Amid applause for his gravel bravery, Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) says he “had no f***ing choice” but to ride solo in the final of Strade Bianche.
He placed third in Piazza del Campo for second consecutive year, this time on the heels of Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) the eventual winner, and Jakob Fuglsang (Team Astana).
“I had no f***ing choice,” the Belgian said of his solo chase.
“The group behind me was not that far back and the two in front were in sight but I was in the hurt box for the last 20 kilometres.”
Van Aert marked the attack of Fuglsang with Alaphilippe at 23.2 kilometres remaining in the 184-kilometre race.
“It’s a pity I lost contact with them on the second to last sector, they were a bit too fast and a bit too light I guess. I was the heavyweight in the front group,” he added.
“I’m super happy I could repeat my podium spot.”
Van Aert held off the chase by the stars behind, including 2018 winner Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal). He closed on the front duo in the last kilometre, but lost contact again as soon as the narrow Santa Caterina road ramped upwards towards Siena’s centre.
“This is my second ride and my second podium spot,” the he explained. “I hope to win Strade Bianche one day. It’s a magnificent race. I love this race.”
Last year, the Italian race marked his breakthrough on the road after three world cyclocross titles. He went on to place ninth in the Tour of Flanders and 13th in Paris-Roubaix. The 2019 result confirms his strength on the road.
“I’m happy with my performance. If you compare it to my three cyclocross world titles, the first is by far the easiest one to win. To confirm all the good things from the first time is always more difficult, but I’m happy I did it,” he continued.
“Last year was more out of the blue but this time the other guys in the final watched me and so its always more difficult. The most important thing is that I’ve confirmed that I’m able to do some great things in the biggest Classics.”
This WorldTour race is part of a series of one-day events on Van Aert’s schedule with Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix following in the next six weeks.
“We’re not here with our typical Classics squad, it’s a mix with the Ardennes team. A few of our classics riders are in Paris-Nice to help Dylan Groenewegen for the sprints,” he continued.
“It’s hard to learn from this race. Taco and Danny had a bad day with a lot of crashes and bad luck. So the only thing that we can learn is that my shape is good and that I’m ready for more.”