Wout van Aert won the fourteenth edition of the Strade Bianche on Saturday. The Belgian of Jumbo-Visma crossed the finish line in the sweltering hot Siena after 184 kilometers of the WorldTour course on largely unpaved roads.
The 25-year-old Van Aert drove away from a leading group of five riders about 12 kilometers from the finish and was no longer obsolete. Italian Davide Formolo won the sprint for second place in half a minute, ahead of German Maximilian Schachmann.
For Van Aert, it is his first victory in a one-day WorldTour race. More than a year ago he booked his last victory on the road in the tenth stage of the Tour de France. A few days later, in a crash in the Tour's time trial, he suffered a deep flesh wound in his hip.
The Strade Bianche was the first WorldTour race for men since the corona crisis. The cycling season resumed last week in Romania with the Tour of Sibiu, after which the Tour of Burgos was held this week.
Earlier in the day, Annemiek van Vleuten took the victory in the women's race of the Strade Bianche. The road world champion won the Italian race for the second year in a row.
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Van der Poel has to release early
After a quiet opening phase at temperatures of around 40 degrees, Mathieu van der Poel, who drove the Strade Bianche for the first time, and defending champion Julian Alaphilippe, about 75 kilometers from the finish, provided the first tempo accelerations in the peloton. However, the strikes on the seventh gravel strip of the day had little effect.
Not much later, Van der Poel first got a flat tire and then he was also stopped by a crash of Vincenzo Nibali and Alaphilippe, but the Dutchman was able to return to the peloton. Tiesj Benoot, who won the Strade Bianche two years ago, gave up a little later.
After an acceleration of Jakob Fuglsang at more than 50 kilometers from the finish, Van der Poel and Alaphilippe had to release. The Dane, who finished second in Siena last year, was accompanied by Van Aert, Greg Van Avermaet, Michal Kwiatkowski, Schachmann, Formolo and Alberto Bettiol.
The pace was too high for Mathieu van der Poel at 50 kilometers from the finish. (Photo: Getty Images)
Leading group declines attack Fuglsang
Things didn't go fast enough for Fuglsang in the leading group, after which he decided to run away alone. The Astana rider was again joined on the eighth dirt track by the chasing group, from which Kwiatkowski had since dropped out.
The sextet at the front had a comfortable one and a half minute lead over Zdenek Stybar, Michael Gogl and Brent Bookwalter, 30 kilometers from the finish. After an acceleration of Van Aert and Schachmann, Van Avermaet had to release from the leading group on the penultimate gravel strip.
Van Aert attacked again on the last dirt road and started the final climb to Piazza del Campo with a lead of about half a minute on Formolo and Schachmann. The three-time world champion held up and was now after two third places in the previous two editions of Strade Bianche.
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