Road

Strade Bianche: Van Aert solos away from elite group to take victory

Belgian cross-discipline star punched away on the final section of gravel to take victory after two near-misses.

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) made his move on the final gravel section of Strade Bianche Saturday and rode clear to take victory in Siena.

The Belgian cyclocross star attacked from an elite group of five with ten kilometers to go and soon forged a gap over remaining chasers Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Alberto Bettiol (EF Pro Cycling), and Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates).

Having twice placed third in his first two appearances at the race, van Aert made it third time lucky, coming to the line 30 seconds ahead, coated in dust and sweat after just under five hours of racing in the near-40-degree heat.

Behind him, Formolo took second and Schachmann third.

“If you get two third-places in a row, of course that gave me confidence,” Van Aert said after the race.

“Today was one long day of suffering, I don’t think anyone felt that great. The heat was exhausting but I really focused on hydration and keeping cool and in the end I had something left.”

“There was not a guy with us that I had to be really afraid of in the last uphill,” van Aert said of his winning move. “Attack is the best form of defense, and I saw in the previous editions that attacking is never a disadvantage here.”

Many pre-race favorites including defending champion Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Ineos) all suffered in the fearsome return to racing, with all three being ruled out of contention before the closing phases of the race.

A day of dirt, steep hills and baking sun made for a tough return to WorldTour racing. Photo Tim de Waele/Getty Images
A day of dirt, steep hills and baking sun made for a tough return to WorldTour racing. Photo Tim de Waele/Getty Images

The iconic race through the gravel roads of Tuscany marked the first major one-day race of the post-COVID season, and the 184-kilometer gravel-strewn event started fast and furious start with riders full of post-lockdown nerves and energy setting a fierce pace. There were a number of crashes early on, with pre-race contenders Vincenzo Nibali and Julian Alaphilippe among a large pileup 70km out.

With around 60km and just 4 gravel sectors remaining, only 25 riders remained at the front of the action, and after skirmishes from Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Simon Clarke (EF Pro Cycling) were neutralized, the race settled down to an elite lead group. With 45km remaining, only Schachmann, Bettiol, Formolo, van Aert, Fuglsang, and Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) were left in contention.

Behind the lead group of six, a small bunch led by former winner Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) gave chase around one minute back, with Michael Gogl (NTT Pro Cycling) and Brent Bookwalter (Mitchelton-Scott) in tow.

Van Avermaet, van Aert, and Bettiol all looked the most comfortable in the lead group as the race moved into its final hour, with Formolo and Fuglsang hanging on at the back.

With Stybar gaining ground and the lead bunch failing to cooperate with each other, Schachmann and van Aert jumped clear on a paved stretch with 22km remaining, leaving Bettiol to drive the pursuit, bringing Formolo and Schachmann back to the front of the race.

With Van Avermaet trailing behind, van Aert powered away from his remaining rivals on the final gravel section of the day and never looked back as he took his biggest one-day win to date.

“A victory in the Tour de France was already really big, but Strade Bianche is one of the nicest one-day races on the calendar,” van Aert said. “I really fell in love with this race two years ago, it was my goal to win this race. I’m 25 years old and I’ve done it already, so I’m really happy.”

The intensity of the race was evident as the rest of the peloton rolled to the line in dribs and drabs, each looking exhausted and dehydrated.

Bike racing is back.

DNF
Mattia Frapporti, Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
Pieter Weening, Trek-Segafredo
Alfred Wright, Bahrain-McLaren
Samuele Battistella, NTT Pro Cycling
Maxime Chevalier, BB Hotels-Vital Concept p/b KTM
Soren Kragh Andersen, Team Sunweb
Magnus Cort, EF Pro Cycling
Kobe Gossens, Lotto-Soudal
Grega Bole, Bahrain-McLaren
Berg-Jan Lindeman, Jumbo-Visma
Fabio Mazzucco, Bardiani-DSF-Faizane
Robert Stannard, Mitchelton-Scott
Julien Duval, AG2R-La Mondiale
Clement Russo, Arkéa-Samsic
Tom-Jelte Slagter, BB Hotels-Vital Concept p/b KTM
Gianluca Brambilla, Trek-Segafredo
Marc Sarreau, Groupama-FDJ
Johan Jacobs, Movistar Team
Edoardo Affini, Mitchelton-Scott
Xndro Meurisse, Circus-Wanty Gobert
Alexey Lutsenko, Astana
Jonas Koch, CCC Team
Alexander Cataford, Israel Start-Up Nation
Kristian Sbargli, Alpecin-Fenix
Salvatore Puccio, Team Ineos
Nicola Bagioli, Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
Jan Polanc, UAE Team Emirates
Vincenzo Albanese, Bardiana-CSF-Faizane
Matteo Sobrero, NTT Pro Cycling
Arnaud Courteille, BB Hotels-Vital Concept p/b KTM
Joris Niewenhuis, Team Sunweb
Sean Bennett, EF Pro Cycling
Leo Vincent, Groupama-FDJ
Matthew Holmes, Lotto-Soudal
Ivan Garcia Cortina, Bahrain-McLaren
Paul Martens, Jumbo-Visma
Alessandro Pessot, Bardiani-CSF-Faizane
Luke Durbridge, Mitchelton-Scott
Dorian Godon, AG2R-La Mondiale
Florian Vachon, Arkéa-Samsic
Nicola Conci, Trek-Segafredo
Quinten Hermans, Circus-Wanty Gobert
Einer Rubio, Movistar
Manuele Boaro, Astana
Anthony Dlaplace, Arkéa-Samsic
Pieter Vanspeybrouck, Circus-Wanty Gobert
Gijs Van Hoecke, CCC Team
Reto Hollenstein, Israel Start-Up Nation
Scott Thwaites, Alpecin-Fenix
Luke Rowe, Team Ineos
Davide Ballerini, Deceuininck-Quick Step
Nikias Arndt, Team Sunweb
Nicolas Dalla Valle, Baridiani-CSF-Faizane
Rasmus Tiller, NTT Pro Cycling
Johan Le Bon, BB Hotels-Vital Concept p/b KTM
Nicolas Roche, Team Sunweb
Mickael Delage, Groupama-FDJ
Dario Cataldo, Movistar
Stevano Oldani, Lotto-Soudal
Timothy Dupont, Circuis-Wanty Gobert
Antwan Tolhoek, Jumbo-Visma
Alessandro Tonelli, Bardiani-CSF-Faizane
Sam Bewley, Mitchelton-Scott
Lawrence Naesen, AG2R-La Mondiale
Owain Doull, Team Ineos
Domen Novak, Bahrain-McLaren
Antonio Nibali, Trek-Segafredo
Nathan Van Hooydonck, CCC Team
Eduardo Sepulveda, Movistar
Fabio Felline, Astana
Romain Hardy, Arkéa-Samsic
Simon Clarke, EF Pro Cycling
Norma Vahtra, Israel Start-Up Nation
Petr Vacoč, Alpecin-Fenix
Ben Swift, Team Ineos
Franck Bonnamour, Arkéa-Samsic
Bob Jungels, Deceuninck-Quick Step
Tiesj Benoot, Team Sunweb
Iuri Filosi, Bardiani-CSF-Faizane
Quentin Pacher, BB Hotels-Vital Concept p/b KTM
Jasha Sutterlin, Team Sunweb
Kevin Geniets, Groupama-FDJ
Matteo Jorgenson, Movistar
Tosh Van der Sande, Lotto-Soudal
Fabien Doubey, Circus-Wanty Gobert
Alexandr Riabushenko, UAE-Team Emirates
Peter Sagan, Bora-Hansgrohe
Krists Nielands, Israel Start-Up Nation
Oliver Naesen, AG2R-La Mondiale
Gianni Moscon, Team Ineos
Viel Mattia, Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
Toms Skujins, Trek-Segafredo
Jan Tratnik, Bahrain-McLaren
Davide Villela, Movistar
Ion Izagirre, Astana
Marc Hirschi, Team Sunweb
Mitchell Docker, EF Pro Cycling
Jasper De Buyst, Lotto-Soudal
Philipp Walseben, Alpecin-Fenix
Koen Bouman, Team Jumbo-Visma
Benjamin DeClercq, Arkéa-Samsic
Pieter Serry, Deceuninck-Quick Step
Maarten Wynants, Jumbo-Visma
Simon Gugliemi, Groupama-FDJ
Hector Carretero, Movistar
Sebastien Schonberger, BB Hotels-Vital Concept p/b KTM
Vincenzo Nibali, Trek-Segafredo
Corne Van Kessel, Circus-Wanty Gobert
Kasper Asgren, Deceuninck-Quick Step
Florian Vermeersch, Lotto-Soudal
Jhonatan Navaez, Team Ineos
Oscar Gatto, Bora-Hansgrohe
Guillaume Boivin, Israel Start-Up Nation
Larry Warbasse, AG2R-La Mondiale