Rider of the week
When it comes to Strade Bianche, one thing is certain: having been created in 2007, the event lacks in history, but makes up for in great racing. It wasn’t a different scenario this year, when the 9th edition took place on the Tuscan hills and white gravel sectors. So now, although where at the beginning of the Spring, Strade Bianche is already a strong candidate for being named best one-day race at the end of the season.
It was an action-packed day in Italy, where the savvy Zdenek Stybar looked to be invincible, followed every attack, stayed at the front all the time and showed his opponents he is the man to beat, before countering the attack of Greg Van Avermaet, heading into the spectacular Piazza il Campo and crossing the finish line first, thus scoring his biggest victory to date in a one-day race.
Zdenek Stybar was one of the hot favorites to take the victory and didn’t fail, putting last season’s injuries and disappointments behind, as he underlined once again his huge potential for the one-day races, a potential which emerged two years ago in Paris-Roubaix, where he finished 6th, this only after an incident with a spectator on the Carrefour de l’Arbre took him out of contention. This time, there weren’t any troubles for the 29-year-old Czech rider, whose strong form, tactical mind and skills perfectly suited to the race helped him survive the selection process that occured on the tough terrain of the race – which included ten dirt sectors – and then dispatch his two rivals, Greg Van Avermaet and Alejandro Valverde with a remarkable ease.
Last season, it was Stybar’s teammate Michal Kwiatkowski who crossed the line solo with his arms flailing ecstatically in Siena’s Piazza il Campo, after a similar attack on the last ramp of the race, thanks to which he left Peter Sagan in the dust. From then on, the young Pole went on to have a great year, which he finished in style, by winning the world title in Ponferrada.
It remains to be seen if the triple cyclo-cross champion – who had a faultless display last Saturday – will also record a breakthrough season and will add a world title or a Spring Monument to his palmares. For this he needs not only luck on his side, but also a change of status inside the Etixx-Quick Step squad, where the cards are still made in Tom Boonen’s favor, the team’s natural leader for the Classics.