Finally a World Tour event, and chasing monument status, Strade Bianche will remain to be a phenomenal addition to the calendar, with its white gravel roads and stellar finish in Siena.
With the retirement of three time champion Fabian Cancellara in 2016, a sector of the course, the Monte Sante Marie, was dedicated to last year’s winner. The race showcases many talented riders, with GC contenders like Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrian-Merida) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) able to battle it out with one day specialists like Zdeneck Stybar (Quickstep Floors) Greg van Avermaet (BMC).
The race featured an added bit of difficulty this year, rain on the parcours, although the gravel sectors had mostly dried before the riders completed them.
Crashes marred the early half of the race, with a number of riders abandoning the race, including Gianluca Brambilla (Quickstep Floors) and Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe). A breakaway led by Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) was chased by a strong group that grew out of a split in the peloton. The group featured Greg van Avermaet, Jasper Stuyven (Trek) and Matteo Trentin (Quickstep Floors).
By the time the breakaway was reeled in with about 30km to go, the chasing group had begun attacking one another, driving a split within the chasing group. By 20km to go, two time winner Zdeneck Stybar had broken away with previous winner Michal Kwiatkowski (SKY), Greg van Avermaet, and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal). Luke Durbridge (Orica Scott), Chris Juul-Jensen (Orica Scott) and Tom Dumoulin bridged across soon after.
These seven riders would be the only ones in contention for the win. Kwiatkowski went solo at about the 15km to go mark, and held a small advantage until he dropped the hammer around 7km to go, taking risks in the wet roundabouts outside Siena. The chase group split once again, with the three who bridged earlier falling off the back.
Coming into Siena at 1km to go, Kwiatkowski had over 30 seconds advantage to play with on the climb. The chasing trio would have to battle for third, though, as Michal Kwiatkowski takes the solo win in the first edition of the World Tour level Stade Bianche. Greg van Avermaet came in for second with Tim Wellens in third.
The World Tour will continue with two stage races next week: Paris-Nice starting Sunday and Tirreno-Adriatico starting on Wednesday. NBC Gold members can watch Paris-Nice live and on-demand.