Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche

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Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche after SD Worx masterclass sees Lotte Kopecky win women's race - AFP

Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche after SD Worx masterclass sees Lotte Kopecky win women’s race – AFP

  • Tadej Pogacar wins race after attacking 51km from the finish

  • Alejandro Valverde finishes in second, Kasper Asgreen third

  • Lotte Kopecky wins women’s race after SD Worx masterclass

  • Annemiek van Vleuten second, Ashleigh Moolman is third

Tadej Pogacar produced a ride for the ages on Saturday as the young Slovenian became the first grand tour champion to win Strade Bianche.

Pogacar, 23, won the race that traverses the gravel roads that give the race its name, after completing 51km kilometres of the 184km classic alone, 37sec ahead of runner-up Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) with Kasper Asgreen (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl) taking third at 46sec.

As a spectacle the race may have lacked some of the jeopardy that has, since its inception in 2007, made Strade Bianche a fans’ favourite, but it did not lack drama. Indeed, as soon as the international television feed started its broadcast, the race almost descended into chaos. With strong winds buffeting the riders, a gust appeared to blow an Alpecin-Fenix rider off course and in front of world champion and 2019 winner Julian Alaphilippe. The Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl rider somersaulted off road while behind him riders crashed down heavily, including another former winner Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma) who later abandoned.

Julian Alaphilippe - Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche - GETTY IMAGESJulian Alaphilippe - Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche - GETTY IMAGES

Julian Alaphilippe – Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche – GETTY IMAGES

Julian Alaphilippe - Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche - GETTY IMAGESJulian Alaphilippe - Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche - GETTY IMAGES

Julian Alaphilippe – Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche – GETTY IMAGES

Julian Alaphilippe - Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche - GETTY IMAGESJulian Alaphilippe - Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche - GETTY IMAGES

Julian Alaphilippe – Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche – GETTY IMAGES

Julian Alaphilippe - Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche - GETTY IMAGESJulian Alaphilippe - Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche - GETTY IMAGES

Julian Alaphilippe – Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche – GETTY IMAGES

Julian Alaphilippe - Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche - GETTY IMAGESJulian Alaphilippe - Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche - GETTY IMAGES

Julian Alaphilippe – Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche – GETTY IMAGES

After being briefly caught up behind the mass pile-up, Pogacar pushed on while Alaphilippe was made to chase back on, the Frenchman assisted by team-mates Mikkel Frolich Honore and Mauro Schmid.

In the absence of the last two winners of Strade Bianche – Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel – and Tom Pidcock, Britain’s new world cyclo-cross champion who pulled out on Friday after suffering with a stomach bug, Pogacar and Alaphilippe were broadly regarded as the favourites for Saturday’s race.

Having regained contact with the main group of contenders, Alaphilippe wasted little time in flexing his muscle as tested and toyed with his rivals on the short but steep – and treacherous – gravel sections that make up 34.2 per cent of the course. With the day’s breakaway having been consumed by the main protagonists, Pogacar shifted up a gear before while on the Monte Sante Marie sector – named in honour of three-time winner Fabian Cancellara – he dropped the lot.

Julian Alaphilippe and Tadej Pogacar - Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche - GETTY IMAGESJulian Alaphilippe and Tadej Pogacar - Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche - GETTY IMAGES

Julian Alaphilippe and Tadej Pogacar – Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche – GETTY IMAGES

A brief look over his shoulder, and Pogacar was gone. “I tried to do my best effort on Monte Sante Marie, no one followed and I found myself alone at the front of the race,” Pogacar later explained.

Tadej Pogacar - Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche - APTadej Pogacar - Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche - AP

Tadej Pogacar – Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche – AP

What followed was the longest solo winning breakaway at Strade Bianche – the previous longest being Alexandr Kolobnev’s 19km effort in 2007. Little wonder the indomitable Pogacar has been described as the next Eddy Merckx.

“I didn’t really plan my attack but Monte Sante Maria is always the most important point of the race,” Pogacar added. “I expected riders to come along but nobody did so I had no choice other than to commit 100 per cent to reaching the finishing line solo.

“I suffered a lot in the last 40 to 50 kilometres. There were moments in which I was thinking that my legs would explode and I’d walk to the finish. I had no time for sightseeing for sure. I won because I had no pressure from my team for this race and I don’t really care about the pressure from the outside world.”

Tadej Pogacar - Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche - GETTY IMAGESTadej Pogacar - Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche - GETTY IMAGES

Tadej Pogacar – Pogacar-issimo! Tadej Pogacar crushes rivals to land monumental Strade Bianche – GETTY IMAGES

Earlier in the day, Lotte Kopecky became the first Belgian to win the women’s edition of the race following a tactical masterclass from her SD Worx team-mates.

Having benefited from having numbers in the leading group, Kopecky and team-mates Ashleigh Moolman and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak put in repeated attacks during what was a thrilling finale. Once within touching distance of the medieval wall that circles Siena, Kopecky held the wheel of two-time winner Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) on the final steep Via Santa Caterina climb into the city.

Once over the top of the final climb and into the walled streets of Siena, the Belgian rode a canny race taking the right line on each corner, at one point forcing Van Vleuten to go wide.

Lotte Kopecky - GETTY IMAGESLotte Kopecky - GETTY IMAGES

Lotte Kopecky – GETTY IMAGES

As a result, the Dutchwoman lost some of the momentum allowing Kopecky to gain a few metres before ultimately rolling down the shallow descent towards the finishing line in the medieval Piazza del Campo where she was able to hold her arms aloft in celebration.

“This was actually the tactic. I was quite confident before the race that I could do this on the final climb. It’s explosive and it suits me,” Kopecky said later. “We always covered the attacks before. Chantal told me to relax and not lose energy. When Annemiek couldn’t drop me, it was very good for my confidence. I hesitated last week [at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad] on the “Muur”.

“It means a lot to me to beat her. She said after the race that I was really strong and the last corner was a bit tricky. It was just one sprint to the corner. I wasn’t going to brake. It’s normal to be disappointed when you’re second. For me, this is the best result in my career so far.”

03:35 PM

Pogacarissimo! Slovenian wins Strade Bianche!

He’s done it. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) was at his imperious best as he became the first Tour de France winner to land Strade Bianche having attacked and gone solo 51km from the finishing line.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) took second, finishing 37sec behind Pogacar, while Kasper Asgreen (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl) was third.

Alejandro Valverde (left to right), Tadej Pogacar and Kasper Asgreen  - APAlejandro Valverde (left to right), Tadej Pogacar and Kasper Asgreen  - AP

Alejandro Valverde (left to right), Tadej Pogacar and Kasper Asgreen – AP

Speaking immediately afterwards, Pogacar claimed he did not know if was able to win the race until the final climb of the day. “This is an amazing win, it is truly incredible,” he said. “I went on the attack early on, but I did not know if I could make it until I reached the 5km to the finish sign. I tried to do my best effort on Monte Sante Marie, no one followed and I found myself alone at the front of the race.

Tadej Pogacar - GETTY IMAGESTadej Pogacar - GETTY IMAGES

Tadej Pogacar – GETTY IMAGES

“I was fully committed since this morning but I did not know until the last climb if I could make it,” the UAE Team Emirates rider added. “I was constantly looking back to see if someone was coming. In the finale I had very little energy left but it was enough to survive until the end.”

03:34 PM

500 metres to go

So confident is Tadej Pogacar, he is able to high five a roadside friend at the bottom of the final climb into Siena – Via Santa Caterina. What a performance this has been from the 23-year-old. Just unbelievable.

03:33 PM

Men’s race – 1km to go

With ‘just’ the Via Santa Caterina to follow now, Tadej Pogacar is minutes away from becoming the first Tour de France champion to win Strade Bianche. Yet another chapter in the quite extraordinary story of Pogacar is being written today. He leads by 53sec.

03:29 PM

Men’s race – 4km to go

No change on the front. Only a Devon Loch will see Tadej Pogacar leaving the Piazza del Campo empty handed this afternoon.

03:27 PM

Men’s race – 6km to go

Tadej Pogacar is holding on. A slight shake of the head suggests he is in a world of pain, but he’s not showing too many signs of slowing. The chasing group trail by 49sec.

03:24 PM

Men’s race – 8km to go

Hello, what’s this? Alejandro Valverde and Kasper Asgreen have taken time out of race leader Tadej Pogacar, but the Slovenian still leads by around 45sec as he nears the old walled city of Siena.

03:22 PM

Men’s race – 10km to go

Alejandro Valverde, the veteran Spaniard who is expected to retire at the end of the season, is working well together with Kasper Asgreen. With a twisty and tough finale, one would imagine the old puncheur will fancy his chances at getting one over on Asgreen.

So, what does the finale of the race look like?

Numerous short climbs pepper the run-in back towards Siena before they arrive at the old walled city.

Final 3km of the route

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On entering the city beneath the Fontebranda Gate, the leading riders will hit the large paving slabs that are seen all across the city of Siena. Now within the city walls, riding along the narrow streets and under a kilometre from the finishing line in the famous old Piazza del Campo – where the medieval Palio di Siena horse race traditionally takes place each July and August – the road rises one last vicious time.

Twisting finale into Piazza del Campo

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At around 500 metres from the line the steepest stretch of road along Via Santa Caterina cruelly tops out at 16 per cent – it was here that did for Wout van Aert in 2018 when the young Belgian cramped up (see below) – before the road takes a sharp right. A left-hand turn is followed by another right hander before the riders, finally, arrive in Piazza del Campo.

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Providing they have any horse-power left, once they have navigated a short descent the riders can gallop for the line on one of the few pan-flat stretches of the entire course, which clocks in at a measly 30 metres long.

03:18 PM

Men’s race – 12km to go

Tadej Pogacar has completed all of the off-road’ sections of today’s race, hitting the asphalt with a lead over Kasper Asgreen of 55sec. Alejandro Valverde has caught the Dane.

03:15 PM

Men’s race – 13km to go

Tadej Pogacar has gained a few seconds on Kasper Asgreen, takinga one minute lead into the final sector of strade bianche in today’s race. Huge crowds line the dusty white road, cheering on this superstar of the sport.

03:11 PM

Men’s race – 16km to go

Kasper Asgreen is the lone chaser, 7sec up the road from the chasing group, but 53sec adrift of race leader Tadej Pogacar. Asgreen, of course, is a three-time time trial champion so is no stranger to these kind of efforts. Unfortunately for the Dane, Pogacar is a strong tester, too.

03:07 PM

Men’s race – 19km to go

Tim Wellens had enough of riding in the chasing group and slipped off the front, but the engine that is Kasper Asgreen pulled him back. If they want to reel Tadej Pogacar back in they need to collaborate, but it doesn’t look like everybody is singing from the same hymn sheet today.

03:05 PM

Men’s race – 20km to go

A five-man group comprising Kasper Asgreen (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl), Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers), Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) have slipped off up the road, chasing race leader Tadej Pogacar, As the Slovenian hits the penultimate sector of white road, that group trails by a minute.

03:01 PM

Men’s race – 23km to go

Kasper Asgreen (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl) rises out of his saddle, putting in an almighty effort on the front of the chasing group. As a result, Tadej Pogacar’s lead has dropped slightly to below a minute. Interesting.

02:58 PM

Men’s race – 24km to go

Carlos Rodríguez has been caught by the peloton, while Tadej Pogacar has hit sector nine with a lead of 1min 20sec. Toms Skujins is on the front for Trek-Segafredo, with team-mate Quinn Simmons tucked in behind.

02:53 PM

Men’s race – 30km to go

Tadej Pogacar is showing no sign of slowing. In fact, the UAE Team Emirates rider has increased his lead over Carlos Rodríguez to 1min 10sec with the peloton another 25sec down to road. Bearing in mind some of the best riders in the world are in the peloton chasing, this is quite some ride from Pogacar who already has two monuments – Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia – on his palmarès along with two Tours de France, and three stage at the Vuelta a España and the overall at Tirreno-Adriatico. And he is still only 23. Little wonder he is likened to Eddy Merckx.

02:44 PM

Men’s race – 36km to go

Tadej Pogacar leads the peloton by 1min 26sec. Julian Alaphilippe was spotted talking to his sports directors in the team car a few moments ago, one suspects the Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl team are feeling a little deflated right now.

02:34 PM

Men’s race – 42.5km to go

The peloton is over a minute down on race leader Tadej Pogacar, with Carlos Rodríguez 36sec behind the Slovenian. Unless he suffers a mechanical – or maybe two – or crashes, it is difficult to see how Pogacar will not win this race. It may not make the most thrilling spectacle, but this is an almighty performance, reminiscent of side during stage eight at last year’s Tour de France.

02:27 PM

Men’s race – 47m to go

Tadej Pogacar, who finished seventh here last year, has a 16sec lead over Carlos Rodríguez with the peloton another 15sec down the road. The 23-year-old is crushing this, turning each small piece of gravel on the road to Siena to dust: utterly dominant, a pogcineration of his rivals.

Tadej Pogacar  - GETTY IMAGESTadej Pogacar  - GETTY IMAGES

Tadej Pogacar – GETTY IMAGES

02:21 PM

Men’s race – 49m to go

Tadej Pogacar has managed to put four or five bike lengths into the rest of the field. This is only the two-time Tour de France winners’ second race of the season and in the first one – the UAE Tour – he won two stages and the general classification and he’s looking very strong.

Tadej Pogacar - GETTY IMAGESTadej Pogacar - GETTY IMAGES

Tadej Pogacar – GETTY IMAGES

Tadej Pogacar - GETTY IMAGESTadej Pogacar - GETTY IMAGES

Tadej Pogacar – GETTY IMAGES

Tadej Pogacar - GETTY IMAGESTadej Pogacar - GETTY IMAGES

Tadej Pogacar – GETTY IMAGES

Carlos Rodríguez, the Spaniard riding for Ineos Grenadiers, is second on the road having gone off the front of the leading group.

02:19 PM

Men’s race – 50m to go

Over the brow of a dusty hill and Tim Wellens rolls off the front, but Jan Tratnik (Bahrain Victorious) pulls him back. Julian Alaphilippe follows. A few minutes later and Tadej Pogacar hits the front. He can’t possibly go all the way to the line solo, can he?

02:16 PM

Men’s race – 52.5m to go

Julian Alaphilippe looks to have lost none of his energy, powering up a steep looking ramp of white chalky road. Tim Wellens remains seated at the arrowhead of the following group.

02:13 PM

Men’s race – 55km to go

Difficult to identify riders as they push on through the billowing plumes of dust, but it sounds like Alejandro Valverde, Tim Wellens and Tadej Pogacar are well position on section eight. The breakaway’s advantage has been slashed and will be caught very soon.

02:06 PM

Men’s race – 60km to go

Alejandro Valverde has shunted himself towards the front of the peloton, the old campaigner has three Movistar team-mates – including Mathias Norsgaard whose sister Emma won Le Samyn midweek – on duty for him. The breakaway is holding on to its lead of around one minute.

01:59 PM

Men’s race – 65km to go

Leon Heinschke has been dropped by the breakaway on this very tough stretch of gravel. It looks very windy with the roadside flags flapping furiously near the summit of one of the steep, gnarly climbs. The leading quartet are holding on by around a minute, but there’s some serious horsepower in the chasing group.

01:41 PM

Men’s race – 73km to go

Tadej Pogacar, who in the absence of Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Tom Pidcock must be one of the favourites today, is being protected very well by a phalanx of UAE Team Emirates team-mates as they hit the seventh sector of gravel.

Tucked in behind the young Slovenian are Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), the Belgian who arrives in fine form, and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), the Olympic champion who is making his third outing at Strade Bianche today.

Strade Bianche - APStrade Bianche - AP

Strade Bianche – AP

01:35 PM

Men’s race – 75km to go

Lotto-Soudal team-mates Victor Campenaerts and Brent Van Moer have abandoned, as has Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious), but there is some good news for one of the pre-race favourites, world champion Julian Alaphilippe, who has managed to regain contact with the peloton thanks to some great work from Mikkel Frolich Honore.

01:28 PM

Men’s race – 80km to go

Simone Bevilacqua (Eolo-Kometa), Sergio García (Eolo-Kometa) and Edoardo Zardini (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli) have been dropped by the breakaway where Taco van der Hoorn and his extremely narrow handlebars are positioned. The popular Dutchman went close last weekend where he eventually finished 10th at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne after being in the day’s break. The five-man group’s advantage on the peloton has increased to a shade over a minute.

Heinrich Haussler, incidentally, is riding on the front with a handful of Bahrain Victorious team-mates tucked in behind (though I’m not too sure why they are doing so much work right now).

01:21 PM

Benoot abandons!

Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma), the Belgian who won here in 2018, has abandoned the race. I understand he was caught up in the crash a few minutes ago along with a handful of others.

Tiesj Benoot  - GETTY IMAGESTiesj Benoot  - GETTY IMAGES

Tiesj Benoot – GETTY IMAGES

That will come as a big blow for the man from Ghent who arrived in fine form following some strong rides at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco), who was making his Strade Bianche debut today, has also quit.

Michael Matthews  - GETTY IMAGESMichael Matthews  - GETTY IMAGES

Michael Matthews – GETTY IMAGES

01:15 PM

Men’s race – 90km to go

Right folks, as mentioned earlier a nine-man breakaway comprising Simone Bevilacqua (Eolo-Kometa), Marco Brenner (DSM), Lilian Calmejane (Ag2r-Citroën), Sergio García (Eolo-Kometa), Leon Heinschke (DSM), Davide Martinelli (Astana Qazaqstan), Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Edoardo Zardini (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli) and Samuele Zoccarato (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) lead the race, their advantage over the peloton by just 30sec now.

The big talking point, however, is that there was a huge crash a few minutes ago involving former winner Julian Alaphilippe ( Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl). As a result of that crash the Frenchman has lost contact with the peloton and sits over two minutes down on the race leaders. Alaphilippe has team-mates Mikkel Frolich Honore and Mauro Schmid, the latter of whom won a stage at last year’s Giro d’Italia when it passed over the white roads of the region, for company but he has much to do if he wants to contest today.

Julian Alaphilippe and Davide Bramati - GETTY IMAGESJulian Alaphilippe and Davide Bramati - GETTY IMAGES

Julian Alaphilippe and Davide Bramati – GETTY IMAGES

Speaking on the eve of the race, QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl sports director Davide Bramati said the team had planned for every scenario. One imagine they had not planned for their main man being blown off course, but it will be interesting to see what happens next.

“We’ve had many good results here in the past, three wins with as many different riders, and we want to be again up there and feature in the fight for victory, especially as it is a race we like a lot,” Bramati said. “It’s going to be a completely different race than we are used to, with temperatures of 35 degrees and even more dust than usual, but we are going there with a huge motivation after our excellent Val di Fassa training camp and prepared for every type of scenario”.

01:02 PM

The most beautiful race in the world?

Strade Bianche 2022 live: race updates from the white Tuscan roads - GETTY IMAGESStrade Bianche 2022 live: race updates from the white Tuscan roads - GETTY IMAGES

Strade Bianche 2022 live: race updates from the white Tuscan roads – GETTY IMAGES

Strade Bianche 2022 live: race updates from the white Tuscan roads - GETTY IMAGESStrade Bianche 2022 live: race updates from the white Tuscan roads - GETTY IMAGES

Strade Bianche 2022 live: race updates from the white Tuscan roads – GETTY IMAGES

Strade Bianche 2022 live: race updates from the white Tuscan roads - GETTYY IMAGESStrade Bianche 2022 live: race updates from the white Tuscan roads - GETTYY IMAGES

Strade Bianche 2022 live: race updates from the white Tuscan roads – GETTYY IMAGES

Strade Bianche 2022 live: race updates from the white Tuscan roads - GETTY IMAGESStrade Bianche 2022 live: race updates from the white Tuscan roads - GETTY IMAGES

Strade Bianche 2022 live: race updates from the white Tuscan roads – GETTY IMAGES

Strade Bianche 2022 live: race updates from the white Tuscan roads - GETTY IMAGESStrade Bianche 2022 live: race updates from the white Tuscan roads - GETTY IMAGES

Strade Bianche 2022 live: race updates from the white Tuscan roads – GETTY IMAGES

12:18 PM

Kopecky wins Strade Bianche Donne!

What a great finale that was. Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx), the 26-year-old Belgian, almost lost the wheel of Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) on the Via Santa Caterina climb but, somehow, stayed close enough to remain in contention. Once over the top of the final climb and into the walled streets of Siena, the Belgian rode a canny race taking the right line on each corner, at one point forcing Van Vleuten to go wide.

As a result, the Dutchwoman lost some of the momentum allowing Kopecky to gain a few metres before ultimately rolling down the shallow descent towards the finishing line in the medieval Piazza del Campo where she was able to hold her arms aloft in celebration.

Lotte Kopecky  - GETTY IMAGESLotte Kopecky  - GETTY IMAGES

Lotte Kopecky – GETTY IMAGES

Lotte Kopecky  - GETTY IMAGESLotte Kopecky  - GETTY IMAGES

Lotte Kopecky – GETTY IMAGES

Kopecky’s team-mate Ashleigh Moolman took third following what was a masterclass from SD Worx. A thrilling finale to the first race of the Women’s WorldTour.

Speaking afterwards, Kopecky says: “I cannot believe I just won! It was a great team effort from the whole team SD Worx. I knew I had team-mates behind me that had my back. I had a good feeling in the finale, I tried to follow Annemiek van Vleuten and I just kept pushing until the last corner, I knew I had to be first on the last corner, I was prepared for the sprint. It is the biggest victory of my career.”

12:17 PM

Women’s race – 500 metres to go

Annemiek van Vleuten goes, and she’s out of the saddle. Lotte Kopecky is hanging on by her finger nails, Ashleigh Moolman is a few bike lengths further back.

12:16 PM

Women’s race – 1km to go

Annemiek van Vleuten will be launching an attack very soon, but can anybody match her power on the very steep climb into Siena?

12:14 PM

Women’s race – 2km to go

There’s a small four-woman group that has just bridged over to the leading protagonists, and they are going at a fair old lick now. Nervous times for all involved, this is probably the biggest group I’ve ever seen at this point in the race – comprising 11 riders now.

12:10 PM

Women’s race – 5.5km to go

Demi Vollering clawed her way back on before putting in an audacious attack, unfortunately for the Dutchwoman it came to nothing. A minute or so later the SD Worx rider went again, and again it fizzled out following some counter moves from this small group of hitters. Marianne Vos, by the way, has managed to get back into the leading group.

12:07 PM

Women’s race – 6km to go

Ashleigh Moolman (SD Worx) launches herself off the chasing group before the South African catches Annemiek van Vleuten and Lotte Kopecky. Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-Sram), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) lead the race after Marianne Vos and Demi Vollering were dropped.

12:04 PM

Women’s race – 9km to go

Annemiek van Vleuten and Lotte Kopecky are working together at the moment, riding as if doing atwo-up time trial in an effort to hold off the charging pack. However, their advantage is slim – just 9sec – and there are a few sharp kickers to follow where valuable time can be lost, or gained if you are a powerful puncheur like Van Vleuten.

11:59 AM

Women’s race – 11km to go

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig takes up the chase, with Marianne Vos sat on the Dane’s wheel.

11:57 AM

Women’s race – 12km to go

Onto the final, short but steep, section of gravel and Annemiek van Vleuten drifts to the front using all of her seated-power to split that group up. Only Lotte Kopecky is able to hold onto the Dutchwoman’s wheel. Difficult to comprehend that Van Vleuten broke her pelvic bone in a crash at last year’s Paris-Roubaix in October, and here she is once again smashing the peloton to pieces.

Annemiek van Vleuten rides on the front ahead of Lotte Kopecky - GETTY IMAGESAnnemiek van Vleuten rides on the front ahead of Lotte Kopecky - GETTY IMAGES

Annemiek van Vleuten rides on the front ahead of Lotte Kopecky – GETTY IMAGES

11:50 AM

Women’s race – 16km to go

Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) has been caught, her team-mate Chantal van den Broek-Blaak takes over on the front of the leading group. A small group featuring Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), second here last year, is about to bridge over to swell that bunch on the front.

Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-Sram), Grace Brown (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope), Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope), Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), Elise Chabbey (Canyon-Sram), Yara Kastelijn (Plantur-Pura), Liane Lippert (DSM), Shirin van Anrooij (Trek-Segafredo) and Silvia Persico (Valcar-Travel & Service) are also in the leading group along with Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) and Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar).

11:46 AM

Women’s race – 18.5km to go

Lotte Kopecky is onto the penultimate section of gravel in the women’s race. The Belgian has team-mates Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, Ashleigh Moolman and Demi Vollering in the group behind so looking good for SD Worx, but with Dutch powerhouses Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) and Annemiek van Vleuten also being in that group this race is far from over.

11:41 AM

Women’s race – 21.5km to go

Movistar team-mates Paula Andrea Patiño and Alicia González appear cooked after putting in a shift getting their leader Annemiek van Vleuten into a good position ahead of the next section of gravel. Those big efforst a few minutes ago has seen the group whittle down a little more. And Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx), the Belgian national champion, has clipped off the front in a sole attack.

Lotte Kopecky - GETTY IMAGESLotte Kopecky - GETTY IMAGES

Lotte Kopecky – GETTY IMAGES

11:36 AM

Women’s race – 23.5km to go

Marta Bastianelli (UAE Team ADQ) shifted off the front of that leading group, but the former women’s world road champion was closed down by Alena Amialiusik (Canyon-Sram) before the pair were closed down. Movistar are looking very lively, presumably riding for two-time winner Annemiek van Vleuten.

11:26 AM

As it stands . . .

There are no television pictures of the men’s race just yet, but as it stands there is a nine-man breakaway off up the road comprising Simone Bevilacqua (Eolo-Kometa), Marco Brenner (DSM), Lilian Calmejane (Ag2r-Citroën), Sergio García (Eolo-Kometa), Leon Heinschke (DSM), Davide Martinelli (Astana Qazaqstan), Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Edoardo Zardini (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli) and Samuele Zoccarato (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane). That group is already on to the second section of white gravel road and they lead the peloton by around 2min 45sec.

Although the women’s field has whittled down a little, the reduced peloton is now just 30km from the finish with all of the main protagonists still in the leading group.

11:15 AM

What no Pidcock?

One of the riders that many had been tipping for glory at this year’s race, a certain Tom Pidcock of Ineos Grenadiers, was unable to start the race after the young Briton picked up a stomach bug.

11:10 AM

What does the startlist for the men’s race look like?

WorldTeams

Ag2r-Citroën (Fra): Clément Berthet (Fra, neo-pro), Lilian Calmejane (Fra), Benoît Cosnefroy (Fra), Michael Schär (Swi), Greg Van Avermaet (Bel), Andrea Vendrame (Ita), Clément Venturini (Fra).

Astana Qazaqstan (Kaz): Leonardo Basso (Ita), Manuele Boaro (Ita), Michele Gazzoli (Ita, neo-pro), Miguel Ángel López (Col), Davide Martinelli (Ita), Gianni Moscon (Ita), Simone Velasco (Ita).

Bahrain Victorious (Brn): Pello Bilbao (Spa), Heinrich Haussler (Aus), Matej Mohoric (Slo), Alejandro Osorio (Col), Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut), Jan Tratnik (Slo), Edoardo Zambanini (Ita, neo-pro).

BikeExchange-Jayco (Aus): Sam Bewley (NZ), Kevin Colleoni (Ita, neo-pro), Tsgabu Grmay (Eth), Alexander Konychev (Ita), Michael Matthews (Aus), Matteo Sobrero (Ita).

Bora-Hansgrohe (Ger): Cesare Benedetti (Ita), Patrick Gamper (Aut), Sergio Higuita (Col), Jai Hindley (Aus), Patrick Konrad (Aut), Ide Schelling (Hol), Ben Zwiehoff (Ger).

DSM (Ger): Nikias Arndt (Ger), Marco Brenner (Ger, neo-pro), Romain Combaud (Fra), Chris Hamilton (Aus), Leon Heinschke (Ger, neo-pro), Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned).

EF Education-EasyPost (US): Jonathan Caicedo (Ecu), Ruben Guerreiro (Por), Ben Healy (Irl, neo-pro), Tom Scully (NZ), Michael Valgren (Den), Marijn van den Berg (Ned, neo-pro).

Groupama-FDJ (Fra): Lewis Askey (GB, neo-pro), Antoine Duchesne (Can), Fabian Lienhard (Swi), Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe), Thibaut Pinot (Fra), Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi), Attila Valter (Hun).

Ineos Grenadiers (GB): Richard Carapaz (Ecu), Jhonatan Narváez (Col), Salvatore Puccio (Ita), Carlos Rodríguez (Spa), Ben Swift (GB), Ben Turner (GB, neo-pro).

Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux (Bel): Jan Bakelants (Bel), Theo Delacroix (Fra, neo-pro), Quinten Hermans (Bel), Simone Petilli (Ita), Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita), Lorenzo Rota (Ita), Taco van der Hoorn (Ned).

Israel-Premier Tech (Isr): Matthias Brändle (Aut), Alexander Cataford (Can), Simon Clarke (NZ), Jakob Fuglsang (Den), Taj Jones (Aus, neo-pro), Krists Neilands (Lat), Guy Sagiv (Isr).

Jumbo-Visma (Ned): Tiesj Benoot (Bel), Koen Bouwman (Ned), Robert Gesink (Ned), Sepp Kuss (US), Timo Roosen (Ned), Milan Vader (Ned).

Lotto-Soudal (Bel): Victor Campenaerts (Bel), Roger Kluge (Ger), Andreas Kron (Den), Harry Sweeny (Aus, neo-pro), Maxim Van Gils (Bel, neo-pro), Brent Van Moer (Bel), Tim Wellens (Bel).

Movistar (Spa): Jorge Arcas (Spa), Lluís Mas (Spa), Mathias Norsgaard (Den), Nelson Oliveira (Por), Einer Rubio (Col), Gonzalo Serrano (Spa), Alejandro Valverde (Spa).

Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl (Bel): Julian Alaphilippe (Fra), Kasper Asgreen (Den), Dries Devenyns (Bel), Mikkel Frolich Honore (Den), Mauro Schmid (Swi, neo-pro), Pieter Serry (Bel), Louis Vervaeke (Bel).

Trek-Segafredo (US): Gianluca Brambilla (Ita), Dario Cataldo (Ita), Alexander Kamp (Den), Quinn Simmons (US), Toms Skujins (Lat), Edward Theuns (Bel), Antonio Tiberi (Ita).

UAE Team Emirates (UAE): Mikkel Bjerg (Den), Alessandro Covi (Ita), Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor), Tadej Pogacar (Slo), Maximiliano Richeze (Arg), Marc Soler (Spa), Diego Ulissi (Ita).

ProTeams

Alpecin-Fenix (Bel): Floris De Tier (Bel), Michael Gogl (Aut), Xandro Meurisse (Bel), Stefano Oldani (Ita), Robert Stannard (Aus), Scott Thwaites (GB), Gianni Vermeersch (Bel).

Arkéa-Samsic (Fra): Warren Barguil (Fra), Anthony Delaplace (Fra), Miguel Eduardo Flórez (Col), Élie Gesbert (Fra), Romain Hardy (Fra), Alan Riou (Fra), Clément Russo (Fra).

Bardiani-CSF-Faizane (Ita): Johnatan Cañaveral (Col), Filippo Fiorelli (Ita), Davide Gabburo (Ita), Alex Tolio (Ita), Giovanni Visconti (Ita), Filippo Zana (Ita), Samuele Zoccarato (Ita).

Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli (Ita): Juan Diego Alba (Col), Mattia Bais (Ita), Gabriele Benedetti (Ita), Umberto Marengo (Ita), Simone Ravanelli (Ita), Jhonatan Restrepo (Col), Edoardo Zardini (Ita).

Eolo-Kometa (Ita): Vincenzo Albanese (Ita), Simone Bevilacqua (Ita), Marton Dina (Hun), Erik Fetter (Hun), Sergio García (Spa), Samuele Rivi (Ita), Diego Pablo Sevilla (Spa).

10:59 AM

Ciao, buon giorno!

Hello and welcome to our live rolling blog from the 16th edition of Strade Bianche, the 184-kilometre race around the picturesque landscape of Tuscany.

Strade Bianche is a unique race in the professional calendar that has earned a place in the hearts of cycling fans despite its relatively short existence. While amateurs are often found aping their heroes, the first Italian race of the WorldTour season reverses the paradigm.

Taking its lead from the huge popularity of Eroica, the non-competitive amateur event that traverses the chalky white roads of Tuscany and requires riders to complete the event on retro steel bicycles, RCS Sport, organisers of the Giro d’Italia, launched Strade Bianche in 2007 – then called Monte Paschi Eroica – when Alexandr Kolobnev prevailed.

Swiss classics specialist Fabian Cancellara won the first of the three Strade Bianche titles he claimed – he remains the most successful rider on the white roads – the following year in 2008. Unsurprisingly, the race has become a particular favourite with the classics riders, particularly since its move to the earlier part of the calendar from its original October slot – other than 2020’s event that was switched to August as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Previous winners include Philippe Gilbert, Michal Kwiatkowski, Zdenek Stybar, Julian Alaphilippe, Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel while Moreno Moser remains the sole Italian to have won the race.

The race earned itself WorldTour status in 2016. The eighth edition of the women’s event also takes place today and it once again acts as the curtain-raiser to the Women’s WorldTour.

As it stands the women’s race is into the final 45km of action, while the men passed through KM0 – the official start following a short neutralised section – a few minutes ago. The conditions out in northern Italty are perfect for bike racing, clear blue skies and a slight breeze. It was, according to some pre-race chat with Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope), a littler chilly earlier this morning.