Dirt roads and dirty faces as Power shows his mettle at spectacular Strade Bianche

Sat 3 Mar 2018

A coming age performance from 22-year-old Rob Power in a wet and epic edition of Strade Bianche saw the Australian fight to make the right moves and finish in sixth place for Mitchelton-SCOTT.

Heavy rain made for a muddy and spectacular race that split in half early over the gravel sectors before reducing into small chasing groups behind a trio of leaders that led inot the closing kilometres.

Many riders were forced out due to the wet conditions and last year’s sixth place finisher Luke Durbridge was the victim of an early crash that left him ok, but unable to continue and as Mitchelton-SCOTT’s only rider in the front group it was left to Power to pull out a performance.

And what a performance it turned out to be. Up against the very best in the leading group Power stayed out of the mind games and drove forward to a top ten finish behind race winner Tiejs Benoot (Lotto-Soudal).

Decisive Moments:

It didn’t take long for the first splits to form with Team-Sky driving the pace over the early sectors of ‘white roads’ and halving the peloton. Mitchelton-SCOTT made it into the front split of around 70riders before a breakaway group of ten clipped off the front and gained a small advantage, forcing another ramp in pace with 75kilometres to go.

Power was riding well and made the next split at the front in elite company with Michal Kwiatkowski (Team-Sky) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) along with seven others who held a gap of 20seconds going into the final 50kilometres.

The race was split all over yet again and there were regroupings, attacks and more splits ten kilometres later as Roman Bardet (AG2R) and Wout Van Aert (Verandas-Willems-Crelan) went clear and gained 40seconds on 20chasers that included Power and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).

Steep final gravel sector and the climb into Siena:

Van Aert and Bardet held their advantage as the groups behind them continued to fragment on the steep final sections of ‘white roads’ as Benoot bridged across to the duo and then made what turned out to be a race winning attack over the closing kilometres.

Power drove the chase from behind in an elite quartet with Valverde, but it was Benoot who soloed into Siena and hit the tough final climb into the Piazza del Campo for a memorable victory.

Rob Power – Sixth:

“It was a pretty tough day out there, for everyone. For the first half if the race I was supporting Luke until he crashed and was forced to stop. From then I was then on I was the only guy left out front for us. My legs felt good and I was just trying not to get caught out off the back and stay out of the wind as much as possible.”

“To be up there in that kind of group of favourites in a race like this is a new experience for me and I think everyone was suffering especially in that final gravel sector before the steep climb into Siena. It was super hard, but I am very happy with my ride and the result.”

Head Sport director Matt White:

“Rob certainly didn’t do it the easy way today, once we lost Luke he was on his own in that group and there were some very big riders in there that he did very well against. The group of guys that he arrived with and even those that he finished in front of are the best in the world.”

“He has done a lot of hard work over the winter and it’s the first time in a couple of years that he has been able to have an unbroken and sustained period of training like that and we can see his form from today’s ride.

“I would say it was definitely a coming of age performance, he has had some great results at U23 level, but today is the first time he’s gone toe to toe against a top field in a WorldTour race and hopefully he can take some confidence from today and carry his momentum forward into the next races.”

Strade Bianche results:

1. Tiejs Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) 05:03:33

2. Roman Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) +0:39

3. Wout Van Aert (Verandas-Willems-Crelan) +0:58

6. Rob Power (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +1:29

Photos courtesy of Getty Images.