Kwiatkowski solos to Strade Bianche victory

Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) was the last man standing at Strade Bianche as the Pole soloed clear in the finale to claim victory in an attritional edition of the Tuscan race.

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) led Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) home 15 seconds later, but the chasers never looked likely to get on terms with Kwiatkowski once he established a lead of half a minute on the approach to the finish in Siena.

"I'm so happy, it's an unexpected victory," Kwiatkowski said. "After the difficult season I had last year, I still had a lot of trust from the team. Now the preparation for this season has already paid off. A second victory at the Strade Bianche, it's just amazing."

Kwiatkowski was prominent when the decisive selection of the race took shape on the long sector of dirt road at Monte Sante Marie, the so-called Cancellara segment, with more than 50 kilometres still to go, and he remained an aggressive presence at the front thereafter.

He showcased his strength by leading Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors) over the climb of Monteaperti and then performing the bulk of the pace-setting on the Colle Pinzuto, by which point he had only Stybar, Wellens and Van Avermaet for company.

When Kwiatkowski won this race in 2014, he waited until the final haul into the heart of Siena to make his decisive attack, bludgeoning his way clear of Peter Sagan on that occasion. This time around, he seized his opportunity on a rise with a shade under 15 kilometres remaining, sensing that his three erstwhile breakaway companions might struggle to organise a cohesive chase.

"We started to play a game after the Sante Marie section – I actually didn't feel so good there – but I thought the best situation was to do my own thing, that's why I went from so far out and I'm glad it worked out well," he said.

It was, however, a victory of raw strength as much as it was of cunning. The on-form Van Avermaet, in particular, was generous in his chase efforts, but was unable to make any inroads into Kwiatkowski's advantage, which swelled to 30 seconds as he bounded up the 18 per cent gradient on the final dirt road section at Le Tolfe.

Rain fell steadily for much of the second half of the race, and the dirt roads were often treacherous, even if the peloton was spared the carnage of the famous downpour that washed over the Giro d'Italia stage to Montalcino in 2010. Kwiatkowski made light of the conditions, and safely navigated the final gravel descent to hold a lead of half a minute as he began the climb to Siena.

Kwiatkowski betrayed few obvious signs of weakness in the final kilometre, remaining in the saddle for all but the steepest part of the climb, and steadily tapping out a rhythm that saw him maintain his advantage over the chasers.

Despite Van Avermaet's acceleration on the climb, it was Kwiatkowski himself who made the only real dent in his advantage, as he slowed almost to walking pace to negotiate the final, rain-soaked corners as the road dipped towards the dramatic finish line in Siena's Piazza del Campo. He punched the air as he crossed the finish line, and issued a timely reminder of his qualities as the Classics appear on the horizon.

Van Avermaet won the sprint for second place ahead of Wellens, 15 seconds down, while Stybar came home in fourth. Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), who was to the fore all day, came across in fifth place after leading the Orica-Scott duo of Luke Durbridge and Christopher Juul Jensen in a forlorn pursuit of the winning move.

Sagan abandons

As ever at Strade Bianche, there was no shortage of attackers hoping to forge clear ahead of the early dirt road sectors, but it wasn't until the third segment at Radi that the day's early break gained a foothold. There was a surprising name among the leaders, too, as Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) joined Jose Goncalves (Katusha-Alpecin), Marco Frapporti (Androni), Truls Engen Korsaeth (Astana), Quentin Jaregui (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Simone Andreetta (Bardiani-CSF) in a group that gained a maximum advantage of five minutes over the peloton.

There was plenty of method to Pinot's madness, as he survived to finish the race in an assured 9th place. A lethal combination of wind, crosswinds and large crash on the sixth dirt road sector at Pieve a Salti splintered the peloton into shards, with Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Fabio Aru (Astana) among those caught irretrievably behind, while Gianluca Brambilla (Quick-Step) was forced out by a crash.

World champion Peter Sagan battled for a time to stay in contact with the second part of the peloton, but he climbed off with 70 kilometres remaining. His Bora-Hansgrohe team later explained that he had been ill coming into the race, but had hoped he might be able to be competitive nonetheless.

By that time, Lotto Soudal were leading the charge at the front of the 15-man chasing group, with Sean De Bie burying himself in the service of Wellens and Tiesj Benoot, and they reached the section of dirt road dedicated to Fabian Cancellara just 1:30 down on the leaders.

It was on the uphill section of the Monte Sante Marie that the winning move began to take shape, when Wellens accelerated, bringing Stybar, Kwiatkowski, Van Avermaet, Benoot, Dumoulin, Van Avermaet and Durbridge with him. Scott Thwaites, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data), Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step) later bridged up to them, and that twelve caught the remnants of the early break with 35 kilometres remaining.

From there, the race became something of a slugging match, with the front group continuously splintering and reforming, but Kwiatkowski, Stybar, Van Avermaet and Wellens seemed always to be on the right side of the splits. There was little surprise when they eventually forged clear ahead of the finale, though Dumoulin may feel he paid a price for his whole-hearted efforts in trying to close earlier gaps.

Kwiatkowski proceeded to single himself out as the man to watch with his demonstration of strength on the Colle Pinzuto, but when he accelerated 15 kilometres from home, nobody could take his wheel, and the race was his.

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky4:42:42
2Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:00:15
3Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:00:17
4Zdenek Štybar (Cze) Quick-Step Floors0:00:23
5Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb0:01:26
6Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-Scott
7Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Orica-Scott0:01:29
8Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:02:20
9Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ0:02:23
10Scott Thwaites (GBr) Dimension Data0:02:52
11José Gonçalves (Por) Katusha-Alpecin0:03:10
12Quentin Jauregui (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:04:05
13Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
14Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro Team0:04:41
15Stefan Küng (Swi) BMC Racing Team0:05:31
16Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) Team UAE Emirates0:05:41
17Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Sky0:05:55
18Ondrej Cink (Cze) Bahrain-Merida0:06:22
19Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data0:08:15
20Truls Korsæth (Nor) Astana Pro Team
21Matteo Trentin (Ita) Quick-Step Floors0:08:41
22Oscar Gatto (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:10:13
23Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale0:10:15
24Floris De Tier (Bel) Team LottoNl-Jumbo0:10:16
25Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida0:10:20
26Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team
27Petr Vakoc (Cze) Quick-Step Floors
28Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) FDJ0:10:21
29Andrey Amador Bikkazakova (CRc) Movistar Team0:10:24
30Andrey Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team0:10:29
31Nathan Haas (Aus) Dimension Data
32Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:10:30
33Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team Sky
34Julien Vermote (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
35Primož Roglic (Slo) Team LottoNl-Jumbo0:10:36
36Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Astana Pro Team0:10:41
37Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Sky
38Moreno Moser (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:10:44
39Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin0:10:49
40Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo0:10:51
41Iuri Filosi (Ita) Nippo - Vini Fantini
42Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La Mondiale0:13:37
43Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team
44Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida0:13:38
45Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto Soudal
46Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto Soudal
47Marco Marcato (Ita) Team UAE Emirates
48Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Sunweb
49Georg Preidler (Aut) Team Sunweb
50Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
51Nans Peters (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
52Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
53Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
54Tiago Machado (Por) Katusha-Alpecin0:13:45
55Marco Canola (Ita) Nippo - Vini Fantini0:13:46
56Christoph Pfingsten (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
57Simon Clarke (Aus) Cannondale-Drapac
58Richard Antonio Carapaz Montenegro (Ecu) Movistar Team
59Michal Golas (Pol) Team Sky0:13:49
60Gregor Mühlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
61Jack Haig (Aus) Orica-Scott
62Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ0:13:51
63Antwan Tolhoek (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo0:13:54
64Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac
65Mattia Frapporti (Ita) ANS0:13:56
66Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:14:01
67Jérémy Roy (Fra) FDJ0:14:08
68Sam Bewley (NZl) Orica-Scott0:14:23
69Simone Andreetta (Ita) Bardiani - CSF0:14:38
70Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:18:54
71Jay Mccarthy (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe
72Fausto Masnada (Ita) Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec0:18:55
73Alex Howes (USA) Cannondale-Drapac
74Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Bahrain-Merida
75Toms Skujins (Lat) Cannondale-Drapac
76Chad Haga (USA) Team Sunweb
77Paul Martens (Ger) Team LottoNl-Jumbo0:19:00
78Simone Velasco (Ita) Bardiani - CSF0:22:38
79Kiel Reijnen (USA) Trek-Segafredo0:22:52
80Matej Mohoric (Slo) Team UAE Emirates
81David Per (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
82Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Nippo - Vini Fantini
83Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Sky
84Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
85Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Trek-Segafredo
86Jorge Arcas Peña (Spa) Movistar Team
87Ángel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Katusha-Alpecin
88Maxim Belkov (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin
89Raffaello Bonusi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec
DNFGediminas Bagdonas (Ltu) AG2R La Mondiale
DNFHubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
DNFAlexandre Geniez (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
DNFMarco Benfatto (Ita) Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec
DNFDavide Ballerini (Ita) Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec
DNFLuca Pacioni (Ita) Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec
DNFIvan Ramiro Sosa Cuervo (Col) Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec
DNFDmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
DNFManuele Boaro (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
DNFDomen Novak (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
DNFKanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Bahrain-Merida
DNFNicola Boem (Ita) Bardiani - CSF
DNFMirco Maestri (Ita) Bardiani - CSF
DNFStefano Pirazzi (Ita) Bardiani - CSF
DNFAlessandro Tonelli (Ita) Bardiani - CSF
DNFLuca Wackermann (Ita) Bardiani - CSF
DNFEdoardo Zardini (Ita) Bardiani - CSF
DNFJean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team
DNFBen Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team
DNFPeter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFMaciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFPawel Poljanski (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFAlberto Bettiol (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac
DNFDylan Van Baarle (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac
DNFSebastian Langeveld (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac
DNFSep Vanmarcke (Bel) Cannondale-Drapac
DNFWilliam Bonnet (Fra) FDJ
DNFTobias Ludvigsson (Swe) FDJ
DNFSteve Morabito (Swi) FDJ
DNFAnthony Roux (Fra) FDJ
DNFSean De Bie (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNFBart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNFNikolas Maes (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNFJurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNFCarlos Barbero Cuesta (Spa) Movistar Team
DNFJose Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team
DNFCarlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Movistar Team
DNFNuno Matos (Por) Movistar Team
DNFAntonio Pedrero Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team
DNFNicola Bagioli (Ita) Nippo - Vini Fantini
DNFEduard Michael Grosu (Rom) Nippo - Vini Fantini
DNFYuma Koishi (Jpn) Nippo - Vini Fantini
DNFAlan Marangoni (Ita) Nippo - Vini Fantini
DNFKohei Uchima (Jpn) Nippo - Vini Fantini
DNFRoman Kreuziger (Cze) Orica-Scott
DNFAlexander Edmonson (Aus) Orica-Scott
DNFJens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-Scott
DNFSvein Tuft (Can) Orica-Scott
DNFGianluca Brambilla (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
DNFBob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors
DNFDavide Martinelli (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
DNFMaximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) Quick-Step Floors
DNFBernhard Eisel (Aut) Dimension Data
DNFMark Renshaw (Aus) Dimension Data
DNFDaniel Teklehaimanot (Eri) Dimension Data
DNFJay Robert Thomson (RSA) Dimension Data
DNFJohann Van Zyl (RSA) Dimension Data
DNFMarco Mathis (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin
DNFJhonatan Restrepo Valencia (Col) Katusha-Alpecin
DNFMads Würtz Schmidt (Den) Katusha-Alpecin
DNFBert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
DNFJuan Jose Lobato Del Valle (Spa) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
DNFAlexey Vermeulen (USA) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
DNFIan Boswell (USA) Team Sky
DNFOwain Doull (GBr) Team Sky
DNFWilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb
DNFRamon Sinkeldam (Ned) Team Sunweb
DNFLaurens Ten Dam (Ned) Team Sunweb
DNFAlbert Timmer (Ned) Team Sunweb
DNFEugenio Alafaci (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
DNFMarco Coledan (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
DNFMads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo
DNFBoy van Poppel (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
DNFPrzemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Team UAE Emirates
DNFKristijan Ðurasek (Cro) Team UAE Emirates
DNFSacha Modolo (Ita) Team UAE Emirates
DNFEdward Ravasi (Ita) Team UAE Emirates
DNFOliviero Troia (Ita) Team UAE Emirates

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