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Strade Bianche, velvet-smooth stone slabs

15/02/2021

The story of a memorable solo performance culminating in success.

This photograph is dated August 1, 2020. It depicts Wout Van Aert at the ‑500 metre marker, halfway through the stunning and brutal ramp of Via Santa Caterina.

He had jumped clear 12 km before, on the final ramp of the last dirt road sector, Le Tolfe.

At the top of the climb, he was already 8 seconds ahead. Behind him, Schachmann, Formolo and Bettiol joined forces, trying to put on a chase. But besides being a skilled cyclo-cross rider, Van Aert is also a stunning time trialist. Good luck bridging across once he has clipped off!

Instead of narrowing, the gap increased.

From 18 seconds at 8 km out, to 30 seconds at the exact moment the photo was taken.

Shortly after, just before reaching the top of the ramp of Via Santa Caterina, Wout looked back one last time to check things out, trying to catch any of his opponents come into sight from Fontebranda, covered in dust.

Still, there was nothing there but the flagstones of the centre of Siena, and a rider gliding smoothly on the slabs, storming to victory into Piazza del Campo.

This photograph tells the story of a memorable solo performance culminating in success.

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