Take off for Mathieu van der Poel whereas the Dutchman takes Strade Bianche to victory
Mathieu van der Poel started another big one-day race with an explosive attack on the final kilometer to claim victory at Strade Bianche in 2021.
The Dutchman took his first race-winning step in the final kilometers to clear Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) before spitting the last of his rivals off his bike as he drove into the Piazza del Campo alone, who victoriously beats the air.
Alaphilippe looked relaxed on the way to the final and marked a first move by Van der Poel as the three drivers approached the goal. However, the French world champion could not keep up with the strength of the Alpecin-Fenix rider in the last step and decided on second place when Bernal took him third.
The trio had made a clear jump after Van der Poel attacked on the last climb 12 km from the finish. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) led the chase, but the selection had been made.
Defending champion Van Aert crossed the finish line fourth in his first road race of the season, while Pidcock finished fifth in fifth. The young Briton continued his formidable form in his first WorldTour season.
How it happened
Philipp Walsleben (Alpecin-Fenix), Kévin Ledanois (Arkéa-Samsic) and Simone Bevilacqua (Vini Zabù) cut themselves off from the front at the beginning of the second gravel sector to get the day going.
After Giovanni Visconti (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè) could not cross the bridge, two drivers, Simone Petilli (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) and Samuele Zoccarato (Bardiani-CSF), made it ahead of three others, including Tosh van der Sande (Lotto ) -Soudal), jumped out of the heap to get involved too.
After being kept reasonably close together, the peloton relented, narrowing the gap to about four minutes when a pair of gravel stretches totaling 20 km (12 miles) emerged in front of them.
The refugees' advantage then collapsed to about a minute after Jumbo-Visma stepped up the pace on the longest gravel stretch of the race before television cameras captured the unwanted image of Alex Howes and an EF Education – Nippo team. Buddy sits on the side of the road after a nasty accident.
On the next, 8 km long sector, the runaway splintered when Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) tried to take a step backwards. Back on the asphalt and the effect was that the distance to the refugees was only half a minute and the peloton lost a lot in number.
On the approach to the seventh sector in San Martino in Grania the pace accelerated again. The drivers crowded around the position a little more than 70 km from the finish. The neutral service car was pulled out as the gap continued to narrow, and Viegen was the only man to go outside.
Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin-Fenix) and Gonzalo Serrano (Movistar) then withdrew from the group when the race came back together. This was always an ideal time for a strike, which also included Andreas Kron from Lotto-Soudal.
In the meantime, Tadej Pogačar had to chase back after a mechanic, as Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) also suffered a puncture.
Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo) then forced the pace that broke the Italian peloton being pursued by Asgreen for a moment before Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r Citroën) made his move, pulling the drivers clear and catching the three drivers up the road.
Asgreen, Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) and Owain Doull (Ineos) were among those who forced their way into this front group, Alaphilippe and Van der Poel were among the favorites behind.
Van Aert then accelerated from behind to close the gap before catching up on Monte Sante Marie. Alaphilippe then took over as the new pick at the top.
Van Aert, Van der Poel, Pidcock, Pogačar, Simmons, Alaphilippe, Bernal, Kevin Geniets (Groupama-FDJ) and Michael Gogl (Qhubeka-Assos) were the eight drivers who now came from the front in the last 50 km.
Jakob Fuglsang and Tim Wellens led the chase, in which Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Simon Carr (EF Education-Nippo) were also involved.
Quinn Simmons then suffered a puncture. Its disc brakes proved to be time consuming for neutral service. The American who is now on the chase is 10 seconds behind.
The seven up front worked well together. The winner looked like he would have come from this selection of talented drivers.
Van der Poel then stepped on the steep sector 9 with 15 miles, dropping Van Aert and Pidcock who had to fight to get back on their feet. Quinn Simmons then crashed, the American had bad luck in his first WorldTour race after the suspension.
Alaphilippe and Van der Poel looked strongest on Colle Pinzuto. The pace then dropped as the drivers prepared for the final gravel sector at Le Tolfe.
Van Aert was leading from the front this time when Pogačar fell back, but with 12 km to go, Van der Poel decided it was time to jump into the group from the front.
Alaphilippe was the first to answer and dragged himself back to the Dutchman, as Bernal also came back to terms.
The trio worked well together and it was soon their turn to settle between them as Van Aert chased 16 seconds further down the street.
The gap held as they sped toward Siena. Van der Poel dug less than 4 km, but Alaphilippe kept the Dutchman in check.
For the last kilometer the road began to climb, and then Van der Poel began to take off.
As an explosive attack that will be remembered for a long time, the Dutchman jumped away from Julian Alaphilippe, Bernal meanwhile blurred in the distance when Van der Poel sailed alone in the Piazza del Campo and hit the air, enthusiastic about another spectacular journey.
Strade Bianche 2021, Siena to Siena (184 km)
1. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix, 4-40-29
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, after five seconds
3. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, 20 years old
4. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, 51 years old
5. Tom Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, 54 years old
6. Michael Gogl (Aut) Qhubeka-Assos
7. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, both at the same time
8. Simon Clarke (Aus) Qhubeka-Assos, 2-25
9. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana-Premier Tech at the same time
10. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain-Victorious, 2-39