The Tour de France champion, who also won Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia last year, once again stunned the cycling world with this latest exploit, which saw him single-handedly bury an entire field.
The 23-year-old hit the front on the long Monte Sante Marie sector with just over 50km to go and subtly prized open a gap over a peloton that had reformed after huge crash caused by the wind with 100km to go. With the back of his jersey dusted up and his left elbow bloodied, Pogačar himself had clearly hit the deck, but he showed absolutely no sign of damage.
He teased open the gap as the favourites came to the fore, and stamped on the pedals on the steep gradients on the latter part of the sector to hammer open his advantage. Remarkably, he kept gaining and gaining, even back on the tarmac and even into a headwind.
He carved out a lead of a whopping 1:40 as the other favourites, almost not knowing what had hit them, settled into a larger chase group, with Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos Grenadiers) stuck in between for a while but unable to get across.
Pogačar lost some of his lead as his rivals started to hit out on the final three steep sectors, but still came through with a minute in hand and carried it into Siena, where he was high-fiving fans as he made his way up the Via Santa Caterina and down into the Piazza del Campo.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) claimed second place, having dropped Kasper Asgreen (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) on the Santa Caterina. Asgreen himself had assumed team leadership after Julian Alaphilippe was blown off the road in the mass crash, and went clear on the final sectors before being joined by Valverde for the run-in.
Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ) and Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) rounded out the top five after coming back to the group of Jhonatan Narvaez (Ineos Grenadiers), Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), who’d gone clear with Asgreen and Valverde but lost contact on the penultimate sector.
Simone Petilli (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) and Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) rounded out the top 10 but they were almost in another race to Pogačar.
“This is an amazing win, incredible. I’m super happy to pull it off,” he said.
“Normally there’s a moment where the race goes, and this time I tried to do my best effort on the Sante Marie climb and no one followed. In the end I was alone. I had to be fully committed. I was all the time looking back - where is everybody? It was really tense. My energy was going lower and lower, but I managed to survive until the end.”
How it unfolded
The riders gathered in the Siena Fortezza for the start of 16th edition, warmed by a timid Tuscan spring sun but concerned about the strong winds blowing from the east and so across the race route.
The early kilometres of the route dropped down from Siena and the wind was a stiff tailwind. That helped the early break to form quickly.
Marco Brenner and Leon Heinschke (Team DSM), Lilian Calmejane (AG2R Citroën), Davide Martinelli (Astana Qazaqstan), Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Simone Bevilacqua (Eolo-Kometa) and Edoardo Zardini (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli) chasing early glory. They were soon joined by Samuele Zoccarato (Bardiani-CSF) and Sergio García (Eolo-Kometa).
The peloton let them go and their gap was up to 5:30 as they hit the first sector of gravel roads after 25km.
QuickStep-AlphaVinyl, Movistar, and UAE Team Emirates were prominent at the head of the peloton, protecting their leaders and keeping the break under control. The break was at 3:30 after 65km as they reached the climb to Montalcino, the turning point of the race route.
Soon after the rider began the 11.9km fifth sector of gravel roads, up to Lucignano d’Asso and across the exposed and barren Crete Senese hills.
The race seemed settled with still 97km to go but suddenly a gust of wind changed everything. Alaphilippe was near the front on the edge of the road. He lost his balance due to a strong gust and unclipped his right leg to find his balance. At the same moment an Alpecin-Fenix rider was blown across the road and Alaphilippe had nowhere to go. He crashed, flipped over his bars and flew into the ploughed field. Behind him other riders tumbled and panicked.
Alaphilippe eventually got up and got going but other riders were in pain and soon abandoned, including Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco), 2018 winner Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma) Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious), Michael Gogl (Alpecin-Fenix). Lotto Soudal lost Victor Campenaerts and Brent Van Moer, while Ineos Grenadiers reported the abandon of Salvatore Puccio after suffering "lacerations" in the crash.
Pogačar narrowly avoided the crash and briefly slipped clear in a small group that clipped off the front as the chaos unfurled behind. Later he stopped for a moment but was quickly back in the pack.
They were caught by a larger group to form a reduced bunch, while the Alaphilippe group eventually got back with 75 kilometres to go after 25 kilometres of hard chasing.
Upfront the breakaway, down to Brenner, Calmejane, Van der Hoorn, Heinschke, Zoccarato, entered the Pieve a Salti sector six of the 11, with 95km to race. The break lead the reduced peloton by 50 seconds, with the Alaphilippe chase group timed at 1:50.
The head wind slowed everyone and allowed Alaphilippe, teammates Mikkel Honore’ and Mauro Schmid, and others to get back to the peloton. The world champion had used up vital energy but seemed determined to race on, moving quickly to the head of the race.
QuickStep even took control of the race on the seventh San Martino in Grania sector, with Kasper Asgreen riding on the front in pursuit of the break.
With 65km to race, Heinschke was dropped from the break as Zoccarato forced the issue on the sterrato, leaving four left upfront. However with 52km to go even they were swept up, the wind making for a hard race for anyone out front.
Pogacar opens the race and blitzes it
Soon after Alaphilippe accelerated as the 11.5km Monte Sante Marie gravel sector started in earnest. It was a playful move, perhaps to tease out his rivals and he was soon joined by Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech), Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) and Pogačar, with Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) bringing up a group of chasers and accelerating too.
However on a fast gravel descent ,Pogačar decided it was time to make his move. He put his cards on the table, took huge risks and dived down the gravel descent. Everyone struggled to follow and he soon opened a gap. He was away alone, turning Strade Bianche into a time trial, a race against himself and his limits on the gravel roads.
Carlos Rodriquez (Ineos Grenadiers) tried a brave lone chase but dropped his chain on a gravel descent and with 42km to go, he was timed at 30 seconds.
QuickStep-AlphaVinyl lead the chasing group with Asgreen but the 20 or so chasers were soon one minute down as the long Monte Sante Marie gravel road sector ended. In just a few kilometres, Pogačar had turned the race upside down and his way, just as he had done in other shows of dominance.
On the ride towards Siena and the three short final gravel sectors, the chase group became much bigger and more organised with Trek-Segafredo, Movistar and QuickStep, providing manpower and a determined chase. However, Pogačar time trialed alone on the asphalt roads regardless.
Rodriguez continued to slip back and was swallowed up by what was a group of 40 riders who trailed Pogačar by 1:25 ahead of the trio of short-but-steep gravel sectors.
That bunch had made some inroads on the approach to sector 9, and continued to gain on the sterrato, with Toms Skujins teeing up an attack from Simmons. Soon Asgreen was lighting it up as well and they went away as a quintet with Narvaez, Wellens, and Valverde. Heading onto the tarmac and towards the Colle Pinzuto on sector 10, they had cut the deficit to a minute.
Wellens attacked ahead of the Colle Pinzuto sector but Asgreen once again stamped his authority on the gravel and went clear from the chase over the top, trailing Pogačar by 55 seconds. However, the tide then turned back in the Slovenian's favour, as he moved out to one minute again for the 11th and final sector, which he ticked off with apparent ease amid roaring fans.
Behind, Valverde attacked and bridged to Asgreen, but it was clear they were racing for second place. Pogačar maintained his advantage on the undulating 10km run-in to Siena, and Valverde and Asgreen stayed clear of a chase group that swelled with the arrival of Valter and Bilbao.
Pogačar looked around as he passed under the gates into Siena's old town, and high-fived a fan just ahead of the super-steep haul up the Via Santa Caterina. He still had power in the legs and dragged his way over the top, onto the narrow streets, and down into the Piazza to celebrate one of the most spectacular one-day wins in recent memory.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates||4:47:49|
|2||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team||0:00:37|
|3||Kasper Asgreen (Den) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team||0:00:46|
|4||Attila Valter (Hun) Groupama-FDJ||0:01:07|
|5||Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious||0:01:09|
|6||Jhonatan Narvaez Prado (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers|
|7||Quinn Simmons (USA) Trek-Segafredo||0:01:21|
|8||Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal||0:01:25|
|9||Simone Petilli (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||0:01:35|
|10||Sergio Higuita Garcia (Col) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:01:53|
|11||Michael Valgren (Den) EF Education-EasyPost||0:01:56|
|12||Floris De Tier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix||0:01:57|
|13||Lorenzo Rota (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|14||Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) Groupama-FDJ|
|15||Ruben Antonio Almeida|
|16||Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo||0:02:00|
|17||Andrea Vendrame (Ita) AG2R Citroen Team||0:02:02|
|18||Jai Hindley (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:02:03|
|19||Filippo Zana (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'||0:02:05|
|20||Carlos Rodriguez Cano (Spa) Ineos Grenadiers||0:02:07|
|21||Simone Velasco (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|22||Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix||0:02:09|
|23||Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||0:02:14|
|24||Andreas Kron (Den) Lotto Soudal||0:02:18|
|25||Vincenzo Albanese (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team||0:02:23|
|26||Simon Clarke (Aus) Israel-Premier Tech||0:02:29|
|27||Warren Barguil (Fra) Arkea-Samsic||0:04:05|
|28||Alessandro Covi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|29||Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team|
|30||Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers|
|31||Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma||0:04:11|
|32||Edoardo Zambanini (Ita) Bahrain Victorious||0:04:13|
|33||Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team||0:04:19|
|34||Anthony Delaplace (Fra) Arkea-Samsic||0:04:23|
|35||Lewis Askey (GBr) Groupama-FDJ||0:05:19|
|36||Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Israel-Premier Tech|
|37||Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain Victorious||0:06:50|
|38||Alexander Kamp (Den) Trek-Segafredo||0:08:14|
|39||Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned) Team DSM|
|40||Pieter Serry (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|41||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team|
|42||Lilian Calmejane (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team|
|43||Ben Zwiehoff (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|44||Scott Thwaites (GBr) Alpecin-Fenix|
|45||Koen Bouwman (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|46||Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain Victorious|
|47||Erik Fetter (Hun) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team|
|48||Gonzalo Serrano Rodriguez (Spa) Movistar Team|
|49||Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|50||Milan Vader (Ned) Jumbo-Visma||0:08:23|
|51||Robert Stannard (Aus) Alpecin-Fenix||0:08:25|
|52||Samuele Zoccarato (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|53||Maxim Van Gils (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|54||Quinten Hermans (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|55||Jonathan Caicedo (Ecu) EF Education-EasyPost||0:08:27|
|56||Dario Cataldo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo||0:08:33|
|57||Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel-Premier Tech||0:08:35|
|58||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team||0:08:36|
|59||Roger Kluge (Ger) Lotto Soudal||0:12:00|
|60||Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Groupama-FDJ||0:13:29|
|61||Romain Combaud (Fra) Team DSM|
|62||Mattia Bais (Ita) Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli|
|63||Fabian Lienhard (Swi) Groupama-FDJ|
|64||Diego Pablo Sevilla Lopez (Spa) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team|
|65||Jhonatan Restrepo Valencia (Col) Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli|
|66||Michael Schär (Swi) AG2R Citroen Team|
|67||Mikkel Honoré (Den) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|68||Robert Gesink (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|69||Patrick Gamper (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|70||Davide Gabburo (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|71||Antonio Tiberi (Ita) Trek-Segafredo|
|72||Timo Roosen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|73||Clément Russo (Fra) Arkea-Samsic|
|74||Kevin Colleoni (Ita) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|75||Mathias Norsgaard (Den) Movistar Team|
|76||Clément Berthet (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team|
|77||Alexander Cataford (Can) Israel-Premier Tech||0:13:36|
|78||Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education-EasyPost||0:13:37|
|79||Marc Soler (Spa) UAE Team Emirates||0:13:44|
|80||Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||0:13:46|
|81||Ben Turner (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||0:13:51|
|82||Alan Riou (Fra) Arkea-Samsic|
|83||Ide Schelling (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:13:54|
|84||Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo||0:14:48|
|85||Miguel Eduardo Florez Lopez (Col) Arkea-Samsic||0:15:15|
|86||Samuele Rivi (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team||0:15:23|
|87||Marijn van den Berg (Ned) EF Education-EasyPost||0:18:31|
|OTL||Sergio Garcia Gonzalez (Spa) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team|
|OTL||Harry Sweeny (Aus) Lotto Soudal|
|OTL||Romain Hardy (Fra) Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|DNF||Mauro Schmid (Swi) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|DNF||Louis Vervaeke (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|DNF||Clement Venturini (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team|
|DNF||Michael Gogl (Aut) Alpecin-Fenix|
|DNF||Stefano Oldani (Ita) Alpecin-Fenix|
|DNF||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|DNF||Gianni Moscon (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|DNF||Leonardo Basso (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|DNF||Manuele Boaro (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|DNF||Michele Gazzoli (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|DNF||Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno (Col) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|DNF||Davide Martinelli (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|DNF||Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious|
|DNF||Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain Victorious|
|DNF||Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|DNF||Johnatan Cañaveral Vargas (Col) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|DNF||Filippo Fiorelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|DNF||Alex Tolio (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|DNF||Cesare Benedetti (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Juan Diego Alba Bolivar (Col) Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli|
|DNF||Umberto Marengo (Ita) Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli|
|DNF||Gabriele Benedetti (Ita) Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli|
|DNF||Edoardo Zardini (Ita) Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli|
|DNF||Ben Healy (Irl) EF Education-EasyPost|
|DNF||Simone Bevilacqua (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team|
|DNF||Márton Dina (Hun) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team|
|DNF||Antoine Duchesne (Can) Groupama-FDJ|
|DNF||Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers|
|DNF||Ben Swift (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers|
|DNF||Jan Bakelants (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Théo Delacroix (Fra) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Matthias Brändle (Aut) Israel-Premier Tech|
|DNF||Taj Jones (Aus) Israel-Premier Tech|
|DNF||Guy Sagiv (Isr) Israel-Premier Tech|
|DNF||Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Jumbo-Visma|
|DNF||Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Jorge Arcas (Spa) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Luis Mas Bonet (Spa) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Einer Rubio Reyes (Col) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Elie Gesbert (Fra) Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Michael Matthews (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNF||Sam Bewley (NZl) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNF||Tsgabu Grmay (Eth) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNF||Alexander Konychev (Ita) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNF||Matteo Sobrero (Ita) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNF||Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team DSM|
|DNF||Marco Brenner (Ger) Team DSM|
|DNF||Christopher Hamilton (Aus) Team DSM|
|DNF||Leon Heinschke (Ger) Team DSM|
|DNF||Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Mikkel Bjerg (Den) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNS||Alejandro Osorio Carvajal (Col) Bahrain Victorious|
|DNS||Simone Ravanelli (Ita) Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli|
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month*
Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Cyclingnews is the world's leader in English-language coverage of professional cycling. Started in 1995 by University of Newcastle professor Bill Mitchell, the site was one of the first to provide breaking news and results over the internet in English. The site was purchased by Knapp Communications in 1999, and owner Gerard Knapp built it into the definitive voice of pro cycling. Since then, major publishing house Future PLC has owned the site and expanded it to include top features, news, results, photos and tech reporting. The site continues to be the most comprehensive and authoritative English voice in professional cycling.
Latest on Cyclingnews
Riders hope for better schedule for Giro Donne and Tour de France FemmesVollering and Kopecky among riders open to calendar change with just two weeks between the two big stages races
UCI scraps restricted gearing for junior racersRestrictions removed from rulebook due to 'limited availability of equipment' and 'medical evidence'
Tour de France director Prudhomme suggests Puy de Dôme could return to route'The dream has become bigger today' he says after visit to Massif Central summit
Live coverage ‘the most important thing’ as Giro Donne returns to WorldTour'These are the rules and they have to follow them' says Kopecky