The UCI WorldTour one day race marked the return to racing for all seven of CCC Team’s riders and in stark contrast to the usual cold and rain that the March edition brings, riders battled temperatures of more than 36 degrees and a tougher kind of gravel on the famous white roads – strade bianche – of Tuscany.
With 3000 altitude meters across 184 kilometers, of which 63 were gravel, Strade Bianche has cemented itself as one of the hardest one-day races in the calendar, emphasized even more so on the back of a four-month break from racing.
The peloton eventually let a six-rider breakaway form after around 20 kilometers but the unity didn’t last long with the group splitting on the fourth gravel section and an injection of pace saw the peloton close in on then solo leader Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattolo – Sidermic) approaching the fifth sector.
The fifth sector, with almost 12 kilometers of gravel roads, proved decisive with the peloton splitting and a select group of about 40 riders forming in front, featuring Van Avermaet, De Marchi, and Geschke, which went on to bring Pellaud back just inside 100 kilometers remaining.
A move from Simon Clarke (EF Pro Cycling) inside the final 60 kilometers kickstarted attack after attack, at which point Van Avermaet was sitting at the front of the group and formed part of the chase.
Sector by sector and with Clarke caught, the group reduced in size until Van Avermaet found himself part of a strong eight-rider group with 40 kilometers to go.
Van Avermaet looked strong and was able to respond to the various moves until the final 30 kilometers when he was unable to follow the wheel on the Colle Pinzuto sector, battling on in pursuit while up ahead, Wout Van Aert (Team Jumbo Visma) launched a solo attack.
Van Aert hung on to take the solo win with Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates) and Max Schachmann (Bora – hansgrohe) rounding out the peloton, while Van Avermaet hung on to finish in eighth place, 4’27” behind Van Aert.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
Fabio Baldato, Sports Director:
“For me, this morning, we could already see that this was going to be one of the toughest editions of Strade Bianche and it was 70 kilometres from the finish that we saw the big explosion. The race was really hard because of the heat and of course, the sandy roads were really dusty, it was like a fog and it was even impossible for us to see in the car. There was a strong group of contenders here with all of the Classics guys who had all prepared well so, in the end, it was a survival race and the strongest went out in front.”
“We saw Greg really switch off the lights around 30km from the finish. Others did it before and others immediately after. On this kind of day, I am sure he gave everything and it was great to be there. He showed that he is in good condition and he will be with us for the next races in Italy too. Overall, today was just was really hard. It was really unbelievable.”
Siena > Siena (184km)
Top 3: 1. Wout Van Aert (Team Jumbo Visma), 2. Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates), 3. Max Schachmann (Bora – hansgrohe)
CCC Team top 3: 8. Greg Van Avermaet, 28. Michael Schär, 33. Alessandro De Marchi