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Tadej Pogacar wins Strade Bianche with 50km solo attack

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) made the latest addition to his palmarès on Saturday with victory at Strade Bianche, and he did it in style, in the form of a 50km solo exhibition.

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.

Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates 4:47:49
2Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:37
3Kasper Asgreen (Den) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team 0:00:46
4Attila Valter (Hun) Groupama-FDJ 0:01:07
5Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious 0:01:09
6Jhonatan Narvaez Prado (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers
7Quinn Simmons (USA) Trek-Segafredo 0:01:21
8Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:01:25
9Simone Petilli (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 0:01:35
10Sergio Higuita Garcia (Col) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:01:53
11Michael Valgren (Den) EF Education-EasyPost 0:01:56
12Floris De Tier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 0:01:57
13Lorenzo Rota (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
14Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
15Ruben Antonio Almeida
16Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo 0:02:00
17Andrea Vendrame (Ita) AG2R Citroen Team 0:02:02
18Jai Hindley (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:02:03
19Filippo Zana (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane' 0:02:05
20Carlos Rodriguez Cano (Spa) Ineos Grenadiers 0:02:07
21Simone Velasco (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
22Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 0:02:09
23Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 0:02:14
24Andreas Kron (Den) Lotto Soudal 0:02:18
25Vincenzo Albanese (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team 0:02:23
26Simon Clarke (Aus) Israel-Premier Tech 0:02:29
27Warren Barguil (Fra) Arkea-Samsic 0:04:05
28Alessandro Covi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
29Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team
30Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers
31Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma 0:04:11
32Edoardo Zambanini (Ita) Bahrain Victorious 0:04:13
33Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team 0:04:19
34Anthony Delaplace (Fra) Arkea-Samsic 0:04:23
35Lewis Askey (GBr) Groupama-FDJ 0:05:19
36Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Israel-Premier Tech
37Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain Victorious 0:06:50
38Alexander Kamp (Den) Trek-Segafredo 0:08:14
39Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned) Team DSM
40Pieter Serry (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
41Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team
42Lilian Calmejane (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team
43Ben Zwiehoff (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
44Scott Thwaites (GBr) Alpecin-Fenix
45Koen Bouwman (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
46Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain Victorious
47Erik Fetter (Hun) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
48Gonzalo Serrano Rodriguez (Spa) Movistar Team
49Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
50Milan Vader (Ned) Jumbo-Visma 0:08:23
51Robert Stannard (Aus) Alpecin-Fenix 0:08:25
52Samuele Zoccarato (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
53Maxim Van Gils (Bel) Lotto Soudal
54Quinten Hermans (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
55Jonathan Caicedo (Ecu) EF Education-EasyPost 0:08:27
56Dario Cataldo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 0:08:33
57Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel-Premier Tech 0:08:35
58Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team 0:08:36
59Roger Kluge (Ger) Lotto Soudal 0:12:00
60Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Groupama-FDJ 0:13:29
61Romain Combaud (Fra) Team DSM
62Mattia Bais (Ita) Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli
63Fabian Lienhard (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
64Diego Pablo Sevilla Lopez (Spa) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
65Jhonatan Restrepo Valencia (Col) Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli
66Michael Schär (Swi) AG2R Citroen Team
67Mikkel Honoré (Den) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
68Robert Gesink (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
69Patrick Gamper (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
70Davide Gabburo (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
71Antonio Tiberi (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
72Timo Roosen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
73Clément Russo (Fra) Arkea-Samsic
74Kevin Colleoni (Ita) BikeExchange-Jayco
75Mathias Norsgaard (Den) Movistar Team
76Clément Berthet (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team
77Alexander Cataford (Can) Israel-Premier Tech 0:13:36
78Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education-EasyPost 0:13:37
79Marc Soler (Spa) UAE Team Emirates 0:13:44
80Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 0:13:46
81Ben Turner (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 0:13:51
82Alan Riou (Fra) Arkea-Samsic
83Ide Schelling (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:13:54
84Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo 0:14:48
85Miguel Eduardo Florez Lopez (Col) Arkea-Samsic 0:15:15
86Samuele Rivi (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team 0:15:23
87Marijn van den Berg (Ned) EF Education-EasyPost 0:18:31
OTLSergio Garcia Gonzalez (Spa) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
OTLHarry Sweeny (Aus) Lotto Soudal
OTLRomain Hardy (Fra) Arkea-Samsic
DNFDries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
DNFMauro Schmid (Swi) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
DNFLouis Vervaeke (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
DNFClement Venturini (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team
DNFMichael Gogl (Aut) Alpecin-Fenix
DNFStefano Oldani (Ita) Alpecin-Fenix
DNFGianni Vermeersch (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
DNFGianni Moscon (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
DNFLeonardo Basso (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
DNFManuele Boaro (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
DNFMichele Gazzoli (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
DNFMiguel Angel Lopez Moreno (Col) Astana Qazaqstan Team
DNFDavide Martinelli (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
DNFMatej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious
DNFHeinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain Victorious
DNFGiovanni Visconti (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
DNFJohnatan Cañaveral Vargas (Col) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
DNFFilippo Fiorelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
DNFAlex Tolio (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
DNFCesare Benedetti (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFPatrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFJuan Diego Alba Bolivar (Col) Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli
DNFUmberto Marengo (Ita) Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli
DNFGabriele Benedetti (Ita) Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli
DNFEdoardo Zardini (Ita) Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli
DNFBen Healy (Irl) EF Education-EasyPost
DNFSimone Bevilacqua (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
DNFMárton Dina (Hun) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
DNFAntoine Duchesne (Can) Groupama-FDJ
DNFSalvatore Puccio (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers
DNFBen Swift (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
DNFJan Bakelants (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
DNFThéo Delacroix (Fra) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
DNFDomenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
DNFMatthias Brändle (Aut) Israel-Premier Tech
DNFTaj Jones (Aus) Israel-Premier Tech
DNFGuy Sagiv (Isr) Israel-Premier Tech
DNFTiesj Benoot (Bel) Jumbo-Visma
DNFVictor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNFBrent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNFJorge Arcas (Spa) Movistar Team
DNFLuis Mas Bonet (Spa) Movistar Team
DNFEiner Rubio Reyes (Col) Movistar Team
DNFElie Gesbert (Fra) Arkea-Samsic
DNFMichael Matthews (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
DNFSam Bewley (NZl) BikeExchange-Jayco
DNFTsgabu Grmay (Eth) BikeExchange-Jayco
DNFAlexander Konychev (Ita) BikeExchange-Jayco
DNFMatteo Sobrero (Ita) BikeExchange-Jayco
DNFNikias Arndt (Ger) Team DSM
DNFMarco Brenner (Ger) Team DSM
DNFChristopher Hamilton (Aus) Team DSM
DNFLeon Heinschke (Ger) Team DSM
DNFGianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
DNFMikkel Bjerg (Den) UAE Team Emirates
DNFMaximiliano Richeze (Arg) UAE Team Emirates
DNFVegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
DNSAlejandro Osorio Carvajal (Col) Bahrain Victorious
DNSSimone Ravanelli (Ita) Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli

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