Strade Bianche Review
We had a great race in our hands, Strade Bianche usually is one of the most exciting races of the season and this year didn't disapoint. The race was hard from the start with a long dash through the first hour for a breakaway to be formed, but only 4 riders managed to get clear.
Diego Rosa was the one to have made the biggest difference from those and managed to go solo from 65Km on out, and made his own race until there were 36Km to the finish, becoming an important rider the race's storyline, and even more for Sky seeing that Gianni Moscon failed to have a role in the race, and only teammates Thomas and Puccio were to be seen chasing the favourites group.
I felt good and I was thinking before the race that it would be a good chance to get in the breakaway and stay ahead of the race. But the break was too small with just four riders and we never had a big enough gap so we didn’t get too far. - Diego Rosa
The first selection was made in the Monte Sante Marie sector. Although no definite gap was made there were attacks by Fuglsang and Wellens that split the peloton appart in it's brutal ramps. Velon's data from the climb showed a 6.75W/Kg effort for 3:12 minutes by van Avermaet which shows the brutal effort it was up there.
At that point we had settled a major group containing the favourites. We had Benoot, Wellens, Fuglsang, Lutsenko, Schachmann, GV.Avermaet, Stybar, Alaphillipe, Lampaert, Bettiol, S.Clarke, Seigle, van Aert, Power and Skujins forming the chasing group. Rosa was eventually caught in this period and also rolled in the tail of the group.
Bettiol and Schachmann were affected by mechanical/crash, and the group followed in relative cooperation with a leash put on by Yves Lampaert keeping everyone from trying any move away from the group. It was calm after and before two storms.
The race defining moment. On sector 9 Fuglsang once again attacked and this time it was a fierce one, Wout van Aert immediately reacted. In the group Lampaert did a major turn trying to pull them back but when that proved impossible Alaphillipe jumped from the group.
45 seconds was the approximate time of that attack and it drove van Aert into exhaustion as we later saw. Nonetheless he was able to keep up, Skujins had tried to bridge across but failed, whilst Alaphillipe showed his skin and succeeded.
Then, when Fulgsang went I was quite far behind and actually, only Alaphilippe could make the jump over to it. - Greg van Avermaet
So now there is definition is the race, what is the situation then...
20Km to go. We have Fuglsang, Alaphillipe and van Aert leading the race, and 25 seconds behind we have the chasing group. This is where the Stybar/Lutsenko card will make the gap grow. The presence of these two riders will cause the group to block as no-one is able to commit 100%. We have Benoot, Wellens, GVA and S.Clarke putting on some chase, Stybar in the middle was deorganizing the chase and Lutsenko's wheel riding is giving them even more reluctance in commiting to chase the leading trio. Skujins, Power, Lampaert and Seigle's presence also doesn't help as the ones who commit to the chase are carrying extra weight that won't help, but with the Colle Pinzuto sector coming there is still hope that there is energy to close down the gap.
1:20 minutes at 515 watts is what took Durbridge to climb the Colle Pinzuto whilst in the 2nd chasing group, where he struggled and came down to 8Km/h right by the end. This is where, in front, Wout van Aert would loose contact with Fugslang and Alaphillipe. In the chasing group there were splits but no-one managed to get away.
And as it was visible by this 1 minute effort in the final sterrato sector, the chase didn't completely block uphill, but when the road flattened no-one wanted to commit, and the gap sky-rocketed to 1:45 minutes with 10Km to go. van Aert was 30 seconds down at that point so it was obvious the leading duo would battle it out for the win.
We had two different riders, Fuglsang, a climber with a good ability for long efforts but a weak sprint, and Alaphillipe a pure puncheur, who can deliver in those short intense efforts. There are no more intense climbs until the Via Santa Catarina so here's how they should be riding at this point:
Fuglsang - Push on every little uphill that comes out on the road, try to wear out Alaphillipe's reserves and in the final climb kick early so that he can't use his explosiveness against the Dane.
Alaphillipe - Play mentally, try to hide as much as possible, always go on the wheel and don't stress about the other group coming back, Stybar is locked and loaded in case the move comes down.
van Aert's arrival is what Fuglsang needed, he couldn't just leadout Alaphillipe into the climb so stalling was the right option. Alaphillipe perhaps did a crucial move as he blocked Fuglsang into the barrier and he couldn't pass whilst already on the climb. When he did make his move it seemed to late already as the right-hand corner was already about 150 meters away and it was an effort short enough for the Frenchman to show his strenghts.
690 watts for 27 seconds up the final ramps and into the centre of Siena was enough at this point of the race for Alaphillipe to take control of the race. Fuglsang strenghts weren't enough to wear out the Deceuninck rider who in the technical last few meters confirmed the 15th victory for the team this season, in his debut in these gravel roads.
I’m happy to be on the podium of such a nice race but I felt really strong today and I wanted to win. I rode well but I lost so it’s a little bittersweet. - Jakob Fuglsang
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