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Hello again, CyclingTips readers.
At least for now, racing is back – and it feels good.
The first cab off the rank for both the men’s and women’s WorldTour was Strade Bianche, a race that continues to grow in prestige, even if this year’s edition had a hotter, dustier feel to it.
But that wasn’t the only racing underway, with the lower-tier Route d’Occitanie and Vuelta a Burgos giving riders a chance to warm up their engines for the remainder of a packed calendar.
For the first time in many months, let’s dive into a big weekend of actual, real-world bicycle racing…
| Annemiek van Vleuten defends Strade Bianche title
Reigning World Champion Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) continued her unbeaten streak in 2020 with a successful defence of her Strade Bianche title.
In stifling conditions, the first half of the race was nervous and combative, with a number of attacks and regroupings wearing away at the field. A ten rider group – not including Van Vleuten – formed off the front with around 50 km to go, with Spanish rider Mavi Garcia (Alé-BTC-Ljubljana) striking off alone.
Van Vleuten bridged the gap to the front group and from there to Garcia, with the duo riding together to the final climb. Van Vleuten’s acceleration with 400 metres to go was too much for Garcia, and Van Vleuten rounded the final few corners alone to the win.
| Wout Van Aert solos to victory at Strade Bianche
After finishing on the podium at Strade Bianche in his first two attempts at the race, Wout Van Aert (Jumbo Visma) finally clinched the win on the weekend.
At around 50km to go, a small group formed off the back of a Jakob Fuglsang acceleration. From this group, a number of riders – including Maximilian Schachmann and Alberto Bettiol – tried their luck with solo moves, but they were reabsorbed.
On the final gravel sector, Van Aert made his own move with a downhill attack, holding off a chasing trio of Schachmann, Bettiol and Davide Formolo to ride into Siena the victor.
| Silvan Dillier tests positive for COVID-19 on eve of race
Swiss rider Silvan Dillier (AG2R La Mondiale) was pulled from Strade Bianche on the eve of the race after returning a positive test for coronavirus. Under the UCI’s new COVID-19 protocol riders are required to pass two tests before they race, the last within 72 hours of a race start.
Dillier, who was suffering no symptoms, was vocal in his disappointment about not racing, telling Swiss newspaper Blick that “the entire health system is a big joke. In my opinion, it is on the verge of locking up healthy people. It’s just not right.”
Dillier is the latest rider to be pulled from racing in the past week, with Israel Start-Up Nation and UAE Team Emirates riders also forced to withdraw from Vuelta a Burgos due to positive COVID-19 tests.
| Nasty crashes mar Strade Bianche recon
It was an unlucky start to the return to racing for three riders in the women’s peloton who crashed in recon the day before Strade Bianche.
Ella Harris (Canyon-SRAM) was forced out of the race having fallen and broken her hip, Ashleigh Moolman (CCC) required 60 stitches and Clara Koppenburg (Equipe Paule Ka) was left with chunks of gravel embedded in her elbow. CyclingTips wishes all three riders a speedy recovery.
| Trek-Segafredo team bikes stolen
Trek-Segafredo’s women’s squad suffered a different type of misfortune in their start to Strade Bianche, with the team’s bikes stolen on the night prior to the race. Thieves cut into the roof of a trailer in which they were stored, taking the six Trek Emondas that the team was to ride the following day. The riders started the race on spare bikes, with Ellen van Dijk borrowing a bike from one of her male Trek-Segafredo colleagues, Koen de Kort.
| Remco Evenepoel wins Vuelta a Burgos
Remco Evenepoel’s impressive run in 2020 has continued, with the Belgian prodigy winning the GC of the Vuelta a Burgos, half a year after his victories in the Vuelta a San Juan and the Volta ao Algarve.
The 20-year-old rode into the lead by winning stage three of the Spanish race, and managed a tenacious third place on the decisive fifth and final stage – the mountaintop finish of Lagunas de Neila – behind Ivan Sosa (Ineos) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren). That was enough for Evenepoel to hold onto the GC lead.
| Route d’Occitanie kicks off with two sprint stages
The Route d’Occitanie, traditionally held a week prior to the Tour de France, is enjoying a bit of extra attention this year thanks to the shifts in the calendar. It’s the first race back post-lockdown for a number of Grand Tour riders, including Chris Froome, Egan Bernal and Thibaut Pinot.
Those riders will have their day on stage three, with a summit finish and three category one climbs, but the opening two stages were for the sprinters. Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) claimed stage 1 just ahead of Elia Viviani (Cofidis), while Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-McLaren) held on ahead of Coquard to win stage 2.
In case you missed it
| Strade Bianche race reports
Today’s feature image of the men’s peloton at Strade Bianche comes from Cor Vos.