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STRADE BIANCHE’24: 80K Solo Victory for Tadej Pogačar!

"I don’t know why I did that! There was a hail storm and that made the conditions very tough." - Pogačar

Strade Bianche Race Report: UAE Team Emirates’ Tadej Pogačar was the favourite to win the 2024 Strade Bianche, but no one guessed he would attack with 80 kilometres to go and solo to the finish in Siena. The Slovenian champion soon had a lead of 4 minutes and the others behind him were racing for the podium. Toms Skujiņš was second and Maxim Van Gils third, both at nearly 3 minutes. Last year’s winner, Tom Pidcock took fourth place.

Tadej Pogačar won Strade Bianche for the second time in his career. He attacked 81 kilometres from the finish, to ride an impressive solo and cross the line in Siena with minutes to spare.

Strade Bianche
Impressive win for Tadej Pogačar

The Route
Strade Bianche is harder this year as the distance is now over 200 kilometres for the first time. The past six editions were raced over 184 kilometres, the riders now have to cover 215 kilometres. Four new gravel sections have been added to the route and there is now fifteen sectors of the white roads. There are now 71.5 kilometres of gravel, up from 63. The start and the finish are still in Siena. The first nine gravel sections of the race are the same as last year. The first of these, Vidritta, comes after 21 kilometres. Some sections are short, the shortest being only 600 metres and two sections of over 11 kilometres. Some of gravel roads are almost flat, while others are steep and punishingly long. In the past, the first real selection in the race came on the 11.9 kilometre section of Lucignano d’Asso, which immediately goes onto the 8 kilometre Ponte d’Arbia. This year there are still 120 kilometres to go to the finish, so maybe too early, but these days, races open up much sooner than before. Just look at the opening weekend in Belgium.

Strade Bianche 2024
Strade Bianche’24 map

The sectors of San Martino in Grania and Monte Sante Marie are both long and uphill, they both get five stars, the hardest difficulty. After the 11.5 kilometres of Monte Sante Marie, also named after Fabian Cancellara, then there are more than 20 kilometres of proper road. The longest stretches of sterrato have now been ridden, but the race doesn’t get any easier. At 55 kilometres from the finish there is the Monteaperti section of 600 metres. This is followed by the Strade di Colle Pinzuto (2.4km) and Le Tolfe (1.1km). Last year the race went to Siena after this last sector, but this year there is an extra circuit, which starts almost immediately after Le Tolfe with the unknown Strada del Castagno (1.3km). Fourteen kilometres later comes the new Montechiaro section at 3.3 kilometres. The Strade di Colle Pinzuto and Le Tolfe make their second appearance before the finish. These climbs are steep and will show any weakness. After the last section of Le Tolfe, there are 10 kilometre of undulating roads to Siena. The finish is in the famous Piazza del Campo, the setting for the Palio horse race, but before that is the Contrada dell’Oca. The riders pass under the 13th-century Porta di Fontebranda and start to climb on the big flagstones of the Via Santa Caterina. This road is very steep, with a maximum gradient of 16%. From the top there is still half a kilometre to the finish. The last bend is on the border between the districts of Civetta (owl), Leocorno (unicorn) and Torre (tower). Whoever gets through this first normally wins the race.

Strade Bianche 2024
Strade Bianche’24 profile

The White Road Sections:
Settore Sterrato 1: Vidritta (2.1km) *
Settore Sterrato 2: Bagnaia (5.8km) ***
Settore Sterrato 3: Radi (4.4km) **
Settore Sterrato 4: La Piana (6.4km) **
Settore Sterrato 5: Lucignano d’Asso (11.9km) ****
Settore Sterrato 6: Pieve a Santi (8km) ****
Settore Sterrato 7: San Martino in Grania (9.5km) *****
Settore Sterrato 8: Monte Sante Marie (11.5km) *****
Settore Sterrato 9: Monteaperti (0.6km) **
Settore Sterrato 10: Colle Pinzuto (2.4km) ****
Settore Sterrato 11: Le Tolfe (1.1km) ****
Settore Sterrato 12: Strada del Castagno (1.3km) ***
Settore Sterrato 13: Montechiaro (3.3km) **
Settore Sterrato 14: Colle Pinzuto (2.4km) ****
Settore Sterrato 15: Le Tolfe (1.1km) ****
Total: 71.5 kilometres.

Strade Bianche 2024
Top favourite – Tadej Pogačar

Strade Bianche 2024
Attila Valter and Sepp Kuss say hello

After a lot of early action, a breakaway of five formed. Dion Smith (Intermarché-Wanty), Mark Donovan (Q36.5), Lawson Craddock (Jayco AlUla), Nils Brun (Tudor) and Anders Halland Johannessen (Uno-X Mobility) built up a lead of 2:30. UAE Team Emirates and EF Education-EasyPost didn’t let the break get any more time and started to pull them back.

Stade Bianche 2024
The first sections of sterrato were not too hard

Strade Bianche 2024
There had been a lot of rain during the week

After Craddock and Brun had to let go due to mechanical problems, the others in the lead group were also caught 100 kilometres from the finish. Quinn Simmons and Magnus Cort then jumped off the front of the already thinned out peloton. When the two were brought back, the American champion attacked again through the heavy rain. Everything came together again on Monte Sante Marie, an 11.5 kilometre long gravel section. Quite a few riders had been dropped, including former winner Julian Alaphilippe, who had crashed earlier and abandoned.

Strade Bianche 2024
Alessandro De Marchi was keen to get things started

Strade Bianche 2024
The first climbs stretched the peloton

Strade Bianche 2024
The sunny sky would turn to rain

Tim Wellens led the peloton on Monte Sante Marie for Tadej Pogačar. The Slovenian champion attacked kilometres from the finish and no one could follow him, although Vuelta winner, Sepp Kuss, tried at first. Pogačar left the race behind him and soon had a large lead. At the end of that gravel section he had 1:15 on Maxim Van Gils, the first chaser. Around 30 seconds behind the Belgian, there was a group of about 20 riders. This included four riders from Visma | Lease a Bike: Attila Valter, Ben Tulett, Christophe Laporte and Sepp Kuss, plus Ben Healy, Matej Mohorič and Tom Pidcock. The British rider had Magnus Sheffield and Thymen Arensman with him. The Dutchman rode hard on the front for his leader, but Pogačar just gained time.

Strade Bianche 2024
UAE Team Emirates were in control of the peloton

Strade Bianche 2024
Crash for Michal Kwiatkowski (INEOS Grenadiers) and Paul Magnier (Soudal Quick-Step)

While Pogačar got to over three minutes, Van Gils dropped back to the Pidcock group. Healy tried several times to get away from the chasers, but he could not get away alone and had no help. The group, which was now competing for a podium place, had thinned out more due to the Irishman’s attacks. Just before the first passage of the Le Tolfe, Healy crashed, just as the Lotto Dstny riders; Van Gils and Lennert Van Eetvelt pushed harder on this four-star section and Van Gils managed to take a gap.

Strade Bianche 2024
It’s going to be a hard day

Stade Bianche 2024
UAE getting ready for a move by Pogačar

Strade Bianche 24m
Quinn Simmons gave it a go, but he was pulled in and later crashed

Van Gils couldn’t get closer to Pogačar, but he was taking time on the chase group. Skujins also attacked at that time. The Latvian, who had previously crashed together with his teammate Simmons, joined Van Gils 20 kilometres from the finish. It looked like these two would be joining Pogačar on the podium, as they soon gained 1:30 on the group with Pidcock. Pidcock also counter-attacked on the Colle Pinzuto, the penultimate gravel section of the day, but he would be racing for fourth place.

Strade Bianche 2024
Tim Wellens set the pace for the Tadej Pogačar attack

Strade Bianche 2024
With 80 kilometres to go and Pogačar was gone

Strade Bianche 2024
The sun came out and Pogačar had a lead of 4 minutes

This was all going on well behind Tadej Pogačar. The UAE Team Emirates leader, who was riding his first race of the season, kept his lead to solo to victory. He had plenty of time to celebrate his victory on the Piazza del Campo in Siena long before any other rider was in sight. This is the second time that Pogačar has won the Strade Bianche, he also soloed to the win two years ago. Behind Pogačar, Skujins and Van Gils fought it out for second place on the Via Santa Caterina, the last climb of the day. It was the Latvian who came out on top to take second place. Van Gils finished third. Tom Pidcock and Matej Mohorič took fourth and fifth.

Strade Bianche 2024
The fans were happy to see Pogačar

Strade Bianche winner, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates): “I don’t know why I did that! There was a hail storm and that made the conditions very tough. There was little energy left in the group. The race was very difficult from the start. That made the race very selective very early on. I don’t think anyone expected that. There was a hail storm near the Santa Marie, where conditions were very difficult. There were only 25 riders left. Isaac Del Toro and the rest of the team made it very difficult, at that stage we couldn’t see anything there. At that moment I decided to start and then I knew it would take a long time. But when I had a gap, I wanted to continue until the end. I felt very good in the beginning and then the team did a very good job, but it became a very tough race from far before the finish. And even when it rained heavily, I felt good. I then also had it in mind to push hard and go for the solo. The first race of the season is always mentally tough, because you never know whether the form is good. But I had a good winter and put in more hard work for my first race. It was definitely worth it.” Is Strade Bianche a Monument? “I do not know. It is a beautiful race, but I don’t really know the rules of the monuments in cycling. Strade Bianche is not that old, but it has charm and is very popular. You can count this race as one of the toughest and most beautiful races.”

Strade Bianche 2024
Plenty of time to celebrate

Strade Bianche Result:
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates in 5:19:45
2. Toms Skujiņš (Lat) Lidl-Trek at 2:46
3. Maxim Van Gils (Bel) Lotto Dstny at 2:50
4. Thomas Pidcock (GB) INEOS Grenadiers at 3:50
5. Matej Mohorič (Slo) Bahrain Victorious at 4:26
6. Benoît Cosnefroy (Fra) Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale at 4:39
7. Davide Formolo (Ita) Movistar at 4:41
8. Lenny Martinez (Fra) Groupama-FDJ at 4:48
9. Filippo Zana (Ita) Jayco AlUla at 4:49
10. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Visma | Lease a Bike at 5:17.

# Catch up with all the weekend news in EUROTRASH Monday.

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