Strade Bianche: Van der Poel Untouchable

Mathieu van der Poel was the rider of the race in the Men’s Strade Bianche with several attacks decimating the front group before riding away solo for the victory. Tom Pidcock was 5th and Simon Carr 11th

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Strade Bianche: Van der Poel Untouchable

Mathieu van der Poel was the rider of the race in the Men’s Strade Bianche with several attacks decimating the front group before riding away solo for the victory. Tom Pidcock was 5th and Simon Carr 11th.

Photo: Strade Bianche

Up the final, steep climb on the cobbles and between the Italian architecture, Mathieu van der Poel put the power down and left his rivals, World Champion Julian Alaphilippe and former Tour de France winner Egan Bernal, struggling in his wake.

In a race, many consider to be a Monument among the classics despite it being a young race on the calendar, the event was many a star rider’s big goal. Tuscany (Northern Italy) was the Italian theatre for one of the most charismatic races of the calendar, contested on gravel roads. The start of the Strade Bianche (1.UWT) was given in Sienna, for a total of 184 kilometres with twelve mythical gravel sections mixed with short and steep climbs.

Right after the start, five riders formed the day’s breakaway but the peloton paid attention to the lead and gave them only a few minutes’ advantage, holding the group on a short leash. The attacks began in earnest in the final 90 minutes of the race, with Owain Doull picking an opportune moment to join a large group which eased the pressure on his teammates behind.

After this group was caught, the decisive move then came when Alaphilippe attacked on the Monte Sante Marie, and a group of seven formed including Tom Pidcock. The first chasing group however were only a handful of seconds behind the race lead, trying to bridge across. Although the gap came down to just ten seconds at one point, the leading group was able to hold off the chasers on the final gravel sectors and from there, the gap between the two groups grew to over two minutes approaching Siena.

Out front, there were seven riders and from the fireworks in that group, three leaders went clear, Van der Poel, Alaphilippe and Bernal and they opened up a gap of almost a minute on Tom Pidcock’s group with the likes of Wout Van Aert, Michael Gogland and Tadej Pogacar. Out front, Van der Poel crushed Alaphilippe and Bernal in the final to solo to a sensational victory from an even more sensational race.

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix ) “Strade Bianche is one of the races I really wanted to win and it is cool to win like this”, he beamed afterwards. In the Piazza del Campo he cried out with joy. “I felt really good today,” he said shortly after finishing.

Photo: Strade Bianche

“On the last gravel section (Le Tolfe) I attacked and got Alaphilippe and Bernal with me. I felt that I still had something left in my legs on the final climb. To top it off like this is insane. I noticed that Alaphilippe was getting a bit tired. He also said that his legs were lacking a bit and therefore skipped a few turns. Bernal, on the other hand, gave a very strong impression. I hope this is the start of a great spring campaign”.

Julian Alaphilippe ( Deceuninck-Quick Step) (World Champion) was unable to match the attack by Mathieu van der Poel in the finale of Strade Bianche. He finished in second place. “I can be happy with this. I did my best, but Van der Poel was the strongest. I don’t regret anything because I didn’t do anything wrong. At twenty kilometers from the finish, I still attacked… My feeling was not bad. I remained focused on the latter sector, but you could already see how strong Van der Poel was. On the final climb, you could really see how he was going. I am now going to the Tirreno-Adriatico, then I also have Milan-San Remo and of course the Belgian classics.”

Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers)  (a Tour de France winner) was one of the three with Mathieu van der Poel and Julian Alaphilippe fighting for the victory: “I was a bit surprised as I am not a specialist in one day races and to be on the podium with Mathieu and the world champion is a big honour for me. I really am surprised, but now I am really motivated for the next goal. We tried just to keep going with [the front group], because it was too hard to go away alone because riders like Mathieu and Van Aert were really strong so we needed to wait for the last few kilometres and just try to do our best and the final was just about the legs. We tried to play it well and I think in the end it was good. It’s really motivating for me to be here on this podium, I’m trying to have some more confidence in myself again, just trying to enjoy the races. We’ll see what happens next, but at the moment I’ll just enjoy this podium.”

Getty Images

Tom Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers): “It was good fun, but a hard day out. I punctured just before Santa Maria, in the sector before, so it wasn’t ideal. But Puccio gave me his wheel so I didn’t lose too much time and got back in before the end of the sector. It was pretty good, Egan finished on the podium. We were coming to win, but a podium is good. I was quite happy with how I went, I didn’t have much of a punch, but it was good fun. In the lead group I was thinking, ‘yeah this is quite cool’, these six guys are some of the biggest riders in the world and I was there as well, so that was pretty cool. I didn’t have the legs to go any faster to be honest, I can’t complain. I’m there in the front group with those guys and it’ll take a few more races, a bit more miles in the legs and I’m sure I’ll be there soon.”

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma ): “I was at the sharp end but I was just not good enough in the final,” says Van Aert. “I have to be satisfied with fourth place. That real acceleration is not there yet. The form is there, but the race sharpness is yet to come. Of course you want to win this race, but that was not possible today. The steep climbs in combination with the attacks of Alaphilippe and Van der Poel were just too much.”

“It is and remains one of the best races of the year and the best has won here, as usual.”

The best one-day rider of 2020 complimented his team: “We took control of the race. Many of the boys have progressed beyond what was really expected. I really have a lot of respect for that. If I get better myself, we will have a nice classic season.”

The lead group before it too explored…. Getty Images

Tadej Pogačar: When Mathieu van der Poel attacked on the Le Tolfe sector, Tour winner Tadej Pogačar’s legs were on fire. The Slovenian UAE Tour winner was still able to join the group that eventually competed for fourth place. Pogačar was seventh.

“It was a good day for us”, the Slovenian recalls. “We had a good race with the team. In the end, I even ended up in the leading group. But when Van der Poel attacked, I had a moment of crisis. I almost never recovered. In the end we raced for fourth place, because we couldn’t get the leading group back. In the final kilometre I did my best, but I was done. I think I should be satisfied with seventh place”.

Bauke Mollema (Trek Segafredo): “I expected more from it in terms of results but it wasn’t possible today. I didn’t even feel bad, but I saw that many men rode on the gravel more easily than I did. I lost the leaders on the Sante Marie. It is a very nice race. I enjoyed the beautiful course and the nice weather. Those gravel roads are really something special.”

Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal): “It was a really tough race and unfortunately, I fell just short of following the front group when the race split to pieces on the eighth sector. We went full gas to bridge towards the front and still came really close but we just weren’t able to close that final gap. I did put a lot of energy in the chase and in the end, I had to settle for 13th place, which is not bad at all. But it is just a pity that we couldn’t close that final gap during the chase.”

Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2R): “I couldn’t follow the moment when it happened.” More than fifty kilometres before the finish, Van Avermaet was still part of a large group that was fighting to stay at the front of the race. But when Julian Alaphilippe and Wout van Aert lite the fuse and exploded the group, Van Avermaet had to pass. I think I was in the right position on the sectors where I had to. I was anticipating a little bit for Sante Marie, which was a good idea, I think. But on the last part of that stretch I lost a little contact on the descent.”

“I tried to close the gap, but my legs couldn’t respond at that point. I blew a bit and that was not good because I lost a lot of positions. I did manage to recover from the efforts, but my race was over. Normally you cross the finish line with the feeling that you left everything on the road but this year it’s weird: I was unable to go when it happened and then my race was over because I was not in the leading group.”

Jakob Fuglsang (Astana): “As always, Strade Bianche was a tough race and it came down to the final part of the race. As we headed into the last gravel sections, I was in the chasing group and tried to bridge across but the group didn’t work well together and it was hard to make the catch, even though we came really close. I finished inside the top ten but of course a result around top five would have been nicer but it is how it is and now it is time to turn the attention to my next race, Tirreno -Adriatico. There I am trying to go for at least one stage win”

Michael Gogl ( Qhubeka ASSOS): “I have to say I felt really good all day and had fantastic support from the team. Everybody was just incredible, all the staff and my other teammates over the last few days, how we organised this race was perfect. I think we showed everyone that we are up there with the best, two guys in the top 10 and one just outside the top 10 so I think we can be very proud of this performance and I am very happy with today.”

Simon Clarke (Qhubeka ASSOS): Super job from the team today. I am a little disappointed that I missed the final split on the Santa Maria section. Van der Poel nearly crashed, which caused us to both unclip. Unfortunately, I couldn’t follow him back to the front, as he did. I ended up in the split behind and just rode defensively with Michael in the front. I was best of the rest from that point. But super job from team, the young guys early on and then myself, Michael and Rob Power later on, it was just great. To gel so well, and be on top of every move, that does not happen so often. Also, a massive thanks to mechanics, we did not have one puncture all day and to not have a puncture at Strade is very rare. Our equipment was absolutely spot on, no crashes, no punctures, what more could you want.

1. Mathieu van der Poel Alpecin-Fenix 4:40:29
2. Julian Alaphilippe Deceuninck-Quick Step @ 05
3. Egan Bernal INEOS Grenadiers @ 20
4. Wout Van Aert Jumbo-Visma @ 51
5. Tom Pidcock INEOS Grenadiers @ 54
6. Michael Gogl Qhubeka ASSOS @ 54
7. Tadej Pogacar UAE Team Emirates @ 54
8. Simon Clarke Qhubeka ASSOS @ 2:25
9. Jakob Fuglsang Astana-Premier Tech @ 2:25
10. Pello Bilbao Bahrain Victorious @ 2:39

11. Simon Carr
30. Owain Doull
66. Simon Yates

Full Results Here:



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