Tom Pidcock dominates the Strade Bianche


A stunning Tom Pidcock dominates the Strade Bianche, the first top cycling classic of 2023

Last Saturday, the first appointment with great cycling, the legendary Strade Bianche, took place in the suggestive setting of the Sienese hills. A route of 184 km, of which 63 on dirt roads, which every year puts the skills of two-wheel professionals to the test in one-day races. The race, which does not have an old tradition as it was organized starting from 2007, quickly became the unofficial sixth classic monument. Born as an evolution of the Gran Fondo Eroica, it saw Moreno Moser as the first winner and then a roll of honor full of big names in cycling.

The race

This edition, characterized by variable weather with lots of rain especially in the initial stages, saw the victory of the 23-year-old Englishman Tom Pidcock. The British talent attacked when there were more than 50 km to go to the finish line, breaking away from the group of the best to reach De Marchi who at that moment was recovering from a long escape. After the two collaborated for about ten km, Pidcock decided it was time for a lunge and was left alone in a stretch of downhill dirt road. There were 40 km left to go to the finish line including the dreaded stretch of Monte Sante Marie, with gradients of up to 12%, with many uncertainties due to the resistance of a single man on the run since the advantage over the best pursuers never exceeded 30".
Behind a small group of about ten riders including Benoot, Rui Costa, Mohoric, Madouas and Valter took turns in pursuit without being able to crown the achievement. The dimunutive star of INEOS (1.70m for 58kg) managed to face the attacks and maintain a lead that was reduced to 13 seconds, to then give it his all on the final ramp of via Santa Caterina before triumphing in Piazza del Campo. The Briton thus seals a very promising start to his career, which had seen him excel not only in one-day road races (third in Flanders last year), but also in off-road, mountain-bike Olympic champion in Tokyo and world champion of cyclo-cross, making him one of the most versatile riders ever.
In second place Valentin Madouas of the Grupama and third Benoot of Jumbo-Visma, a team that has attracted criticism for the reckless tactics of Attila Valter (on paper the Belgian's lieutenant), who instead of trying to bring his captain back under when Pidcock was in sight, he launched into ineffective and expensive shots that produced nothing, except to increase the nervousness of the pursuers, frustrated by the failure to catch.

Italian disappointment

The Strade Bianche was followed by numerous enthusiasts along the Tuscan route, and even more in the streets of Siena up to the suggestive conclusion in Piazza del Campo, which sees more public only during the Palio. Unfortunately a bad day for the Italian colours, with only Formolo and Bettiol present in the crucial stages. The first was delayed by a puncture and finished in ninth place, while it went worse for the Tuscan of EF who, after an escape attempt, was stopped by a spectacular fall downhill fortunately without consequences. The season that should be the one of the relaunch in a blue key does not start in the best way: young emerging players like Zana and Bagioli have never been in the heat of the race. Also disappointing was the performance of the super favorite on the eve, Mathieu Van der Poel who, despite being in the group of the best, didn't seem to have the leg to respond to the attacks when the race entered the final stages.

The post-race interview

"I hadn't planned the attack, but on a downhill section I got a bit of an advantage and kept going" said Pidcock at the finish. "At 5km from the finish, when the gap narrowed, I was afraid I'd ruined everything with this premature attack, but then I resisted." The Englishman's success confirms the Ineos-Grenadiers team, which rides with Pinarello bikes, one of the top teams in the world (it also includes the stellar Filippo Ganna). Upcoming appointments for top cycling are the Tirreno-Adriatico, the Paris-Nice and then the first appointment of the classic monuments, with the Milan-San Remo, on Saturday 18 March.

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Fabio Strufaldi

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