Three Quick Thoughts: Strade-Bianche
My quick post-race takeaways from Strade-Bianche
Tom Pidcock stormed away from the frantically chasing peloton with roughly 50 kilometers and nearly endless steep hills strewn with white gravel roads left to race but was able to hold off an elite group of chasers over the picturesque Tuscan landscape to win the Strade-Bianche road race to get the biggest one-day race of his career. By doing so, he showed the doubters (aka me) that he is finding his top form just in time for the coming one-day Monuments.
Valentin Madouas grabbed a massive second place after emerging from a poorly organized chase group while a frustrated Tiesj Benoot came in third despite his Jumbo-Visma team getting two riders into the elite final group.
1) Tom Pidcock +0
2) Valentin Madouas +20
3) Tiesj Benoot +22
4) Rui Costa +23
5) Attila Valter +23
6) Matej Mohorič +34
7) Pello Bilbao +1’04
8) Romain Grégoire +1’18
9) Davide Formolo +1’23
10) Andreas Kron +1’35
Tom Pidcock is back to his best & his Ineos team played this race perfectly
The young rider won the race when he was the only favorite to mark the attack from Alberto Bettiol perfectly with 53km to go, and then left Bettiol in the dust a short time later on the descent to mow down the remainder of the breakaway and storm to a solo victory.
Pidcock wasn’t afraid to let the gap between him and the chase group fluctuate and didn’t panic when it shrank to single-digit seconds at times.
Whenever it appeared like his number was up and he was going to be absorbed by the chase group, he simply kept the pace on and trusted that the complicated dynamics behind would stall the group and work to his benefit.
Also, the cross-discipline rider was able to save both time and energy by carving the gravel descents with ease at extremely high speed, which made it extremely difficult to reel him in.
Despite my criticism of his opening weekend form in my Strade preview, the 23-year-old Brit looked every bit as sharp as he was during his big 2021 Spring campaign and appears to be coming into form at just the right time to challenge at the major one-day Monuments in the coming weeks.
It just remains to be seen if he can realistically hold, or advance, this form all the way to Liège–Bastogne–Liège, which is nearly eight weeks away.
Also, his Ineos team, unlike Bahrain, FDJ, and Jumbo, who all stacked two riders inside the top ten while refusing to mount a serious chase of Pidcockk, understood the most important part of racing, which is that to win the race, you have to be at the front of the race.
Instead of overcomplicating things with multiple leaders as they’ve done in recent years (crashes involving key riders might have helped), they stacked everything behind Pidcock and got only three riders inside the top 30 (which shows they had a clear plan of setting up Pidcock to respond to attacks and then simply sat back and blocked behind).
Jumbo-Visma still looks like the strongest one-day team, but signs of discontent are already bubbling
Even without their best one-day riders like Wout van Aert, Dylan van Baarle, and Christophe Laporte, they still looked incredibly strong and were able to get two riders inside the top five with Teeisj Benoot and Attila Valter
However, with two riders in the elite five-rider chase group and only a small gap between them and the solo leader Pidcock, they couldn’t agree on who would sacrifice themselves for the other, which caused things to implode in the chase, and the chance for the win to go out the window.
This begs the question of what was the point of Valter’s somewhat controversial bridge to his own teammate (Benoot) inside the final 20km? If one isn’t going to work for the other, what is the point of having multiple riders at the front of the race?
In retrospect, and knowing how strong Benoot was on the final climb, Valter probably should have worked for Benoot. But, even with this sacrifice, it likely would have simply moved Benoot from 3rd to 2nd on the stage, since Valentin Madouas seemed to be the stronger and faster rider.
As silly as it looked, the two riders attacking the lead group, and each other, over and over again likely maximized the chances for one of them to get clear for the win (which, to be frank, was the only way either rider would be able to beat the rest of the group).
Benoot might not like it, but Jumbo management and teammates likely don’t care about increasing his finishing position from 3rd to 2nd and will continue to do everything they can to win major races, even if it comes at the expense of his slightly better results.
This type of on-road in-fighting and lack of coordination is something to keep an eye on, especially as the races get bigger and the leadership positions get more and more crowded with the introduction of Van Aert.
Valentin Madouas is for real
The 26-year-old Frenchman broke out in 2022 with a third place at Flanders, and showed today that he is no flash in the pan. After crashing and being forced to chase back on during a critical point of the race (which takes an immense amount of energy), he was still able to make the elite front chase group and definitively won the sprint against Benoot for second place.
Considering this, there is a case to be made that he was potentially as strong as Pidcock and would have been the one to benefit had the chase group been able to nail back Pidcock in the final 10kms.
However, this strength was also part of the problem, and the reason there was no cohesion in the chase group, since Jumbo and Bahrain knew that if they worked to chase down Pidcock, they wouldn’t be able to overpower Madouas at the finish. This could explain why Benoot was skipping turns and Valter seemed to want to attack the group over and over again.
Look for Madouas and his 19-year-old teammate Romain Grégoire to continue to shine throughout the Spring races.
Keep an eye out for a more in-depth breakdown (with video clips) on Strade and Paris-Nice stages 1&2 early next week…
Total group 2 syndrome in that chase. No one wanted to work just to set somebody else up to finish 2nd. The game was up once Pidcock got away on the descent. Maybe that wild descending video he did was actually a key training session!
Strade totally delivered again today. Great analysis Spencer.