Defending champion Benoot previews Strade Bianche
Tiesj Benoot and DS Bart Leysen about the Tuscan classic.
Lotto Soudal leaders Tiesj Benoot and Tim Wellens finished – after a strong ride – fifth and tenth, respectively, in the Strade Bianche today. Julian Alaphilippe took the win. The Frenchman beat – on the steep slopes towards the finish in Siena – the Danish rider Jakob Fuglsang and the Belgian Wout Van Aert.
In a very sunny Tuscany, the peloton headed with a furious pace towards the first gravel section of the day. It took some time before an early break got the freedom but eventually, four riders managed to escape the peloton. As predicted beforehand, the race split apart on Monte Sante Marie, the eighth of thirteen gravel tracks. That way, an elite group of around fifteen riders – including Lotto Soudal leaders Tiesj Benoot and Tim Wellens – was created. When on Monteaperti – the ninth gravel section – Alaphilippe, Fuglsang and Van Aert accelerated, Tiesj Benoot and Tim Wellens were not able to bridge across. Moments later, the three leaders were reduced to two as Van Aert had to let go, but thanks to the tactical battle between Fuglsang and Alaphilippe, Van Aert could again join them just before the final climb to the Piazza del Campo. With an all-out attack, Alaphilippe secured his first Strade Bianche win, Fuglsang and Van Aert had to settle with second and third place, respectively. In the battle for fourth place, Tiesj Benoot only had to let go Štybar in front of him. Tim Wellens completed the top ten.
Tim Wellens: “We tried to the split the peloton several times during the race but eventually, I took the initiative myself which resulted in a group of fifteen riders at the front. That was a very good situation for us. When Fuglsang accelerated, I was too far back and I did not have the punch to still react. When three riders escape and they have with Lampaert, Štybar and Lutsenko still three teammates in the chasing group, it is an almost impossible task to still organize the chase. That way, we consistently lost time. In the end, the three escapees have proven to be the strongest today. Unfortunately, it was a battle for top ten for me.”
Tiesj Benoot: “It was a fast and dangerous race today. You are always in doubt after a crash like the one last week. But if you finish fifth, those doubts have now been taken away and that gives me high hopes for the coming weeks. Winning like I did last year is never easy. I was one of the strongest riders in the chasing group. If you battle against riders like Štybar, Van Avermaet and Lutsenko for fourth place, you can’t complain. But if you start the race to win, you are of course disappointed if you are not on the podium. During the decisive moment, I chose the wheel of Lutsenko – who was then riding at the front – because he seemed very strong. When they attacked, it was difficult to react. During the finale, I still tried something but with some riders not cooperating, that was not easy. Of course, you hope for a better result but I have to be satisfied with fifth place.”
Tosh Van der Sande had to abandon the race due to a crash. He has some abrasions but he is very likely to start in Tirreno – Adriatico next week.
Of course, you hope for a better result but I have to be satisfied with fifth place.