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by Dane Cash
August 2, 2020
Photography by Kristof Ramon
After riding to third-place finishes in the past two editions of Strade Bianche, Wout van Aert ascended to the top step of the podium on Saturday, soloing clear of a select group to take the victory in a hard-fought finale and offering ample evidence that he is well and truly recovered from the injury that derailed the second half of his 2019 campaign.
Making the second start of his season, the 25-year-old Belgian made it into the select lead group that rolled into the final 15 kilometers of the race and then decided to put in a big solo dig with around 13 kilometers to go.
Despite the chasing efforts of Davide Formolo and Max Schachmann, van Aert held on to ascend into the Piazza del Campo solo, taking the biggest one-day victory of his road racing career at the line. Formolo rode to runner-up honors with Schachmann rounding out the final podium.
“Today was one long day of suffering and nobody felt that great. The heat was exhausting but I really focused on hydration and keeping cool and, in the end, I got something left,” said Van Aert.
“I really fell in love with this race two years ago and it was my goal to win. I’m 25 and I’ve already done it. I’m really happy.”
The 184-kilometer race in and around Siena got underway in scorching hot conditions, and aggression in the early goings kept the proverbial heat on as riders battled to get into the early break.
The escape that eventually went clear worked up a respectable advantage over the pack and traversed the first few gravel sections with a gap of a few minutes. Simon Pellaud then soloed away from the other escapees and spent some time solo out front. With around a hundred kilometers to go, however, the peloton caught the rest of Pellaud’s former breakaway companions, and then caught him.
Simon Clarke then tried a solo move of his own but he was brought back as action picked up on the gravel Monte Sante Marie.
With around 50 kilometers to go, Jakob Fuglsang put in a surge that drew a small group clear, with Van Aert, Formolo, and Schachmann all among the selection.
An attack from Schachmann saw splits appear at the front, and although the German did not manage to pull clear, he did help whittle the group down, with Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) dropping from the front. Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) tried a move as well, but van Aert brought him back.
On the final gravel sector of the race, van Aert made his own decisive move, rapidly pulling clear of his rivals on a stretch of downhill road.
Schachmann, Bettiol, and Formolo formed a chasing trio that became a duo when Bettiol lost touch. Out front, however, van Aert’s advantage held steady on the run-in to Siena, and the Belgian ultimately hit the final climb with a comfortable lead, riding into the Piazza del Campo solo to take the victory.
Wout Van Aert (BEL/Jumbo-Visma) crosses the finish line solo and wins the 14th Strade Bianche 2020 after finishing 3rd twice in his 2 previous attemps at the race.
1 VAN AERT Wout (Team Jumbo-Visma) 4:58:56
2 FORMOLO Davide (UAE-Team Emirates) 0:30
3 SCHACHMANN Maximilian (BORA – hansgrohe) 0:32
4 BETTIOL Alberto (EF Pro Cycling) 1:31
5 FUGLSANG Jakob (Astana Pro Team) 2:55
6 STYBAR Zdenek (Deceuninck – Quick Step) 3:59
7 BOOKWALTER Brent (Mitchelton-Scott) 4:25
8 VAN AVERMAET Greg (CCC Team) 4:27
9 GOGL Michael (NTT Pro Cycling) 6:47
10 ROSA Diego (Team Arkéa Samsic) 7:45