The battle was on from kilometer zero and with the peloton unhappy with the composition of the early breakaway attempts, it took almost 40 kilometers for four riders to break clear.
Behind, the peloton sat up momentarily to allow the quartet to gain an advantage of more than four minutes but an injection of pace and splits in the peloton on the fifth dirt road sector saw the breakaway’s advantage cut in half approaching the final 100 kilometers.
Van Avermaet was well positioned when the peloton split on the 11-kilometer sector and made the front selection but the groups came back together while up ahead, only Nico Denz (AG2R La Mondiale) and Diego Rosa (Team Sky) remained in front.
The peloton slowed slightly around the feed zone which allowed the duo’s advantage to extend back over the three-minute mark with 75km remaining but as the race entered the final 50km, the peloton split once again leaving a select group of a dozen riders, including Van Avermaet, in front.
The group made up of most of the pre-race favorites, caught Rosa, who was the last rider left from the breakaway, 35 kilometers from the finish line and as they forged on ahead, the next chase group hovered around 20 seconds behind.
An attack from Jakub Fulgsang (Astana Pro Team) with 20 kilometers remaining saw Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Alaphillipe bridge across and go clear, in what would eventually become the winning move.
The trio quickly gained a 15-second advantage, at which point Van Avermaet tried to bridge across but his move was immediately neutralized by Alaphilippe’s teammates.
Lack of cooperation in Van Avermaet’s group forced the Belgian to do most of the chasing but he was unable to match the speed of the leading trio, whose advantage had gone out to more than one minute with 15 kilometers to go.
Van Avermaet made multiple attacks to try and go clear but was brought back each time while up ahead, the trio entered the final kilometer and iconic steep run into the finish line in the Piazza del Campo.
Alaphilippe took the win ahead of Fulgsang and Van Aert and one minute later, Van Avermaet crossed the line in sixth place which marked his seventh top ten finish in nine participations.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
“It was super hard, like always. I think the strongest guy won. For me, I had a good day but not a super day but I tried to do as well as possible and I was really happy with how I ended up in the final. I tried my best and it’s not an easy race to win. It is always important on the sectors to stay safe and in front and I was always there. So it was a perfect race, actually. Then, when Fulgsang went I was quite far behind and actually, only Alaphilippe could make the jump over to it. Then, it was not that easy to come back into the race but I’m pretty happy.”
“It’s hard to always fight against them [three riders from Deceuninck-QuickStep) so you have to make choices and in this kind of race, Alaphilippe was by far the strongest. I did my own race but I didn’t have the same legs as last week. I didn’t have the legs to win today so I can be happy with sixth place.”
Valerio Piva, Sports Director:
“Of course, we wanted to win or be on the podium, especially after what we saw last weekend in Belgium. Greg was really strong and has the form to be contending the finals. During the race, Greg told us he was not feeling one hundred percent but we didn’t change our tactics, we supported him and stayed around him until the selection was made with 50 kilometers to go. Unfortunately, Greg was alone in this small group which makes it difficult to control the race, especially when a lot of riders were looking to him to chase the three riders who had gone clear. When they went clear, Greg was not in the next position which made it difficult to follow the move. In the end, I am happy that Greg was still up there in the top ten. We will keep trying and working towards our goal of winning one of the Classics this year.”
Siena > Siena (184km)
Top 3: 1. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), 2. Jakub Fulgsang (Astana Pro Team), 3. Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
CCC Team top 3: 6. Greg Van Avermaet, 33. Nathan Van Hooydonck, 34. Michael Schär