Strade Bianche as it happened - The first cycling Classic of the summer
Re-live the action with Tom Owen's live coverage of Strade Bianche.
: Wout van Aert of Belgium and Team Jumbo-Visma / Dust / during the Eroica - 14th Strade Bianche 2020 - Men a 184km race from Siena to Siena-Piazza del Campo / #StradeBianche / on August 01, 2020 in Siena, Italy.
Result! –Wout Van Aert wins the 2020 men's Strade Bianche
The Belgian superstar of Jumbo-Visma had just too much power for the others from the elite group. He knew he had to go long, launching his attack with 11km to go on the race's last strade bianche section. . No cramp for him this time on the final rise as he rounds the corner ans takes a truly beautiful victory.
Davide Formolo (UAE Emirates) outsprints Max Schachmann (Bora Hansgrohe) for second.
1km remaining – Flamme Rouge for Van Aert
Van Aert takes the flamme rouge alone and his gap is unassailable. He is going to win this on the deserted streets of Siena.
5km remaining – Wout! Wout!
Wout van Aert is charging through every turn like a steam train now and he looks in good nick, under the thick layer of white dust that is. Behind, Formolo and Schachmann are gaining seconds, so my claim that the Italian was dropped turned out to be erroneous. The gap is nine seconds.
Oh, and to add a little extra spice to proceedings, this final climb is where Van Aert got a deadly double leg cramp in a previous edition and fell from his bike.
11km remaining – van Aert goes solo
Wout has gone for a long one. He's pulled clear of the other leaders on an uphill gravel sector and he's drawing on all his cyclocross nous as he powers away from his rivals. He hits the top with Bettiol in hot pursuit and that marks the end of today's strade bianche. It's about 10km of tarmac remaining, followed by those iconic paved streets of Siena for the finale.
The attack has shaken loose Davide Formolo, so it's just Bettiol, Shachmann and Fuglsang pursuing.
15km remaining – Adieu, Greg...
We won't be seeing the gaudy gold helmet of Greg van Avermaet on the podium today, he's lost contact with the leaders. The six, briefly a two and a four, is now a five, but might swell again in size if Zdenek Stybar can bridge across. The Czech is currently putting in a Herculean effort to get up to the front of this bike race.
20km remaining – Max Attacksman
With the pursuers gaining ground, Max Schachmann has decided that he'd rather not add Zdenek Stybar into the mix of potential winners and has shot off the front of the leading six, with Wout Van Aert in tow. The pair are hurtling along in two-up TT mode and all of a sudden the dynamism – which had somewhat ebbed – has returned to the race. In the chase, Greg van Avermaet continues to tailgun the group, while poor old Alberto Bettiol is doing more than the lion's share. Formolo and Fuglsang are sizing up their options.
24km remaining – A pause in hostilities
The leading six have a gap of 1'01" to the next group of chasers and that margin has been gradually coming down over the last few kilometres. However, we may find that the time balloons out again once the leaders hit the next sector of strade bianche. The chasers are Michael Gogl (NTT Pro Cycling), Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck QuickStep) and Brent Bookwalter (Mitchelton Scott).
33km remaining – Cagey, cagey, catchy monkey
This elite selection of six have spent the last few kms grabbing as much water as they can from the cars. In Schachmann's case, he's also stuffed a good-sized freezer drawer worth of ice down his jersey, will that prove to be the marginal gain that makes the difference, or a tactical slip-up.
43km remaining – Fuglsang caught, six in the lead
Van Aert, Van Avermaet, Schachmann, Bettiol and Formolo have all caught up with Fuglsang. You would not bet against this group of six galacticos contesting the win now. They are off the gravel and enjoying a wee respite.
48km remaining – Riders all over the road
That's the end of any notion of a 'peloton' for today, I think. A flurry of attacks on one of the steeper uphill strade sectors has created one frayed-looking group of about eight at the front, with some incredible firepower within it. Max Schachmann (Bora Hansgrohe), Greg van Avermaet (CCC Team), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Alberto Bettiol (EF Pro Cycling), Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates), Michal Kwiatkowski (INEOS) and Wout Van Aert (Jumbo Visma) all up there. And it looks like Jakob Fuglsang, pipped to second place last year by Alaphilippe, has attacked that group and is leading the race solo.
Defending champion, Julian Alaphilippe is out of contention. Everybody's favourite phenom, Mathieu van der Poel, is way back now – but after his stunning Amstel Gold win last season, you would never count him out.
53km remaining – Simon Clarke goes away solo
EF Pro Cycling really are throwing the kitchen sink at this race today, with the veteran Aussie the latest to get up the road. A quartet of riders are bridging over to him, with NTT, AG2R, Astana and Mitchelton riders just about making the junction. The gap is roughyl 20 seconds.
Behind that soon-to-be-quintet, Michael Woods is having an armchair ride in the pursuit group, courtesy of his teammate's efforts.
59km remaining – Double disaster for Sunweb
We're hearing that Teisj Benoot and Soren Kragh Andersen have both abandoned, quite possibly as a result of that crash we mentioned involving Stefan Kung. That's Plan A and Plan B for the German team out the window.
60km remaining – Flats for the favourites
Both Julian Alaphilippe and Mathieu van der Poel have punctured in the last few minutes, no doubt sending their team mechanics' and sports directors' heart rates through the roof!
Luckily, both have manged to get a quick wheel change and they're back with the peloton. We're also hearing of a crash for Stefan Kung, some peoples' outside pick for the win today. It's not totally clear whether he remains in the race.
65km remaining – Trio of domestiques launched up the road
Marcus Burghardt (Bora Hansgrohe), Bob Jungels (Deceuninck QuickStep) and Lawson Craddock (EF Pro Cycling) have launched an attack off the front of the peloton. These three are all incredibly powerful riders in their own rights, but each has a more fancied leader for this race. Tactically it's a great move, because any teams to miss out, INEOS, Astana and Alpecin-Fenix being the main ones, will have serious worries about the victors emerging from this move.
Will Astana and INEOS chase? Or keep their powder dry in anticipation of a bigger and more threatening attack to come from the likes of Alaphilippe, Sagan or Woods? Deceuninck are in the enviable position of having at least three potential winners of this race, so don't be surprised to see them use their patented 'Just Keep Attacking Until Somebody In A Blue Jersey Wins' stratagem today.
72km remaining – Big guns to the fore
The peloton is charging along now, with a lot of the forcing being done by Julian Alaphilippe, Mathieu van der Poel and Daniel Oss (a vital domestique for Peter Sagan). Not so much as a peep out of Michal Kwiatkowski, yet today, another rider who has been heavily tipped for the win .
Others who will believe they have a shot at victory include Olympic champion, Greg van Avermaet, the Astana duo Jakob Fuglsang and Alexey Lutsenko, former champ, Tiesj Benoot, and Canadian punchy-climber MIchael Woods and his homegrown EF Pro Cycling teammate Alberto Bettiol, who you will remember pulled off that spectacular surprise win at Flanders last year..
80km remaining – Here we go!
That's the end of Simon Pellaud's little adventure in the excoriating Italian sunshine. He's been caught by the peloton.
With about two hours of racing remaining, we are sure to see plenty of counter attacks before the day is out. It's extremely rare for Strade Bianche to come down to a bunch finish, with typically one rider or a small elite group fighting it out.
89km remaining – empty streets in Siena
In the last few years the finish of Strade Bianche, with the massive crowds lining the steep and narrow paved streets of Siena, has become one of the most iconic in the sport. Today, however, there will be no spectators behind the barriers due to covid-19 restrictions. We just caught a glimpse of them in the finale of the women's race and it looked kinda sad and spooky – a reminder that while bike racing has returned, things are not 'back to normal' just yet.
Result! – Annemiek van Vleuten wins the Womens's Strade Bianche 2020
After catching heroic lone leader, Mavi Garcia, in the final 10km, the Dutchwoman backed herself to close things out in the final, effectively riding the last part of the race on the front with Garcia in her slipstream. In the end, van Vleuten was able to ride away from the Spanish Alé BTC Ljubljana rider in the last kilometre, finishing solo – as most people predicted she would.
It seems the women's 2020 season has resumed in much the same vein that it left off, with Annemiek van Vleuten in barnstorming form. A brilliant breakthrough ride from Mavi Garcia.
98km remaining - Remember this guy?
It seems like another lifetime ago when Peter Sagan was winning one-day classics seemingly at will, but even then he never quite managed a victory in Strade Bianche. Two second places prove he knows how to make it to the final selection – could this be the year he makes it to the top step of the podium in Siena? Here he is chatting in his own inimitable style before today's start.
Peter Sagan before Strade Bianche: 'It's going to be very tough!'
10km remaining - Women's race set for a spectacular finale
Mavi Garcia (Alé BTC Ljubljana) is currently being chased down by Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton Scott) – who else. The Spanish rider had three minutes of lead a little while ago, but the world champ has cannibalised that gap and it's now just half a minute. Will the Dutchwoman make it two Strade Bianche wins from two, or can the Spaniard hold out?
105km remaining - Dillier out with covid-19 positive test
We've seen a couple of withdrawals today, the most notable of which was actually before racing began. Silvain Dillier, the former Swiss national champion who rides for AG2R La Mondiale, returned a postive covid-19 test and – despite being down to race here – did not make it to the start line. The team has announced that he will be heading for quarantine immediately. The Swiss has been reported as having said "I'm really bummed by this. I am the healthiest person in the world. I have had several tests in the past few days and they were all negative. Even with a blood test, all values were good."
Also out of the race is Sam Bewley of Mitchelton Scott, who did start, but abandoned fairly early on.
Pellaud has separated himself from the rest of the break. He's being shown as a lone leader up the road, with a healthy 3'30" advantage.
120km remaining - Pellaud up for a fight
After a frenetic opening to the race, with several big name riders including Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck QuickStep) and Vincenzo Nibali (Trek Segafredo) encountering minor mechanical issues, a breakaway has formed. It was being led by Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) who was really the primary instigator of the move. With him for company were Nicola Bagioli (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Quentin Pacher (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept), Iuri Filosi (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè), Corné Van Kessel (Circus-Wanty Gobert) and Benjamin Declercq (Arkéa-Samsic).
However! At the moment, while the leaders have about two minutes of advantage, Pellaud, seemingly not convinced by the makeup of the group – or possibly the efforts being put in by his collaborators – has forged on again solo.
Welcome home, folks!
We're back in the saddle for the first cycling live blog of the season and you couldn't wish for a more picturesque and exciting race with which to kick things off. That's right, it's time to watch the peloton rumble over the iconic white roads of Tuscany, it's time for Strade Bianche.