Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) wins solo the Strade Bianche 2018. The twenty-three years old Flemish takes the first success throughout his career at the end of an epic race, handled perfectly by the Belgian. Benoot, who was in the lead together with Wout van Aert (Veranda’s Willems-Crelan) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) until the last dirt road section of le Tolfe, attacked with over 11 kilometers remaining and nobody succeeded in chasing the Lotto Soudal rider. Bardet, in the end, finishes in second and van Aert in third on the magical and characteristic finish line set in Sienna’s Piazza del Campo. At the bottom of the podium finishes Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
At the start in Sienna’s Medician Fortress all the signs were right to expect a legendary race. Temperature was low (7°C) but, most of all, heavy rain was falling on Tuscan soil. Along the first dozen kilometers of racing the peloton moved forward all together and any sort of attack arised. On the contrary, the first two dirt roads, Vidritta and Bagnaia, contributed to stress out the race. Along Bagnaia sector the group splitted into two packs but, with over 150 kilometers remaining, the situation returned as it used to be previously.
At this point of racing eight riders opened a gap over the peloton, soon chased by Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Mark Padun (Bahrain-Merida). Two of those will be recalled as a mistery among the chronicles of the race: the awful weather conditions affected communications’ efficiency thoughout the first hours of racing. Otherwise, the other men in the break were Sepp Kuss (Lotto Nl-Jumbo), Valentin Madouas (FDJ), Quentin Jauregui and Pierre-Roger Latour (AG2r La Mondiale), José Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) and Truls Korsaeth (Astana).
When the leaders hit the Lucignano d’Asso dirt road they were sitting 3’15” ahead of the bunch, which was headed by Team Sky together with BMC Racing. Soon the peloton broke out again into two packs due to the highly demanding route and the wheather conditions, suffered by many athletes. As soon as the rain stopped to fall on Tuscan soil, the bunch reeled in the breakaway with 60 kilometers to go.
After a nervous stage of racing the riders open a gap over the leading group just before the start of Monte Sante Marie dirt road, renowned as the toughest one of Strade Bianche route. Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky), Stefan Kung (BMC), Alejandro Valverde and José Joaquin Rojas (Movistar), Daniel Oss (Bora-hansgrohe), Valentin Madouas (FDJ), Pierre-Roger Latour (AG2r La Mondiale), Wout van Aert (Veranda’s Willems-Crelan), Robert Power (Mitchelton-Scott) and Soren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb) eke out an advantage over the chasers.
Soon other specialists like Peter Sagan, Greg van Avermaet, Tiesj Benoot and Zdenek Stybar succeeded in chasing the leaders, who are joined shortly after by Romain Bardet. The Frenchman took the time for a deep breath and attacked in turn. Nobody followed Ag2r La Mondiale man apart from Wout van Aert: in a little while the duo in the lead opened a 25” gap. Before the end of Monte Sante Marie Sagan attacked but his attempt just put the bunch into a single-file line.
About ten riders counter-attacked once the race returned on tarmacked roads, starting with Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida). Despite the Slovenian soon dropped, a group led by Gianni Moscon held on at a dozen of seconds ahead the main pack. Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida) and Robert Power got rid of the other chasers’ company and attacked with over 39 kilometers remaining. Shortly after, Tiesj Benoot and peter Serry did the same.
Benoot seemed in an excellent shape and, on the way to Monteaperti white gravel road, attacks Serry and chases van Aert and bardet. Meanwhile Power, Visconti and Serry joined forces and were struggling to chase the trio in the lead. Benoot, van Aert and Bardet found an agreement and kept pushing until opening a 50” advantage over the first chasing group. In the meantime Peter Sagan attempted to escape from the peloton but his try had short life. Just before the last dirt road of the day, le Tolfe, Zdenek Stybar and Alejandro Valverde succeeded in chasing Visconti, Power and Serry.
With over 11 kilometers remaining the leaders approached le Tolfe with 40” of advantage over the chasers. As soon as he hit the dirt road slopes, Benoot attacked decisively. Van Aert and Bardet struggled to follow the Belgian’s wheels but Benoot was fresher and his effort was blatantly more effective. Lotto-Soudal rider kept pushing and extended his lead to 50” with just over two kilometers remaining. The Santa Caterina street steep and brief climb didn’t affected Benoot’s lead: the twenty-three years old crossed the finish line solo and celebrated triumphally his first victory thoughout his career. The last hundreds meters has been the theatre of Valverde’s struggle to achieve the podium: his attempt failed narrowly. Wout van Aert, who finished just three weeks ago to race among Cyclo-Cross circuits, achieved a brilliant result and this performance should give confidence to the twenty-four years old.
Strade Bianche 2018 Results
1 BENOOT Tiesj Lotto Soudal 5:03:33
2 BARDET Romain AG2R La Mondiale 0:39
3 VAN AERT Wout Vérandas Willems-Crelan 0:59
4 VALVERDE Alejandro Movistar Team ,,
5 VISCONTI Giovanni Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team 1:27
6 POWER Robert Mitchelton-Scott1:29
7 STYBAR Zdenek Quick-Step Floors 1:42
8 SAGAN Peter BORA – hansgrohe 2:08
9 SERRY Pieter Quick-Step Floors 2:11
10 MÜHLBERGER Gregor BORA – hansgrohe 2:16