Race Report: The first race back after the Covid-19 break didn’t disappoint with action all the way to the finish line of the Strade Bianche. Ex-World cross champion, Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) timed his attack to perfection on the final section of Tuscan grit and soloed to a magnificent victory. Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates) was second, Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) third.
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Top solo win for Van Aert
After the World road champion, Annemiek Van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) won the Women’s Strade Bianche ahead of Margarita Garcia Cañellas (Alé BTC Ljubljana) and Leah Thomas (Équipe Paule Ka), it was the turn of the men to battle through the Tuscan dust (Full Women’s Strade Bianche Race Report in EUROTRASH Monday).
Alpecin-Fenix sign on – Not the day for MVDP
Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) at the start
14th Strade Bianche: 184km, 11 sectors and 63km on gravel roads (34.2% of the course)
There are 63 kilometres of gravel roads, across 11 sectors. Starting from the Stadium/Medicean Fortress area of Siena, the initial undulating kilometres are on asphalt before reaching the 2.1km-long gravel Sector 1 at km 18, which is perfectly straight and slightly downhill. Sector 2 (5.8km), the first real challenge with a short descent followed by a long climb with sections of over 10% gradient.
Read the PEZ Strade Bianche Preview HERE.
Sector 3 starts (4.4km) shortly followed by Sector 4 – named “La Piana” – and one of the race’s classic gravel sectors (5.5km), flat leading to Buonconvento. After few kilometres the second climb of the day starts: the Montalcino (4km at 5%). Following Torrenieri the riders face Sectors 5 (11.9km) and Sector 6 (8km) with only 1km of tarmac in between. Monteroni d’Arbia marks the beginning of Sector 7 of San Martino in Grania (9.5km) in the middle of the Crete Senesi. A long sector with continuous up and downs, ending up with a twisting climb before meeting the tarmac again.
In Ponte del Garbo (Asciano) gravel Sector 8 begins. At 11.5km it’s the hardest of the race, mostly uphill and characterised by tough hills, the most important being those close to Monte Sante Marie, with steep gradients on both climbs and descents over short distances. After Castelnuovo Berardenga there’s a very short, flat section of gravel (300m) before facing, after Monteaperti, Sector 9 – only 800m long, but with a double digit gradient ramp. The penultimate section of gravel, Sector 10 (2.4km) on the climb toward Colle Pinzuto, with gradients up to 15%. Sector 11 (1.1km) features a sequence of a demanding descents followed by a very punchy climb with a maximum gradient of 18%. From here only 12km separate the riders from the finish in Piazza del Campo, Siena.
The demanding final kilometres, with gradients up to 16%, approach the city of Siena. 2km from the finish line, the route joins Via Esterna di Fontebranda; here the gradient touches 9%. 900m from the finish line, the race route passes beneath Fontebranda Gate where the road surface becomes paving slabs. The gradient then exceeds 10% until 500m from the finish line, reaching its steepest gradient of 16% along Via Santa Caterina. A sharp right hand turn leads to Via delle Terme, and then Via Banchi di Sotto. With 300m to go, the road continues to climb slightly then, 150m from the line, a right turn leads into Via Rinaldini. The route enters the Piazza del Campo just 70m from the finish line. The final 30m descends at a gradient of 7% and the finish line itself, which is flat.
Six riders escaped soon after the start: Benjamin Declercq, Corné van Kessel, Nicola Bagioli, Simon Pellaud, Quentin Pacher and Iuri Filosi. They took a lead of more than two minutes, but Astana took control.
Before that, a few incidents had already caused problems for the favourites. Julian Alaphilippe suffered a mechanical, Vincenzo Nibali and Peter Sagan had punctures. All managed to quickly return to the peloton, but they were to pay for their troubles later.
And more dust
The leading group fell victim to the pace of the Kazakh WorldTour team. After more than an hour of racing, the break exploded. Pellaud turned out to be the strongest of the six and continued solo. The lonely escapee did well and extended his lead to almost four minutes, but in the last hundred kilometres his lead narrowed. Especially after Julian Alaphilippe and Mathieu van der Poel tried to make a move 80 kilometres from the finish. The two didn’t get away, but the first warning shots had been fired.
Van der Poel at the front
2019 winner – Julian Alaphilippe was unlucky
Three other riders attacked: Lawson Craddock, Bob Jungels and Marcus Burghardt quickly picked up Pellaud, after which they tried to build a lead on the peloton, which was not so big anymore. At the same time, a crash was reported in the peloton with Alaphilippe, Van der Poel and Nibali. They were able continue on their way again and join the peloton, where the lead of the four up front had disappeared.
Through the feed
The finalé could then really start as they hit the eighth sector of the day, the Monte Sante Marie. Simon Clarke tried it in this sector almost immediately. Michael Gogl, Gorka Izagirre and Burghardt wanted to follow, but they were quickly countered by Jakob Fuglsang. The Dane gave a hard kick and drove away with 55 kilometres to go. Among the pursuers, Maximilian Schachmann, Davide Formolo, Michal Kwiatkowski, Alberto Bettiol, Greg Van Avermaet and Wout van Aert were clearly visible. Van der Poel and Alaphilippe were not.
Astana were looking for a result
Fuglsang failed to build his lead on a newly created group of pursuers with Bettiol, Formolo, Van Avermaet, Van Aert and Schachmann. The Dane was caught by the pursuers with 42 kilometres to go. A major truce followed. The six leaders knew that one of them would win. The next attempt was by Schachmann. The German had Van Aert with him with 22 kilometres to go. Bettiol, Formolo and Fuglsang managed to make the connection, but for Van Avermaet the lights went out. With 20 kilometres to go, five riders remained at the front.
Jakob Fuglsang made a solo move with about 50k to go
The Colle Pinzuto and Le Tolfe remained as the penultimate and last sector. On the Colle Pinzuto, Bettiol made a brave attempt, but the leading group stayed intact. Van Aert subsequently had more success in the last sector. The Jumbo-Visma rider took a small lead in the descent, after which he continued with a strong effort. In the meantime it was the end for Fuglsang. Van Aert continued to accelerate. Behind; Bettiol, Formolo and Schachmann kept the Belgian in their sights.
A Classic view
Van Aert did not give in to Bettiol, Formolo and Schachmann, and the pursuers did not get any closer. With a lead of twenty seconds, Van Aert started the final kilometre.
The leading group
In the final kilometre, Van Aert’s victory was no longer endangered. In Siena, the Belgian was finally allowed to make the victory salute, after having finished second twice in previous editions. Behind Van Aert; Formolo and Schachmann finished second and third at half a minute.
2020 Strade Binache winner, Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma): “Over the last two editions of Strade Bianche, I gained a lot of confidence. It’s never easy to win and it was harder than usual in today’s circumstances. It makes the win even better. This is proof that I’m at the highest level now. To have won Strade Bianche at the age of only 25, with a cyclocross background is a huge achievement.”
Second, Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates): “It has been a beautiful race. I really suffered with the heat, and also because we have trained for a month in altitude. It’s always great to race at Strade Bianche, there a little bit of regret for having missed a beautiful victory, but the second place is a good result anyway and tops-off a good week for the team. Now I’ll look towards Milan-San Remo which is a different style of parcours but we’ll give give it our best.”
Third, Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe): “It was a very hard, very tough race and I knew one of the key factors today would be how to manage the heat. So, I cooled myself often, I rode the first four sectors really easy at the back and I could see that everybody was tired. In Santa Maria I felt I had quite good legs and I tried a little bit in the last part. In Santa Maria I almost crashed twice, we could barely see anything with the dust, so in the last sector I went a little bit easy and I think it was a mistake. Van Aert was able to go away, I tried to catch him but that meant I spent all my energy and couldn’t make it for the sprint. However, overall, I think it was a good start to the second part of the season.”
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2020 Strade Bianche Men’s Elite Result:
1. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma in 4:58:56
2. Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates at 0:30
3. Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe at 0:32
4. Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Pro Cycling at 1:31
5. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana at 2:55
6. Zdeněk Štybar (Cz) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 3:59
7. Brent Bookwalter (USA) Mitchelton-Scott at 4:25
8. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC at 4:27
9. Michael Gogl NTT Pro Cycling at 6:47
10. Diego Rosa (Ita) Arkéa-Samsic at 7:45
11. Gregor Mühlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe at 08:11
12. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Ineos at 10:03
13. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
14. Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
15. Mathieu Van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix at 10:06
16. Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates at 10:09
17. Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana
18. Loïc Vliegen (Bel) Circus-Wanty Gobert at 10:11
19. Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-McLaren at 10:30
20. Andrea Vendrame (Ita) AG2R-La Mondiale at 13:41
21. Valerio Conti (Ita) UAE Team Emirates at 13:46
22. Jack Bauer (NZ) Mitchelton-Scott at 14:11
23. Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe at 14:46
24. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 15:06
25. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Lotto Soudal
26. Josip Rumac (Cro) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
27. Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe at 19:27
28. Michael Schär (Swi) CCC
29. Hugo Houle (Can) Astana
30. Michael Valgren (Den) NTT Pro Cycling.