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Julian Alaphilippe wins Strade Bianche on his first try

Wout Van Aert on podium for second consecutive year

The early men’s road season has been dominated by two WorldTour squads: Deceuninck-Quick Step and Astana. On Saturday, the two sides clashed head to head as Deceuninck-Quick Step’s Julian Alaphilippe beat Astana Jakob Fuglsang in Strade Bianche, on the Frenchman’s first time contesting the white roads Classic in Tuscany. Cyclocross ace Wout Van Aert was third for the second year in a row.

The Course

The men’s race was 184-km long with 63-km of white gravel in 11-sections. The final three sections in the last 23-km—Monteaperti, Colle Pinzuto and Le Tolfee—are where the decisive moves were likely to be made. In Siena the narrow, 500-metre Via Santa Caterina ramp to the finish hits 16%. The final 500-metres are downhill.

It was a beautiful Tuscan day, with dust for the riders instead of mud.

The Breakaway

There was no escape until the third of 11 sectors. There, a quartet of fugitives emerged, rolling up a maximum lead of 4:30. The peloton split and contracted on the gravel sections. By the longest section, Sector 5, only two fellows remained out front.

Finally, the leading duo split up, with Sky’s Diego Rosa leaving behind AG2R’s Nico Denz before 9.5-km long Sector 7. The next stretch of gravel was 11.5-km in length; once more, the peloton fragmented.

Tim Wellens upped the tempo on Sector 8 and Rosa had only 48-seconds with 42-km and three sections to go. The first chase group, determined to take the Sky man back, worked hard to distance itself from Chase 2 as well. Chase one included Wellens, title holder Tiejs Benoot, Greg van Avermaet and Alaphilippe.

Deceuninck-Quick Step vs Astana

Jakob Fuglsang attacked on the Monteaperti section and went away with Alaphilippe and cyclocross crossover Van Aert. Van Aert lost contact on 2.4-km Colle Pinzuto, which rose up to 18%.

On Le Tolfee, Fuglsang’s pace couldn’t drop the Frenchman. Van Aert started to pull his way back as the climax loomed.

Van Aert powered up to them with 1.3-km to go. Did he have anything left? He hit the final climb in the lead position. Fuglsang attacked and only the Frenchman could match him. Then Deceuninck’s buccaneer rode away from his companion to take a famous victory and continue his team’s fantastic form in 2019. The team has won all three 2019 WorldTour one-day races with different riders.

Antoine Duchesne, the lone Canadian in the race, finished 57th.

2019 Strade Bianche

1) Julian Alaphilippe (France/Deceuninck-Quick Step) 4:47:14
2) Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark/Astana) +0:02
3) Wout Van Aert (Belgium/Jumbo-Visma) +0:47
57) Antoine Duchesne (Canada/Groupama-FDJ) +9:46