May 26, 2022

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Pogacar storms to phenomenal Strade Bianche victory

Pogacar storms to phenomenal Strade Bianche victory

Tadej Pogacar won the Strade Bianche one-day cycling classic on Saturday with a long-range solo attack on the gravel roads of Tuscany.

The 23-year-old Tour de France champion Pogacar made his move 50 kilometres from the Sienna finish line on a wind-swept day, finishing 37 seconds ahead of Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde after nearly five hours of riding.

The Team UAE leader made his way alone up a steep incline to a sun-kissed Piazza del Campo in Siena to win the 184km race at his fourth attempt, the latest scalp in his already long list of major career triumphs.

Valverde defied his 41 years to finish 37sec back, the 2018 world champion arriving at the line and immediately making his way to Pogacar before embracing and congratulating the Slovenian for a phenomenal victory.

“This is an amazing win, incredible. I didn’t know until 5km to go that I was going to make it, even until the last climb I was still looking behind,” Pogacar told Eurosport.

“In the end I was alone. I was all the time looking back — where is everybody? It was really tense. My energy was going lower and lower in the final, but I managed to survive until the end.”

His win came in cold, blustery conditions which caused a spectacular crash around halfway through the race, on the white gravel roads of the Crete Senesi.

Reigning world champion Julian Alaphilippe was the high-profile rider worst hit by the crash, flying over his handlebars and onto his back before rolling off the the road and into a field as the swirling wind whipped up dust through the open roads of the central Tuscan route and pushed riders off balance.

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Wind in Pogacar’s wings

Around 30 riders were affected by the crash including Jumbo-Visma’s Tiesj Benoot, the 2018 winner’s forfeit a huge blow for his team who were without 2020 champion Wout van Aert, taking part in Sunday’s Paris-Nice instead.

However experienced Frenchman Alaphilippe got back onto his bike and attempted to catch up with the lead group, who by that time had the peloton hot on their heels.

In that chasing pack were Pogacar and Jakob Fuglsang, two of the pre-race favourites.

Alaphilippe joined up with the main peloton with 75km remaining and little more than a minute between them and a breakaway group.

The breakaway was caught with 52km to go on the gruelling Monte Sante Marie climb made harder by the wind.

That didn’t stop Pogacar making his move shortly afterwards, slowly stretching his lead on the peloton to a minute 30 seconds over the next 20km.

He hit the Colle Pinzuto sector, around 20km from the finish, with a lead of around a minute over a four-man chasing group lead by Valverde.

By the time Pogacar hit the outskirts of Siena Valverde and Quick-Step rider Kasper Asgreen had managed to cut the gap to just 50 seconds.

But there was no stopping cycling’s hottest property taking the plaudits in the Tuscan sun.