Catch your breath and recap on an exciting day of racing

Phew, that was brutal

Recovered yet?

Despite being some way off the distance of the major Classics like Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, Strade Bianche still looked especially gruelling this year.

On top of the gravel sectors, relentless climbing looked to punish even the toughest riders out on the Tuscan roads, and judging by the faces they were making, it was far from a spin in the park.

And that war of attrition really saw the cream of the crop emerge. With Peter Sagan abandoning through illness, Greg Van Avermaet, Michal Kwiatkowski, Zdenek Stybar and Tim Wellens were the quartet that were able to find something extra to push away from the rest of the field with a decisive move.

After making their break, it quickly became clear that this elite four were going to battle it out for the win. And it was going to take something special to get it…

Welcome back, Michal

Powerful with perfect timing – Strade Bianche winner Michal Kwiatkowski
Photo : Yuzuru SUNADA

Speaking of special, everyone knows just what a talent Michal Kwiatkowski is.

The Pole took the world road race title at the age of just 24, but has since struggled to match that form. His career at Team Sky got off to a flyer with victory at the E3 Harelbeke last year, but again he seemed to drift from his best.

He’s already stated that he’s not going too gung-ho at the start of the season this year, hoping to save himself for some bigger goals down the line. But he really laid it all out on the road to take the Strade win.

Breaking away with 12km to go, it felt like it might be slightly too far initially, but Kwiatkowski had been showing how strong he was by instigating breaks all day.

He quickly established a 30 second gap and even had time to lambaste some of the television motorbikes (see point four) as he pushed on.

In the end, he was able to comfortably navigate the final few corners on the tricky, wet tiles into Siena square, and celebrate a well deserved victory.

Lizzie’s starting strong

Lizzie Armitstead, winner of 2016 Strade Bianche

Lizzie Deignan ended her tumultuous season last year with a solid fourth place at the World Championships, on a course which didn’t completely suit her. But it was another example of her continued showing that she’s one of the most tenacious and versatile riders in the women’s peloton.

>>> Lizzie Deignan left frustrated after getting stuck behind motorbike in Strade Bianche finale

Deignan was only starting her 2017 season at Strade Bianche, and was apparently just there to support teammates. You can’t keep a good rider down though.

The Brit found herself in the closing kilometres among the leaders, although wasn’t immediately able to follow Lucinda Brand and Shara Gillow who attacked towards the final climb.

Still, she was able to follow eventual winner Elisa Longo Borghini for the most part on the steep slopes, but seemed to get stuck behind slower riders and a television motorbike and was eventually left to roll in alone for third place.

It was a strong showing from Lizzie though in defence of her title, and bodes well for the likes of Tour of Flanders next month.

Motos

Did someone mention motorbikes?

In case you haven’t been following the recent saga of riders complaining about other riders getting a free tow off of camera motorbikes, you can catch up here.

It was back again today though, with a lot of shouting and gesturing at the camera by riders who felt the rivals were being given a bit of an easy ride. And it wasn’t just riders in the race either…

It’s tough sometimes for the moto drivers on the narrow roads, finding the balance between providing a good picture for television audiences and not involving themselves in the race, but it’s fair to say this is becoming one of this year’s hot topics.

Chapeau, Jose

A fine ride by Jose
Photo : Yuzuru SUNADA

A special mention to Katusha-Alpecin’s Jose Gonçalves, who got in the day’s first break, and then subsequently latched on to whatever passing group he could get the energy to stay with, earning himself a well gurned 11th place.

PS. Disc brakes

The topic that refuses to die continues. After Peter Sagan said on Friday he thought the whole peloton should use disc brakes or no-one should, and after all that Doull/Kittel stuff at the Abu Dhabi Tour, it was Cannondale’s turn to be under the rotor shaped spotlight.

Two of there riders hit the gravel with discs attached, and rightly pointed out that this is a tug-of-war before bike manufacturers and riders that appears to be going nowhere. You can read the full story here.