After watching the Strade Bianche I’m always tempted to sell my worldly possessions and then move to rural Tuscany. This year was no different, although now I’d keep my raincoat. As always, there are multiple important questions to ask about this race. Would Peter Sagan have won? Who should have chased Michael Kwiatkowski? Let’s roundtable!
Kwiatkowski’s solo win shows he’s now on the short list to win _______.
Spencer Powlison @spino_powerlegs: He’s on the short list to win something kinda biggish in 2018. Kwiatkowski’s a one big win a year kind of guy — last year it was E3 Harelbeke; the year before it was Amstel; in 2014 it was Strade Bianche and worlds (okay, that was a good year). I love watching the Polish flower race, but he’s just not very prolific.
Andrew Hood @Eurohoody: Amstel Gold. He is one of those jack of all trades and master of nothing riders. The cobbles are too hard and long for him and Liege has just a little bit too much climbing, but Amstel with its new finish could be ideal for him.
How does the result change if Peter Sagan is healthy?
Spencer: Maybe Kwiatkowski wouldn’t have gotten away, and if that happened, I’d put my money on Greg Van Avermaet to win the dash up to Siena. So far, he’s been more tactically astute and more explosive this spring than Sagan.
Caley: Tough to say. Sagan sometimes has a mellowing effect on races because no rider wants to tow him to the line. So perhaps all the action from 50km to 10km to go would have been lessened if he was present. If that part of the race wasn’t as hard, it would have been more difficult for Kwiatkowski to go solo. But that’s just a guess.
Fred: Sagan doesn’t give Kwiatkowski a leash, and chases down the move ASAP (like he did at Flanders last year) setting up a slugfest on the climb to Siena. If the group hits the climb together, it’s a toss up between GVA and Kwiatkowski.
Andy: If Sagan is there he would follow Kwiatkowski, and everyone else would follow Sagan, if they could. This lead group was perfect for Sagan but there is no guarantee he would win.
When Kwiatkowski attacked, who should have chased?
Spencer: Van Avermaet would be a logical pick to chase, but he’d probably just use his Jedi mind tricks to convince Wellens to chase. But really, that was an early move so you can’t blame the guys for being a bit lackadaisical about pulling back Kwiatkowski.
Caley: Greg Van Avermaet had the most to lose. If that group came into Siena he’s the best pick to win. So he had an interest in keeping things together.
Fred: In a perfect world it’s Tom Dumoulin who chases. Kwiatkowski’s attack was brilliant because he launched it just after Dumoulin took a huge pull and then faded to the back. He’s the only guy in the group with the big diesel required to bring back that type of move.
Andy: Greg Van Avermaet. He is looking surprisingly strong for the classics after breaking his ankle in the fall. It’s looks like he is on track for Flanders.
Greg Van Avermaet called the race “old school racing,” and said that everyone was “jumping around like idiots.” Was this more exciting to watch on TV?
Spencer: I like old-school racing! More attacks the better, but with a grinding climb to Siena at the finish, it leaves the fellas a little flat for a true sprint.
Caley: It just moved the excitement a bit earlier. The tactical part of the race was the aggression that took place from 50km to 10km to go. Once Kwiatkowski was gone it was just a test of strength. I’d say the race was just as exciting, you just had to tune in a bit earlier to catch it.
Fred: Meh, I like watching the guys nuke it up that final climb and then jostle through the narrow streets to the finish.
Andy: The wind and rain made for a different race where only the strongest survive. Strade Bianche is interesting because it is so hilly and those dirt loose gravel roads are quite technical and tricky. Old-school racing is right.
Do we credit Borghini’s win to timing, wet roads, or the supposed motorbike interference?
Spencer: I think a combination of good positioning and wet roads won the day for her. She knew it was best to lead out the sprint — that’s why she battled for that leading spot before the first notable right-hand turn. However, the moto should have been farther up the road. That may not have decided the race, but it’s a bad optic to have an Italian on the front, in an Italian race, with the moto close enough to raise a few eyebrows. Mama mia!
Caley: The moto did get a bit close at one point, but it didn’t change a thing in that finish. Longo Borghini led for the entire second half of the climb (at least 400 meters) and nobody could come around. The first rider into that right right hander at the top always wins — there’s just not enough space to get by after that. Lambo earned it by being the strongest at the finish.
Fred: Wet cobbles and Borghini’s timing won the day. The rider who attacks up the climb often leaves the door open for rivals to zip around in those final turns. When the cobbles are slick, the rider who gets to the top first and then keeps her speed through the turns is bound to win. Chapeau.
Andy: It was timing. She jumped at time and no one could chase her down. Who doesn’t love an Italian winner at the Strade Bianche? Molto buono!