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Pogacar on 50km Strade Bianche solo: Someone has to be the first someday, no?

Strade Bianche 2022 - 16th Edition - Siena - Siena 184 km - 05/03/2022 - Tadej Pogacar (SLO - UAE Team Emirates) - Julian Alaphilippe (FRA - Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team) - photo Luca Bettini/SprintCyclingAgency©2022
Tadej Pogacar leaves Julian Alaphilippe and the rest behind at Monte Sante Marie (Image credit: Luca Bettini/SprintCyclingAgency©2022)

The Piazza del Campo was packed with fans for the first time since 2019 on Saturday, but there was only one rider at the finish – Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), who soloed to a dominant victory at Strade Bianche after attacking 50 kilometres from Siena.

The Slovenian was informed in the post-race interviews that he was the first man to take a solo victory at the race having attacked earlier than the 20-kilometre mark. His response was on-brand, delivered in typical understated Pogačar fashion.

"Someone has to be the first time someday, no?" he deadpanned. "Sometimes the winner goes at 50km to go, sometimes at 10km to go, sometimes in a sprint at the end. You never know what can happen."

Pogačar – despite his seeming ease in claiming victory against the likes of Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who finished second – said that he was worried almost all the way to the finish about the gap to the chasers behind him.

He quickly pulled out a minute's advantage after attacking on the long Monte Sante Marie sterrato sector, with his gap stretching to 1:30 at one point. The 23-year-old never looked in danger of being caught, but he saw it a different way out on the road.

"I went early and I didn't know until 5k to go that I'm going to make it. Even on the last climb I was still looking behind if someone was coming so I'm super happy to pull it off.

"I didn't know [for sure] until the last climb. I was all the time looking back where is everybody and it was really tense. My energy was going lower and lower in the final and I managed to survive until the end."

Pogačar was caught in the mass crash at 100 kilometres to go which saw Alaphilippe fly through the air and multiple other major names abandon as a result.

The world champion was on Pogačar's wheel when he launched what turned out to be his final assault 50 kilometres later, but in the end no response from the Frenchman – or anyone – else could stop the Slovenian from racing away to victory.

"Normally there's a moment when the race goes and this time, I tried to do my best effort on the Sante Marie climb. Nobody followed and in the end I was alone. I had to be fully committed when i started so I'm happy that I could do it."

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Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.

Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.