Mathieu van der Poel produced a jaw-dropping late burst of power to win the Strade Bianche classic race for Alpecin-Fenix in front of the men’s world champion, Julian Alaphilippe of Deceuninck-Quick-Step, during a nail-biting finale on Saturday.
The cyclocross world champion made his final move on the last uphill drag to the Piazza del Campo in Siena, and Alaphilippe – the 2019 winner – was unable to follow. Egan Bernal of Ineos Grenadiers took third after the trio jumped away from a select group of riders following Van der Poel’s first brutal attack on the last sterrato – one of the dirt road sections peppering the 184km Tuscan course.
“It is one of the races I really wanted to win, I felt really good. I launched an attack in the last gravel section and then I still had something left,” said Van der Poel, who completed a Dutch double after Chantal van den Broek-Blaak prevailed in the women’s race. “I gave everything. It was amazing to finish off this way.”
Wout Van Aert of Belgium, the defending champion, took fourth place after cracking when his great rival Van der Poel, who beat him at the cyclocross world championships in January, powered away with only the Frenchman Alaphilippe and Bernal of Colombia.
Van Aert was then the strongest of the chasing group, which also featured the Tour de France champion. Tadej Pogacar, the British hot prospect Tom Pidcock and Austria’s Michael Gogl.
In the women’s race, Van den Broek-Blaak rode away from away from Elisa Longo Borghini of Trek-Segafredo on the climb up Via Santa Caterina to deliver a win the star-studded SD Worx team deserved.
With little more than six kilometres to go, the 2017 world champion attacked from a group of favourites, taking Longo Borghini with her. After forcing the Italian to do all the work, Van den Broek-Blaak punched away from Longo Borghini in the steep final kilometre to claim victory. Anna van der Breggen ensured SD Worx occupied two spots on the podium, beating out Movistar’s Annemiek van Vleuten for third.
“I felt really good, but the win came unexpected for me, it was teamwork”, said Van den Broek-Blaak. “We were there with four riders in a group of 11, so of course we had to play our numbers. It was my job to try again.
“With one kilometre to go, I could feel that she broke, and I still had something left in the tank. This ranks as one of the biggest victories in my career.”