Belgian Tiesj Benoot got the better of the pre-race favourites when he won the Strade Bianche classic in wet and muddy conditions in Siena, Italy, today.
The Lotto-Soudal rider attacked from a group of three – including Tour de France runner-up Romain Bardet and triple world cyclo-cross champion Wout van Aert – just under 15km from the finish of the 184km race.
He crossed the line in 5:03:33, 39 seconds ahead of Bardet and 58 in front of Van Aert – who was riding in only his second classic ever.
The race was set alight when Bardet joined the front group with just over 30km left and then attacking immediately to go up the road.
He was joined by Van Aert, who impressed in his first classic race, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, last weekend.
They built a maximum lead of 1:30 over the race favourites until they were joined by Tiesj Benoot 15km from the end. Benoot hardly took the time to catch his breath before attacking the erstwhile leaders and forging ahead on his own.
Benoot had a lead of 35 seconds over Bardet and Van Aert and just over a minute over the peloton with 6km remaining until the final paved climb in Siena.
He reached the final kilometre with a 45-second advantage over the chasing duo and 1:45 over the favourites.
The race included 11 “sterrati”, or white gravel road sections, totalling 63km.
The women’s race, Strade Bianchi Donne, was won by Anna van der Breggen.
The top 10 results are:
1. Tiesj Benoot (Belgium, Lotto Soudal) 5:03:33
2. Romain Bardet (France, AG2R La Mondiale) +39″
3. Wout van Aert (Belgium, Veranda’s Willems Crelan) +58″
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spain, Movistar Team) +1’25”
5. Giovanni Visconti (Italy, Bahrain-Merida) +1’27”
6. Robert Power (Australia, Mitchelton-Scott) +1’29”
7. Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic, Quick-Step Floors) +1’42”
8. Peter Sagan (Slovakia, Bora-Hansgrohe) +2’08”
9. Pieter Serry (Belgium, Quick-Step Floors) +2’11”
10. Gregor Mühlberger (Austria, Bora-Hansgrohe) +2’18”