had to acknowledge his superiority in the final to a stronger trio.

Woute van Aert and Julian Alaphilippe

Wout van Aert and Julian Alaphilippe on Monte Sante Marie. Sirotti photo

“I was just not good enough in the final”, Van Aert said. “I have to be satisfied with a fourth place. The real acceleration wasn’t there yet. I’m in good shape, but the right focus has yet to come. Of course I wanted to win this race, but it wasn’t possible today. The steep climbs in combination with the attacks from Alaphilippe and Van der Poel were just too much. It is and remains one of the most beautiful races of the year and, as usual, the best has won here.”

The best one-day rider of the year 2020 complimented his team: “We took control of the race. A lot of the guys got further than they really intended. I have a lot of respect for that. If I get a little better myself, we’re going to have a nice classic season.”

Bora-hansgrohe sent me this Strade Bianche report:

For a race so young, the Strade Bianche has quickly made its way into the highlights of the cycling season. This year, back in its original March slot in the calendar, the fifteenth edition of the race followed a 184km route over the white roads of Tuscany. The relentlessly choppy roads would tire the riders, while the gravel sectors would bring with them choking dust clouds and the risk of punctures.

Strade Bianche

A dry day in Tuscany for the Strade Bianche. Sirotti photo

With the sun in the sky, the race set off from Siena with the break not forming until an hour after leaving the city, with three riders making the move, to be joined by five others shortly after. While this group’s advantage went out to four minutes, the peloton behind wasn’t troubled by the escape, keeping a close eye on them but ready to pull them back when the right time came. The BORA-hansgrohe team’s tactics were working well, with riders close to the front to keep the speeds high and stay in contention.

As the race dipped below 100km to go, the break began to splinter on the climbs while the peloton upped the pace, dropping the gap to less than a minute. While the number of punctures and technical problems in the race was rising, the gap continued to fall, the catch coming just before 50km to go, before a select group went off the front, this lead group containing the race’s favourites.

With luck being one of the deciding factors in who wins this race, it wasn’t on BORA-hansgrohe’s side today, the team just missing the pivotal move with Patrick Konrad suffering from a mechanical, forcing him to change bikes as the move went while his teammates waited to bring him back to the front of the race. The nine riders on the front maintained their slim lead and as the race neared its final 10km, began the attacks and the nine became three, as Bernal, Alaphilippe and Van der Poel fought it out, the latter taking the win in a noticeably empty and silent Piazza del Campo. First to cross the line for BORA-hansgrohe was Patrick, the Austrian rider finishing in 35th position.

From the Finish Line:
"I had good legs today and the team did a great job, but, unfortunately, in sector 8 I had to change bikes, just when the attacks had started. I didn't have any chance afterwards to get to the front as I was still chasing." – Patrick Konrad

"Today, we had a two-pronged strategy and our focus was on Patrick Konrad and Emanuel Buchmann. The Strade Bianche got off very well for us, in its first part we rode very well. We were in a good position in the first four sectors, and in the fifth and sixth sectors as well, our guys were in the front. All seemed well and our focus then turned into the final part of the race. Unfortunately, in the important eighth sector, Patrick suffered from a mechanical problem and was forced to change bikes. As a result, coming out of that sector he found himself about 40" behind the first group. The rest of the squad was waiting for him in order to bring him back but the peloton split, he was unable to bridge the gap and despite the strong efforts, he remained in the main group. We weren't lucky today, we'll try again next time." – Jan Valach, Sports Director

Team Movistar posted this report on the women's Strade Bianche:

Former World Champion Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (SDW) conquered the 7th edition of Strade Bianche, the first round of the 2021 UCI Women’s WorldTour, after a late move alongside Elisa Longo Borghini (TFS) after the final sections of ‘sterrato’. It was a two-woman move which Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team), whose courage didn’t go unnoticed once again, tried to replicate just before the winning move.

Chantal Van den Broek-Blaack

Chantal van den Broek-Blaak takes the win in Siena. RCS photo

The European champion showed her power at the final gravel road sector, Le Tolfe, with about 10km to go, having bridged back to an eight-rider attempt which featured her team-mate Jelena Eric. Van Vleuten -well supported from the very start by Biannic, Rodríguez, Aalerud and Thomas, other than the Serbian- left with her only former Olympic champion Marianne Vos (TJV). Their attack was ultimately brought back by a group of about twelve members.

In the end, only escapees Van den Broek-Blaak and Longo Borghini + World Champion Anna Van der Breggen (SDW) bested Annemiek, whose 2021 debut will be continued by an April return to the Flemish classics.

Annemiek van Vleuten:
“I’m super proud of both my race and my team-mates’. I’m especially satisfied with the fact that I didn’t make any mistakes, after a really disappointing Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, when I lost sight of the front due to a bad position. I’m super proud with how I reacted during the race, always into a good place and going what I needed to do. It’s not far away – it’s going to be there soon. It’s so nice to see this team doing so well and we can only go forward from here.”

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