Van der Poel masters the gravel roads to win Strade Bianche

SIENA, Italy (AP) — Mathieu van der Poel’s many talents across multiple disciplines came in handy when he won the Strade Bianche race on Saturday ahead of a stellar field.

Having already accelerated on the last of 11 sections of white, gravel roads to winnow the lead group down to three, the Dutch champion left behind world champion Julian Alaphilippe and 2019 Tour de France champion Egan Bernal on the short but steep finishing climb to Siena’s Piazza del Campo on a stretch of cobblestones where the gradient reached a leg-breaking 16%.

Van der Poel had time to unleash a series of fist pumps as he crossed the line in the piazza, which was empty of fans due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Alaphilippe crossed second, five seconds behind, and Bernal came third, 20 seconds back.

Van der Poel, who rides for the Alpecin-Fenix team, required 4 hours, 40 minutes to complete the 184-kilometer (114-mile) route, which also began in Siena.

Having won last year’s Tour of Flanders, this was another big road race victory for Van der Poel, who also has multiple titles in cyclo-cross and mountain bike racing.

“This is one of the races I was really focusing on this year,” Val der Poel said. “I had really good legs and I made the difference where I wanted to.”

Last year’s winner Wout van Aert finished fourth and last year’s Tour de France champion, Tadej Pogačar, came seventh.

The 136-kilometer (85-mile) women’s race had a similar finish and a Dutch winner, too.

Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, the 2017 world champion, attacked to leave behind Olympic bronze medalist Elise Longo Borghini on the finishing climb up Via Santa Caterina.

Longo Borghini finished seven seconds behind and Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen came third, nine seconds back.

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