Difficult day on the Strade Bianche for ORICA-GreenEDGE

Sat 5 Mar 2016

The tenth edition of Strade Bianche took place today, whipped by cold winds and under a cloudy sky. The race was won by Fabian Cancellara (Trek) after a close run finale with 2015 winner Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quickstep).

For ORICA-GreenEDGE, Luke Durbridge and Jens Keukeleire were the best placed finishers rolling in amongst the fragmented main group.

Racing across the famous ‘white roads’ of the winemaking region of Chianti and finishing in the iconic Piazza Del Campo in Siena, it proved to be a challenging day for the team.  

A bad crash for Damien Howson on the fourth section of gravel road saw him withdraw from the race. Howson has received stitches on his knee from the race doctors but fortunately is not seriously injured.

“It was a real shame that Damien (Howson) couldn’t continue with the race after the crash, he was in a good position in the front group and riding very well,” said sports director Neil Stephens.

“Obviously we weren’t there at the results end of the race, it was always going to be difficult with a young team in a big race at this early stage of the season.”

“Overall we did ok today, the young guys did a good job with Christian (Meier). Our two leaders Jens and Luke were on their own for the last 50 kilometres and unfortunately ran out of gas for the final.”

Stephens continued by looking ahead to next week’s races.

“All in all we can look at today as a good build up for Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico and the classics. We’re heading in the right direction and for the younger guys today was a valuable experience.”

How it happened:

The cold and windy conditions at the start of the race made for an apprehensive roll out in Siena this morning. Already a difficult and hilly parcours without adverse weather, the strong head wind and first gravel sectors kept the peloton together for the early kilometres until a breakaway of eight riders formed gaining a lead of around four minutes.

The situation stayed the same until the fourth and fifth gravel sectors when crashes and mechanicals started to play a significant part. As the gravel roads climbed upwards, echelons began to form and the peloton was split into three with Etixx-Quickstep trying to take advantage of this by going immediately on the attack.

After just over 100 kilometres of racing the breakaway was completely swallowed by peleton. With the field now heavily reduced to around 60 or so riders, fresh attacks started to form. A five rider group including Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quickstep) and Salvatore Puccio (Team Sky) gained 45seconds on the main bunch and held this onto the next section of gravel road.

With 19 kilometres to go Brambilla attacked with gusto, splitting the break and gaining a few hundred metres. As the chasing group caught the remnants of the days late breakaway Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) attacked with Stybar and Cancellara the only two riders able to follow.

Catching Brambilla and working together for the final kilometres, it became clear the winner would come from this group of four. Brambilla attacked as they entered the winding streets of Siena with Sagan falling behind on the rising gradient. As Brambilla tired in the final few hundred metres it was left to Cancellara and Stybar to battle it out as they entered the Piazza Del Campo.

Cancellara’s know-how and experience eventually won out and he claimed his third victory in the race.

ORICA-GreenEDGE are in action again tomorrow at GP Industria and Artigianato di Larciano.

Strade Bianche results:

1. Fabian Cancellara (Trek) 04:39:35
2. Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quickstep) 0:00:00
3. Ganluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quickstep) 0:00:04
31. Luke Durbridge (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 0:05:30