Alaphilippe wins Strade Bianche

Frenchman distances Fuglsang on climb into Piazza del Campo; Van Aert is third

Julian Alaphilippe added to his rapidly growing palmarès and Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Classics dominance with victory at the 2019 Strade Bianche.

The Frenchman - who won La Flèche Wallonne, the Clásica San Sebastián, and two stages of the Tour de France last year - got the better of Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) in a dramatic tussle up the Via Santa Catarina and down into the Piazza del Campo in Siena.

The duo emerged at the head of the race as the short-but-steep final three sectors of strade bianche - the eponymous Tuscan gravel tracks that characterise the Italian race - split the elite lead group that formed on the longer earlier sectors.

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) was with them initially and, after being dropped on the 10th of the 11 sectors and spending half an hour on his own, dramatically made his way back for the final kilometre as they began to play cat and mouse. However, the Belgian, who became a full-time road rider only nine days ago, had exhausted his reserves and fell away on the steep slopes of Santa Catarina.

Fuglsang made the big attack on the short, narrow climb, and was first to the top. Alaphilippe, however, responded immediately and looked relaxed in the wheel as they made their way through the narrow twisting streets in the final few hundred metres. One dart from the Frenchman was enough to take him around the Dane in time for the final bend and subsequent drop to the line in the Piazza.

Alaphilippe raised his arms to celebrate his victory, his fourth of the season and a clear sign his rich vein of 2018 form has definitively continued into 2019. The same goes for his team, who, after Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, and Le Samyn, have won all four spring Classics so far this season.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Alaphilippe, who was riding Strade Bianche for the very first time. “I was focused all day on the finale. I was lucky to never crash nor have a flat tyre. My team did a great job in protecting me. Jakob Fuglsang was very strong, but I made no mistake. However, I wasn’t confident in winning until the last corner. This is a wonderful victory.”

Zdenek Stybar, winner of Omloop and a former winner of Strade Bianche, finished fourth from the remnants of the 15-rider selection that formed on the long, hilly seventh and eighth sectors that ignited the race for the first real time. Last year's winner Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal), Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astan) tricked in just over a minute behind the winner, while Simon Clarke (EF Education First), Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) rounded out the top 10.

How it unfolded

The riders were happy to see blues skies shining bright over the stunning Siena skyline as they signed on in the Fortezza Medicea. Last year they were wrapped in warm clothes and capes for the cold and heavy rain but this year’s Strade Bianche was raced under spring-like conditions.

The peloton covered the first of 11 sectors of dirt roads at speed, getting a feel for the dry, dusty road surface. The first real break formed with 150km of the 184km race distance when Alexandre Geniez (AG2R La Mondiale) teammate Nico Denz, Diego Rosa (Team Sky) and Leo Vincent (Groupama-FDJ) got away on one of the steep Tuscan hills.

They quickly opened a gap, pushing their lead up to 4:00 as they climbed up to Montalcino. The average speed was a zippy 42.4km/h, with the peloton refusing to let the quartet gain too much time. The gap as down to 2:30 with 110km left to race as the longest sectors neared.

Geniez pushed the pace in the break on 11.9km sector five to Lucignano d’Asso. The peloton also upped their speed. The race was on.

Vincent slipped back and was eventually caught by the peloton as Geniez, Denz and Rosa pushed on together and passed through the feed zone under a warm Tuscan sun with 80km to race.

Strade Bianche is a stunning race but punctures are almost always fatal and Geniez lost contact when he flatted. He was 1:30 down before he could get going again as the double whammy of sector seven and eight began.

Sector seven is 9.5km long and climbs constantly to the hilltops. Rosa pushed on alone as the dirt road created a serous selection behind, reducing Rosa’s lead to 2:20. After a fast descent to the start of sector eight, Van Avermaet moved to the front and attacked over the top of climb near Monte Sante Maria with 50km to race. The views were stunning but the rides had no time or no chance to enjoy them.

The big-name contenders knew that Van Avermaet was a threat and joined his move. Tim Wellens upped the pace too, as did Yves Lampaert to help his Deceuninck-QuickStep team leaders Stybar and Alaphilippe.

Lutsenko and Fuglsang were there for Astana, Skuijns for Trek-Segafredo and Van Aert flew the flag of Jumbo-Visma. Simon Clarke (EF Education First) and Rob Power (Team Sunweb) was also there, along with surprise Romain Seigle (Groupama-FDJ).

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) was in the first chase group, along with Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and others. Thomas needed a wheel change but the group was never likely to get back on with the strongest riders working smoothly together on the road as soon as sector eight finished.

With 36km to go, Rosa was swept up and the finale of the race began on the paved country roads back towards Siena.

Maximilian Schachmann struggled on the climbs but made a huge chasing back on with Viacheslav Kuznetov (Katusha-Alpecin). They got on but soon cracked again.

With 23km to go the final three short sectors of dirt roads reared their heads and Fuglsang was the first to attack. Van Aert quickly got on his wheel and Alaphilippe made a huge effort to join them. The group splintered behind them and the trio quickly opened a 25-second lead.

Onto sector 10, slightly longer at 2.4km but still steep, and another acceleration from Fuglsang saw Van Aert distanced and forced into his long, lonesome chase. The leading duo looked comfortable and led the way onto the final sector with just over 13km to go.

Fuglsang launched another attack but Alaphilippe, despite initially appearing sluggish, was alive to it, and the pair settled in for the run-in to Siena. Behind them, the chase group split up, with Stybar, Van Avermaet, Clarke, and the Lotto duo emerging as the strongest. However, they were 1:30 down by that point and seemingly out of the running.

At first, Alaphlippe and Fuglsang collaborated well on the run-in, keeping Van Aert at just over 30 seconds and the rest of the chase - where Clarke attacked repeatedly - at around 1:30. However, things changed in the final five kilometres. First Alaphilippe peeled off and stretched out his back and tightened his shoes alongside Fuglsang in what looked like an indicator that the mind games were beginning. They pushed on, but neither was prepared to press on wholeheartedly, and Van Aert was able to close in. He made the junction with a kilometre to go, and came flying past, until Alaphilippe caved and went after him.

Van Aert led the way as the Santa Catarina started, with Alaphilippe in the wheel, but it wasn’t long before Fuglsang launched his big attack. Alaphilippe was straight onto him and, despite cresting in second place, it was no surprise to see him spurt past the tired Dane on the narrow roads to cap another huge victory for him and his team.

Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep4:47:14 
2Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team0:00:02 
3Wout Van Aert (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma0:00:27 
4Zdenek Štybar (Cze) Deceuninck-QuickStep0:01:00 
5Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
6Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Ccc Team0:01:01 
7Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team0:01:04 
8Simon Clarke (Aus) Ef Education First0:01:08 
9Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo0:01:12 
10Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:01:21 
11Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep0:01:28 
12Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky0:02:41 
13Pieter Serry (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep  
14Silvan Dillier (Swi) Ag2R La Mondiale0:02:42 
15Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-Fdj0:02:44 
16Marco Canola (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizane  
17Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb  
18Luke Durbridge (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott0:02:47 
19Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Mitchelton-Scott0:02:48 
20Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Dimension Data  
21Brent Bookwalter (USA) Mitchelton-Scott  
22Ruben Guerreiro (Por) Team Katusha Alpecin0:02:56 
23Davide Ballerini (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:02:57 
24Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Sky0:03:00 
25Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team0:03:06 
26Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Team Katusha Alpecin0:03:09 
27Romain Seigle (Fra) Groupama-Fdj0:03:17 
28Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team Sky0:06:54 
29Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe  
30Tadej Pogacar (Slo) Uae Team Emirates0:08:04 
31Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida0:08:57 
32Rob Power (Aus) Team Sunweb  
33Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel) Ccc Team0:09:17 
34Michael Schär (Swi) Ccc Team  
35Quentin Jauregui (Fra) Ag2R La Mondiale  
36Benjamin King (USA) Team Dimension Data  
37Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain-Merida  
38Sebastian Schönberger (Aut) Neri Sottoli Selle Italia Ktm  
39Luka Pibernik (Slo) Bahrain-Merida  
40Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain-Merida  
41Simone Velasco (Ita) Neri Sottoli Selle Italia Ktm  
42Floris De Tier (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma  
43Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe  
44Simone Petilli (Ita) Uae Team Emirates  
45Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Team Dimension Data0:09:24 
46Dries Devenyns (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep  
47Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Team Katusha Alpecin  
48Jai Hindley (Aus) Team Sunweb  
49Robert Stannard (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott  
50Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:09:26 
51Dario Cataldo (Ita) Astana Pro Team  
52Jimmy Turgis (Fra) Vital Concept-B&B Hotels0:09:30 
53Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Ccc Team  
54Michal Golas (Pol) Team Sky  
55Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe  
56Eduardo Sepulveda (Arg) Movistar Team0:09:44 
57Antoine Duchesne (Can) Groupama-Fdj0:09:46 
58Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Sky0:09:57 
59François Bidard (Fra) Ag2R La Mondiale  
60Petr Vakoc (Cze) Deceuninck-QuickStep0:12:05 
61Jonathan Caicedo (Ecu) Ef Education First0:12:24 
62Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar Team  
63Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Ccc Team0:12:27 
64Eduard Prades Reverter (Spa) Movistar Team  
65Owain Doull (GBr) Team Sky  
66Ben Gastauer (Lux) Ag2R La Mondiale  
67Taco Van Der Hoorn (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma  
68Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Team Dimension Data  
69Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) Ccc Team  
70Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto Soudal  
71Dmitrii Strakhov (Rus) Team Katusha Alpecin0:12:32 
72Tanel Kangert (Est) Ef Education First  
73Marc Hirschi (Swi) Team Sunweb  
74Oscar Gatto (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe0:12:43 
75Rasmus Fossum Tiller (Nor) Dimension Data0:12:47 
76Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo0:12:49 
77Nico Denz (Ger) Ag2R La Mondiale0:12:57 
78Alberto Bettiol (Ita) Ef Education First0:22:54 
79Nathan Haas (Aus) Team Katusha Alpecin  
80Damiano Cima (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizane'  
81Nicholas Schultz (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott  
82Andrea Garosio (Ita) Bahrain-Merida  
83Carlos Betancur (Col) Movistar Team0:22:57 
OTLChristopher Hamilton (Aus) Team Sunweb  
OTLVegard Stake Laengen (Nor) Uae Team Emirates  
OTLLawrence Naesen (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
OTLMarkel Irizar Aramburu (Spa) Trek-Segafredo  
OTLZhandos Bizhigitov (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
OTLJaco Venter (RSA) Team Dimension Data  
OTLLennard Hofstede (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma  
OTLNicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sunweb  
OTLEdoardo Affini (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott  
OTLFumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Trek-Segafredo  
OTLLogan Owen (USA) Ef Education First  
OTLEros Capecchi (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep  
OTLNicola Conci (Ita) Trek-Segafredo  
OTLGiovanni Lonardi (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizane'  
OTLGrega Bole (Slo) Bahrain-Merida  
OTLLuca Raggio (Ita) Neri Sottoli Selle Italia Ktm  
OTLDmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
OTLLachlan Morton (Aus) Ef Education First  
DNFCarl Fredrik Hagen (Nor) Lotto Soudal  
DNFTosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFAlexandre Geniez (Fra) Ag2R La Mondiale  
DNFNans Peters (Fra) Ag2R La Mondiale  
DNFManuele Boaro (Ita) Astana Pro Team  
DNFAntonio Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida  
DNFMaciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe  
DNFGregor Mühlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe  
DNFDaniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe  
DNFJosef Cerný (Cze) Ccc Team  
DNFSean Bennett (USA) Ef Education First  
DNFBruno Armirail (Fra) Groupama-Fdj  
DNFTobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Groupama-Fdj  
DNFMatthieu Ladagnous (Fra) Groupama-Fdj  
DNFLéo Vincent (Fra) Groupama-Fdj  
DNFCallum Scotson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott  
DNFCarlos Barbero (Spa) Movistar Team  
DNFJosé Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team  
DNFGiovanni Visconti (Ita) Neri Sottoli Selle Italia Ktm  
DNFLiam Bertazzo (Ita) Neri Sottoli Selle Italia Ktm  
DNFLuca Pacioni (Ita) Neri Sottoli Selle Italia Ktm  
DNFGiuseppe Fonzi (Ita) Neri Sottoli Selle Italia Ktm  
DNFMoreno Moser (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizane'  
DNFNicola Bagioli (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizane'  
DNFSho Hatsuyama (Jpn) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizane'  
DNFJuan Jose Lobato Del Valle (Spa) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizane'  
DNFGino Mäder (Swi) Team Dimension Data  
DNFNeilson Powless (USA) Team Jumbo-Visma  
DNFAntwan Tolhoek (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma  
DNFDanny Van Poppel (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma  
DNFSteff Cras (Bel) Team Katusha Alpecin  
DNFIan Boswell (USA) Team Katusha Alpecin  
DNFLeonardo Basso (Ita) Team Sky  
DNFAsbjørn Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb  
DNFFabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo  
DNFMatteo Moschetti (Ita) Trek-Segafredo  
DNFFernando Gaviria Rendon (Col) Uae Team Emirates  
DNFRui Costa (Por) Uae Team Emirates  
DNFRoberto Ferrari (Ita) Uae Team Emirates  
DNFJasper Philipsen (Bel) Uae Team Emirates  
DNFYoann Bagot (Fra) Vital Concept-B&B Hotels  
DNFMaxime Cam (Fra) Vital Concept-B&B Hotels  
DNFBert De Backer (Bel) Vital Concept-B&B Hotels  
DNFCorentin Ermenault (Fra) Vital Concept-B&B Hotels  
DNFSteven Lammertink (Ned) Vital Concept-B&B Hotels  
DNFJustin Mottier (Fra) Vital Concept-B&B Hotels  

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