Mathieu van der Poel’s final attack up the Santa Caterina to win Strade Bianche was explosive enough to ricochet off our eyeballs and lodge itself deep into the recesses of our brains to be remembered for years to come.
Now, the data behind the ride confirms what we all already knew: that Van der Poel’s ride was intimidatingly fast, while five of the top 10 on the Strava leaderboard for the final 25km are also now times set by riders in the 2021 edition.
First, let’s don our rocket scientist caps and look at Van der Poels’ numbers. His team, Alpecin-Fenix, posted the Dutchman’s data for the whole race, showing his four-hour and 45-minute ride was achieved with a normalised power of 389 watts, while the final 60km saw his normalised power average out at 439 watts.
Up the final Le Tolfe gravel section was where Van der Poel put the hammer down on his rivals, dispensing with everyone except Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers). Van der Poel completed the sector in 60 seconds with an average power of 738 watts.
An impressive attack, but nothing compared to the final sprint up to the Piazza del Campo, where the Dutchman galloped away from Alaphilippe and Bernal with an average power of 1,004 watts and a max heart rate of 186bpm.
Van der Poel also now tops the Strava leaderboard for the final 25km of the one-day race, with a time of 39-20.
This is nearly three minutes faster than Wout van Aert’s winning time in 2020, the Belgian having responded to attacks in the final 50km before launching his own move to go solo with 12km to go.
Fast forward a year and Van der Poel put in a first dig to momentarily dislodge Tom Pidcock and Van Aert with 24km remaining, before dropping them for good 12km later, then working well as part of a trio alongside Alaphilippe and Bernal to the finish. They kept the chasers at bay before the Dutchman accelerated with 4km to go before his final devastating attack after the flamme rouge.
It wasn’t only Van der Poel who shaved minutes off the previous fastest time of Petr Vakoč in 2016, however, with Van Aert lopping two minutes off his race-winning 2020 time.
Of course, the nature of how each race played out makes a huge difference to the times, the riders race against each other, not the course. In 2021, Van Aert chased Van der Poel over the final 25km assisted by the likes of Pidcock, compared to his primarily solo ride in the closing kilometres of the 2020 race.
While his effort has been flagged for the moment, Van Aert now holds the second-fastest final-25km time of 40-09, 2-01 quicker than his previous best effort from 2020. Pidcock, his ride also flagged and therefore not currently showing up on the leaderboard, now holds the third spot, with 40-14, just one second quicker than Michael Gogl (Qhubeka-Assos) who finished an impressive sixth.
Gogl’s team-mate Simon Clarke and Clement Venturini (Ag2r Citroën) are the other two new entries into the top 10, with Vakoc, Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r Citroën) and Tiesj Benoot (DSM) the only three remaining from 2016.
Of course, Alaphilippe and Bernal would have almost certainly set a top five time had they posted their rides to Strava, having finished second or third, but neither rider seems that fussed about social media bragging rights.
As for the women’s race, won by Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, nine of the top 10 are now 2021 times, with Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) the new QOM after her second-place finish behind the Dutchwoman.
Longo Borghini’s new best time is 44-38, three seconds quicker than Demi Vollering, who finished sixth overall. Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) who won the race in 2019 and 2020 now has the third-best time, having ridden the last 25km the third-fastest out of all men and women present at last year’s race.
The only non-2021 ride still present is Annika Langvad’s 2019 effort, now relegated to fifth place on the leaderboard.