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The three-time world cyclocross champion dispatched his last two breakaway companions, Greg van Avermaet (BMC) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), on the tough final climb in Siena to cross the line solo with his arms flailing ecstatically.
Though all three looked strong coming into the finale, it looked as if both Van Avermaet and Štybar would be beaten by Valverde as the final climb would normally be perfectly suited to the punchy rider, who thrives on short, steep uphill finishes.
However, it was Valverde who was the first to get shelled on the run-in when Van Avermaet threw down a vicious attack. Yet Štybar quickly overtook the BMC rider to go to the line solo.
“I was just staying on Alejandro’s wheel because I was expecting him to go first, to attack on the steepest part,” Štybar said. “But Greg surprised me when he attacked at the bottom and kept his speed to the top. I didn’t known whether to stay on his wheel or to stay with Alejandro, but in a millisecond I decided to go because I saw that Alejandro was dropping back. At the top I knew that I had to attack because whoever comes first with 200m to go wins. So I did. Finishing alone in the square in Siena is something I will never forget.”
“I tried to give it a go and surprise them a little bit with a good effort,” Van Avermaet said. “Then I saw Štybar in my wheel and he was directly passing me, and I wasn’t strong enough at that moment to keep his wheel.”
Štybar, 29, won the Eneco Tour in 2013 and a stage in the Vuelta a España that same year. He was fifth at Paris-Roubaix in 2014 and sixth there in 2013. After years of racing cyclocross, he started racing professionally on the road in 2011 with Quick-Step.
His victory is the 13th for Etixx-Quick-Step on the road in 2015. Last year, Štybar’s teammate Michał Kwiatkowski won Strade Bianche.
In the women’s race, Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans) of the US took the victory after a 20km solo attack. Read the women’s race report here.
1. Zdeněk Štybar (ETIXX-QUICK-STEP) in 5:22:13. (Average: 37.242 kmh; 23.141 mph)
2. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC RACING TEAM) at 2″
3. Alejandro Valverde (MOVISTAR TEAM) at 18″
— peloton magazine (@pelotonmagazine) March 7, 2015
Here are the top 10 finishers (complete results here [PDF]):
Watch the finale below:
Check back for a full report.
Watch the Etixx riders at Paris-Nice watch the finale:
According to Štybar’s Instagram account, he had some pretty serious-looking dental work done just a day before taking his win at Strade Bianche:
— Niki Terpstra (@NikiTerpstra) March 7, 2015
Quotes from Štybar postrace:
One the decisive break: “It was really difficult because I didn’t want to underestimate Greg, because he’s very explosive, but Valverde is a very big opponent, and with an uphill finish he was always going to be really, really strong, and of course he was waiting for the final climb. In the last 10km, I wasn’t sure how he felt, because when I had to close the gap on Greg, he didn’t want to help because he said he had cramp, but he couldn’t have followed Greg on the climb if he’d had cramp. But I it was really important not to underestimate either of them.”
On the final kilometer: “I was just staying on Alejandro [Valverde]’s wheel because I was expecting him to go first, to attack on the steepest part. But Greg surprised me when he attacked at the bottom and kept his speed to the top. I didn’t known whether to stay on his wheel or to stay with Alejandro, but in a millisecond I decided to go because I saw that Alejandro was dropping back. At the top I knew that I had to attack because whoever comes first with 200m to go wins. So I did. Finishing alone in the square in Siena is something I will never forget.”
Is Strade Bianche a Classic? “I think it absolutely deserves to be a Classic. I think it’s a pity it’s not a WorldTour race. If you can ride on cobbles, you can ride on gravel. In any case, it’s a very special race… It was my first Strade Bianche, and I love it.”
On coming back from injury: “It was difficult to re-start after the accident at the ENECO Tour, where I lost 3 teeth and broke the 2 beside them. For the first time in my career I had 4 months without racing. It may have helped me. In mid-January I had a dental implant. The last stitches came out in Mallorca on Thursday, but after training yesterday I said I had to go to the dentist or I will lose them. So I saw a dentist yesterday, he solved the problem, and today I won Strade Bianche.”