Race Report: Many predicted that the Dutch national champion, Mathieu van der Poel would win the 2021 Strade Bianche, but the Tuscan race on the white roads can be a lottery. The race came down to three men; Van der Poel, Julian Alaphilippe and Egan Bernal, the race would be decided on the final climb to the Piazza del Campo, Siena.
More than happy!
Mathieu van der Poel can add the Strade Bianche to his already impressive palmarès. On the steep final kilometre, the Alpecin-Fenix rider finished off his escape companions Alaphilippe and Egan Bernal.
Rain last night, but dry gravel this morning
In the early stages of the race, three riders managed to take a gap on the first gravel section: Philipp Walsleben, Kevin Ledanois and Simone Bevillacqua. Because the pace remained high behind the three leaders, Walsleben, Ledanois and Bevillacqua were unable to build a big lead. Some riders in the peloton even saw the escape as an invitation to counter-attack.
Big favourite – Mathieu van der Poel
Tosh Van der Sande, Samuele Rivi and Filippo Tagliani jumped across on the fourth gravel section. Previously, Samuele Zoccarato and Simone Petilli also succeeded in their attempt. The eight leaders were now able to build up a lead. This quickly increased to 4 minutes. The peloton, where we saw UAE Team Emirates and Jumbo-Visma in the lead, then started chasing. On the seventh gravel strip of the day, only a minute of the lead remained. Rivi, Tagliani and Bevillacqua had been dropped from the group of escapees.
Loic Vliegen (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) was very active early in the race
Once again a number of riders in the peloton saw their chance to cross. First Loic Vliegen and Rudy Molard, then Gonzalo Serrano, Andreas Kron and Gianni Vermeersch. The protagonists from earlier in the race had disappeared.
Nice day in Tuscany
A new escape from Serrano, Kron and Vermeersch was more successful. The Spaniard, Dane and Belgian were joined by another group 57 kilometres from the finish: Kasper Asgreen, Quinn Simmons, Greg Van Avermaet were a few of the fifteen names at the front of the race.
Crash for Harper
Five kilometres later, the remainder of the peloton, led by Jumbo-Visma re-caught the front riders. In the meantime we could see that there were no more than thirty riders left together.
The calm before the storm
Typical scene from Strade Bianche
The race really started after that. On the 11.5 kilometre long Monte Sante Marie, we saw the first of favourites hand out some pain with Wout van Aert and Julian Alaphilippe. No more than nine riders remained: Kevin Geniets, Mathieu van der Poel, Tom Pidcock, Tadej Pogacar, Simmons, Egan Bernal and Michael Gogl.
Van der Poel looking good
Behind the nine remaining riders; Pello Bilbao, Jakob Fuglsang, Robert Power, Simon Carr, Peter Vakoc, Simon Clarke, Tim Wellens and Vermeersch tried to return with everything they had left. Although they disappeared further and further from view, they almost reconnected at 35 kilometres, but that was the closest they got.
First race back on the road for Van Aert
Seven front riders, because Simmons and Geniets were no longer at the front, then started the ninth section of the day: the 800 metre long Monteaperti. There Alaphilippe put in a new attack. The world champion saw Van der Poel, Bernal, Pogačar and Gogl quickly reconnect, but Van Aert and Pidcock surprisingly were in trouble.
Puncture for Simmons ended his chances
With gritted teeth, the Belgian and Briton rejoined on the penultimate sector of the day. With 18 kilometres to go, only the gravel of Le Tolfe was still on the menu. Van der Poel and Alaphilippe were the best looking of the seven front riders.
Van Aert and Pidcock
Le Tolfe was where the action was going to take place. On the steep last metres of the gravel, Van der Poel made a vicious attack. Nobody was able to follow the Dutch champion, but within a kilometre Bernal and Alaphilippe fought back to the Dutch champion.
Not to be Van Avermaet’s day
The three riders then rode together to the Piazza del Campo. One of them would take the victory in the Strade Bianche, as the pursuers were following at more than 10 seconds.
The winning move from Mathieu
The steep final kilometre was going to decide the winner, as another attack by Van der Poel at five kilometres from the finish could not break Bernal and Alaphilippe. In the final kilometre Van der Poel made his winning move. Alaphilippe was second, Bernal third.
The one Van der Poel really wanted to win
Race winner, Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix): “Strade Bianche is one of the races I really wanted to win. It’s really cool to win it today. I felt pretty good so I launched an attack in the last gravelled section. Then we had a strong ride with Bernal and Alaphilippe. I had enough left in the legs to go solo in the last climb. It’s amazing to finish it off this way.”
Strade Bianche Result:
1. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix in 4:40:29
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 0:05
3. Egan Bernal (Col) INEOS Grenadiers at 0:20
4. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma at 0:51
5. Thomas Pidcock (GB) INEOS Grenadiers at 0:54
6. Michael Gogl (Aust) Qhubeka Assos
7. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
8. Simon Clarke (Aus) Qhubeka Assos at 2:25
9. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana-Premier Tech
10. Pello Bilbao (Spa) Bahrain Victorious at 2:39.