A muddy and cold Strade Bianche was won by Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal). Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) was second over the line, more than 39 seconds behind Benoot and Cyclocross World Champion, Wout Van Aert (Verandas Williams-Crelan) finished in 3rd.
A cold and wet Strade Bianche was always going to be on the cards, given the past week’s weather in Italy. The 184km race also included 63km of gravel road, starting and ending in Siena.
As the rain continued to fall, the start got underway with a number of riders looking to find the early break of the day. It took some time before a group was able to go clear but when it did, Edvald Boasson Hagen made sure he was part of the escape for our African Team.
Boasson Hagen was joined by 9 other riders as they rode ahead of the peloton, to just over a 5-minute lead. As the race hit the dirt sectors though, it became a war of attrition out there. The peloton was constantly breaking apart and regrouping on the muddy Tuscan roads until a 70-rider group formed behind the leaders which included our Belgian, Julien Vermote.
After 132km was covered, the early break with our Norwegian star was reeled in before a small group of riders went clear from from the peloton. Bardet and Van Aert were part of this move leaving the likes of Valverde (Movistar) and Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) in their wake. Bardet and Van Aert spent close to 50km at the front of the race, before Benoot joined them with 15km of racing left.
Benoot then broke away from the duo of Bardet and Van Aert with 8km to the finish line. With slightly fresher legs, the Belgian had enough strength to hold of his two chasers all the way to the finish in Siena. Vermote would end as our best placed rider on the day, taking a hard fought 25th place.
Alex Sans Vega – Sport Director
Our goal today was to get a result with Julien and Scott, and to have someone in the break. So we got Eddy in the break, that was a good move of 10 riders, all very strong so they could get a gap of over 5 minutes. This forced teams like BMC to start chasing a lot sooner than what might have been anticipated. The high speed, coupled then with the crashes and mechanicals saw the bunch get reduced very early on. We were well represented in the front until just after the feedzone, where in sector 6 Ben punctured and then Scott also punctured 2km later. We were really far back in the convoy so it took a long time before we could assist them. They put in a big effort to try come back but in the end, that reduced us to just having two riders in the front with Edvald and Julien. Once Edvald was caught it was a race among the world class riders, Julien gave his all and did a good race but we didn’t end with a better position than 25th place. It was a tough day, our other riders finished the race, except for Bernie and Lachlan. but they were out of the time limit. It was a beautiful race for spectators and cycling in general.