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Instinct and courage


No matter how you look at it, the Strade Bianche roll of honour oozes class and glory. Today, the name of Tom Pidcock – who, for those who don’t know, at 23, is a three-time cyclocross world champion and Olympic cross-country champion – has been added to the men’s list and that of Demi Vollering to the women’s.

In a Matrix movie they would have asked: “blue pill or red pill”? With the blue one, the attacker reaches the finish line alone, arms raised in the sky of Piazza del Campo. With the red one, the attacker is caught within the last kilometre of the race. Pidcock chose the blue pill, Kristen Faulkner, on the other hand, the red pill, being overtaken by Vollering and Lotte Kopecky on the final wall of Via Santa Caterina.

Both, however, followed their instinct, moving when their opponents least expected it. Pidcock attacked on the first ramps of the dusty Monte Sante Marie, more than 50 km from the finish, mastering the walls, brushing the descents and barely holding off the rather nervous counter-attackers behind him; Faulkner, on the other hand, decided to give it a try just before the town of Castelnuovo Berardenga, at 40 km to go, having to abdicate to her rivals only on the final ramp towards Piazza del Campo. Two sides of the same coin.

Furthermore, this was certainly not the Strade Bianche of brotherly spirit between teammates, of cohesion and unity for a common goal. In fact, it seemed more like an all against all kind of thing, no matter whether your breakaway companion was wearing the same jersey or a different one. Nothing but attacks, left and right, uphill and downhill, too soon or too late, when you’re competing for the Strade Bianche no teammate can hold you back.

We saw it with the women, when Demi Vollering and Lotte Kopecky first moved completely independently on the Colle Pinzuto and Le Tolfe walls, simply ignoring each other’s tactic, and then on the final wall of Via Santa Caterina, instead of enjoying their well-deserved final parade, they fought shoulder to shoulder until a resounding photo finish. Vollering said that Kopecky was happy for her victory… it’s up to you to decide whether or not to believe her.

But if the clash between the two SD Worx riders was amply justified by victory being at stake, what happened with Jumbo-Visma, let’s say it, was nothing short of weird: the impression was that Tiesj Benoot and Attila Valter never understood each other and let Pidcock fly away, or at least made his life slightly easier at doing so. Benoot, who knows how to win the Strade Bianche, having done so back in 2018, blatantly pointed out to the Hungarian that his short and quite pointless attacks were not the best way to collaborate, but Valter always seemed to go straight for it. But then again, when you’re 10″ away from winning a Strade Bianche, the dirty work doesn’t even cross your mind.

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