Strade Bianche offered all the spectacle and drama cycling fans had been yearning for during nearly five months of racing hiatus Saturday.
The iconic race saw many of the men’s and women’s peloton return to action for the first time since late winter, and the scorching Tuscan sun and unpredictable gravel tracks proved a fearsome challenge, with only 25 percent of the men’s field making it to the finish.
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) proved that “third time lucky” is a thing, taking victory in the men’s race after placing third in both of his previous appearances. Meanwhile, Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) didn’t need luck to take her victory, instead relying on her unstoppable form to chase down and drop lone breakaway rider Mavi Garcia (Alé BTC Ljubljana).
No ordinary face mask is good enough for Peter Sagan.
The men’s race featured over 60km of white roads.
Winder and her Trek-Segafredo team had their race bikes stolen overnight, leaving them riding spare bikes from staffers.
Defending champion Alaphilippe punctured five times and finished 24th, 15 minutes back.
40-degree temperatures and still air added a whole level of spectacle – and difficulty – to the race.
Conci gave a good demonstation of what happens when you race a hot, dry Strade Bianche.
Van Aert made his move on the final gravel sector to pull clear of an elite lead group.
Punctures ruled out many of the favorites’ hopes as gravel tracks played havoc.
11 dirt sectors and countless short, sharp climbs make Strade Bianche monument-worthy.
Racing played out in an arid Tuscan landscape.
There could never be enough water for five hours of racing in an Italian heatwave.
Van Vleuten bridged from over three minutes behind to chase down race-leader Garcia.
Van Aert took on the fearsome final climb of Via Santa Caterina alone, having distanced his rivals.
Garcia animated the women’s race with her long solo break.
Van Aert came into a socially-distanced Piazza del Campo to take victory, having twice placed third in the race.
Thomas and van Vleuten celebrate their podium finishes – from a distance.
Van Aert tried a new way of washing off the dust as he celebrated on the podium.