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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, March 5, 2023

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2022 Tour de France | 2022 Giro d'Italia

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Story of the Giro d'Italia, volume 1

Bill and Carol McGann's book The Story of the Giro d'Italia, A Year-by-Year History of the Tour of Italy, Vol 1: 1909 - 1970 is available in print, Kindle eBook & audiobook versions. To get your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Strade Bianche team reports

We posted the report from winner Tom Pidcock's Team INEOS Grenadiers with the results.

Here's the report fron second-place Valentin Madouas' Team Groupama-FDJ:

Despite the Tuscan dust, the Groupama-FDJ team did not go unnoticed on Saturday afternoon, on the Strade Bianche. In particular, Valentin Madouas and Romain Grégoire delivered a superb final with the main favourites, after having followed the moves when everything blew apart with 50 kilometres to go. The Breton puncher even fought for the podium until Siena, and actually proved to be the strongest chaser of Thomas Pidcock, the eventual winner. On the Piazza del Campo, Valentin Madouas then took another podium in a WorldTour Classic, after his third place in Flanders last year. Romain Grégoire completed the excellent day for the team by entering the top-10 (8th) for his first participation, at just 20 years old.

The rider on the right is Groupama-FDJ's Olivier Le Gac. Sirotti photo

On Saturday, a brilliant sunshine and dry “dirt roads” made the setting of the 17th edition of Strade Bianche, the third WorldTour Classic of the year, but undoubtedly one of the most anticipated events of the season. The course was in no way different from previous years, with a loop of 184 kilometres around Siena, with 63 of them on the famous “white roads” divided into eleven sectors. The weather, the route, the field, everything was there for a great day of racing.

“Our strategy was quite simple”, explained Thierry Bricaud. “We were riding for Valentin and Romain, who were our two leaders because we knew they could be there in the final, while Thibaut had more freedom”. Before the team’s spearheads come into action, a breakaway established itself as usual, although it took nearly thirty kilometres for Sven-Erik Bystrom (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Alessandro De Marchi (Jayco-AlUla) and Ivan Romeo (Movistar) to take the front. The peloton then eased off and even entered the last hundred kilometres with a six-minute gap. In the fifth and sixth sectors, Olivier Le Gac took the lead of the bunch and thus made it possible for his leaders to remain at the front, while reducing the margin of the breakaway.

Entering the seventh “Strada Bianca” in San Martino di Grania, Valentin Madouas however hit the ground. “I went to the car to get a bottle because I was really thirsty”, he explained. “I found myself in a bad position for the sector and I had a really stupid crash. I found myself very, very far, more than a minute behind the peloton. I had to chase in on my own, make a huge effort, because there were a lot of splits and I had to slalom between the cars”. Thanks to a frantic chase, the Frenchman came back before entering the always decisive sector of Monte Sante Marie, just over fifty kilometres from the finish. “He had a bit of luck in his misfortune as the race did not open up in the sector where he crashed,” said Thierry. “It allowed him to return but it was really close. Actually, he came back, and three kilometres later, he barely made it back up and the race exploded”.

Unsurprisingly, the Monte Sante Marie once again blew the race apart. Thomas Pidcock flew into the lead, and a little further on, at the end sector, Valentin Madouas and Romain Grégoire found themselves in a chasing group including around fifteen men. “When Pidcock attacked, I needed to catch my breath, I couldn’t go with him,” explained Valentin. “I just wanted to hang on to the group of favorites. I wanted to manage my effort and keep some energy for the final because I knew it was going to be tough and because I had to recover from the big effort I had just made”.

At the very end of the sector, Romain Grégoire followed an attack of Mathieu van der Poel, then Valentin Madouas tried to take a step ahead for the first time with Andreas Kron and Pello Bilbao. Ten kilometres further, seven men joined this chasing move, including Romain Grégoire, while the gap with the leading man remained of about thirty seconds. The situation stayed the same for a few kilometres before the chase split into two parts. Valentin Madouas followed an attack by Tiesj Benoot and Rui Costa, then Attila Valter, Quinn Simmons and Matej Mohoric bridged across. Very quickly, this group came back to just fifteen seconds from Pidcock, but did not close the gap.

“In the end, it was very tactical, there were a lot of attacks”, explained Valentin. “I tried to organize the group as much as possible, but the others didn’t want to work too much. They preferred to attack one after the other. It was important not to be left behind by the Jumbo-Visma, and it was not easy”. “The goal was for the breakaway to ride well in order to have a chance of catching Pidcock, because we never lost sight of the win”, insisted Thierry. “When the breakaway split again, Valentin had that little head start and the freshest guys came out. Pidcock was there, just ten-fifteen seconds in front, and I thought that one of the two Jumbo-Visma was going to sacrifice himself, which would have made it easier for us… That’s how it is, everyone keeps a bit of energy in case it comes back, but in the end, it did not come back”.

In the last fifteen kilometres, Valentin Madouas had to follow several attacks, but Pidcock always managed to maintain a slight margin in the front. He finally entered Siena with a half-minute lead, enough to take the victory. Right behind, Valentin Madouas went full gas in the climb of Via Santa Caterina to fly to a splendid second place in Piazza del Campo. “I have mixed feelings because I think I had the legs to do better today”, he said. “My crash cost me a better performance. I’m very happy with this podium, it shows the winter work was good, but to come so close to such a big victory is really a shame. I want to thank the team because they did a great job. It is also the team’s first podium in this race, we must not forget that. It’s still a great performance from the whole team, and I’ll be back in future years.”

“Valentin knows he missed something big, because he had the legs to do even better than that,” added Thierry. “It’s part of bike racing. Everything has to come together for it to go perfect, and there is a little something missing today. It’s still a great day, we saw a great team, which was into the fight, and which was almost rewarded. Almost, because the goal is always to win.”

As a proof of the collective strength today, Romain Grégoire fought hard to take a very promising eighth place on his first WorldTour Classic ever. “He had responsibilities because we knew he had good legs and that he could be in the final”, said Thierry. “To say it is easy, to meet the expectations is something else, and he met them. He missed a little something in the end, but it’s very encouraging for the future. “I felt good, and when I have good feelings, this type of course suits me very well, so I was able to enjoy it”, said the 20-year-old Frenchman. “It’s a shame that Valentin didn’t come back to Pidcock, because he was really strong. Personally, I came a little bit too short to be in the leading group, but I know it will come. After the recon, I told myself that it was going to be a terrible day, as it was so hard. But actually, I already wanted to go back to it ten minutes after finishing!”

At the end of this nice day, where the team also did not suffer any puncture at all, Valentin Madouas looked forward to the next races. “The goal this year is to win a WorldTour Classic”, he claimed. “I was third, second, and I hope the next one will be the right one! As for Romain, I’m not worried. I know that in a few years, or even a few months, he will be able to fight for victory in this kind of race”.

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Here’s the Strade Bianche report from third-place Tiesj Benoot’s Team Jumbo-Visma:

Tiesj Benoot and Attila Valter have put their mark on the 17th edition of the Strade Bianche. After numerous breakaway attempts, they finished third and fifth, respectively. Tom Pidcock took the win after an extended solo.

Tiesj Benoot before the start of the race. Sirotti photo

The race got off to a slow start. The favorites pushed for the win on the 11.5-kilometre gravel section of Mount Sante Marie. Benoot and Valter emerged as two of the strongest riders as the peloton broke into pieces.

At more than 20 kilometres from the line, Benoot accelerated. For a moment, it looked like the winner of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne would reach leader Pidcock. Benoot got to within seconds of the Briton, but the Belgian fell just short.

In the streets of Siena, Benoot eventually rode to the third position. By doing so, he continued his consistent performance in the Italian race. Benoot placed among the top eight in the last five editions in which he competed.

"In hindsight, we can conclude that we should have been with Pidcock", Benoot was self-critical straight after the finish. "Today, Attila and I proved to be among the race's strongest riders. The legs were strong. It reaffirms our excellent shape. Before the race, I would have immediately signed up for a podium place, but afterwards, I feel a better result could have been possible. I had the legs to win. This race is often chaotic, making it challenging to communicate and anticipate. It is special. The Strade Bianche never lies. Although a better result could have been possible, I enjoyed being on the podium."

Valter is proud of the team's performance but believes they could have done even better. "Maybe our collaboration was flawed in some way. I blame myself for that. For the first time, I rode a race with Tiesj. These experiences are learning moments from which we will hopefully become even stronger. Although we came close to Pidcock, he was the strongest today. We always strive for perfection, but today's riding wasn't always perfect. But with two men in the top five, we shouldn't be too hard on ourselves."

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Here’s the report from tenth-place Andreas Kron’s Team Lotto Dstny:

Andreas Kron has concluded his third Strade Bianche participation in tenth place. Lotto Dstny placed two riders in the final of the 17th edition of the race on Tuscan gravel roads. Andreas Kron made it back to the front after a puncture, Maxim Van Gils had to deal with no less than five bike changes. Both riders impressed and Kron tried to anticipate with a strong attack but was caught. Eventually, Kron crossed the line on the Piazza del Campo in tenth place.

Riders in the Radi gravel sector. Sirotti photo

Before the race, Kron targeted a top ten place and for the Dane it’s ‘mission accomplished’. “Before I got a bit ill last week, my goal was to finish inside the top ten and I’m really proud on my result today. I had to deal with a puncture early in the race and had to chase for a long time. My experience from last years learned me that I had to keep on fighting and stay calm. When the final kicked off, I made it to the very front and I immediately attacked.”

Lotto Dstny went into the final of Strade Bianche with two riders: Andreas Kron and Maxim Van Gils. The young Belgian suffered from no less than five bike changes and had to dig deep to come back.

“It’s a pity that Maxim had a lot of back luck and wasted some energy by that. If not we could have played the team game a bit more maybe, but Strade Bianche is also about dealing with bad luck. I think I timed my attack really well. I felt that the group was slowing down and took my moment. We really rode hard but got caught eventually. The legs were quite empty and I’m happy that I could just finish inside the top ten. With this young team, without too much experience in the Strade, we can be proud of this result. I already look forward to next year’s Strade!’, concludes Andreas Kron.

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Here's the report from Alberto Bettiol's Team EF Education-EasyPost:

Alberto Bettiol really wanted to put on a show for his home fans at Strade Bianche. Unfortunately, a touch of wheels in the elite group sent Alberto's chances tumbling to the dirt with 38 kilometres left in the Tuscan classic, after he had opened up festivities with a powerful attack on Monte Sante Marie. Alberto is now a bit bruised and sore, but luckily escaped any worse injuries. Alberto was assessed for a concussion after the crash but showed no signs of concussion upon initial assessment. Our doctors will continue to monitor him closely. He was disappointed to miss the sprint up the Via di Santa Caterina and onto the Piazza del Campo in front of his supporters in Siena, but very encouraged by the work that his teammates did to set him up for the finish.

Before he crashed: Alberto Bettiol attacking on the Monte Sante Marie sector. Sirotti photo

“The team was unbelievable,” Alberto said after the race. “Every single teammate gave a 100% effort to put me and Honoré in the front, and I hit most of the sectors in first position, so I can never say thank you enough to each of them. It’s a positive thing for the coming races. Today, I was just unlucky. I didn’t fall at high speed, so my body is okay.”

Sports director Matti Breschel was also heartened by the work our team did to set up Alberto and Mikkel Honoré, his co-leader for the race, who also ran into bad luck on the gravel with two flat tires. Pink jerseys led the peloton into each of the key sectors, before Alberto’s attack. Although Alberto lost race winner Tom Pidcock’s wheel on the dirt descent down Monte Sante Marie, he was well positioned in the elite chasing group, before the touch of wheels took him down.

“We were riding very, very organised as a unit,” Matti said. “The riders all followed the plan and were very committed. Mikkel felt really good, but had bad luck with two flat tires. As we all saw on television, Bettiol was among the best, but had bad luck and couldn’t follow Pidcock on the descent, but was still very much in the game, until he fell. We need to take those positives and learn from them and learn from our mistakes. We are definitely going to take the commitment and togetherness with us.”

Next up, we’ve got Paris-Nice and Tirenno Adriatico in the run up to Milano-Sanremo, where Alberto will race for redemption. That's where our focus now lies, but we're already looking forward to returning to the white roads of Tuscany. Strade Bianche wasn’t our race this year, but it sure is beautiful.

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