Echelons! The European Season Gets Into Swing With Strade Bianche & Paris-Nice

This week, the big WorldTour races come thick and fast, with the men’s and women’s Strade Bianche, defined by the beautiful white gravel roads of Tuscany, and the first stage of Paris-Nice, defined by close to gale force winds. We’ve also got something completely different, with a great result for Hank at the Rad Race in Berlin.

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The 6th monument? That’s what some people are calling Strade Bianche, despite it’s relatively short history, it’s quickly become one of the most prestigious one day races on the calendar, and as such it drew in a very strong field in both the men’s and women’s events.

In the former – there was nothing anybody could do against the strength of Julian Alaphilippe. Jakob Fuglsang was on incredible form, but despite his best efforts, he couldn’t drop the Frenchman, who seems to have gone to a whole new level this year.

Cyclocross star Wout Van Aert took third, again, and his power numbers from Velon really throw light onto just how hard that finale was – he averaged 665w for 45 seconds to follow Fuglsang’s initial attack, and then 380w for the final 27 minutes after getting dropped and spending much of that time solo.

In the women’s race, we witnessed a display of dominance from a rider who, at 36, is clearly in her prime. Annemiek Van Vleuten literally rode away from the cream of the crop inside the last 20km’s – she didn’t even attack, she just rode hard, and nobody could stick with her. She would go on to win the race by a comfortable margin of 37 seconds, and that perhaps wouldn’t be remarkable, given her class, were it not for the fact that she spent much of the off season getting over a fractured knee, sustained at the World Championships last September.

Her return to competition was just 7 days previous, where she finished 4th at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and if this performance is anything to go by, her rivals have a lot to be worried about for the upcoming races. Surprisingly, that was her 1st win in a one day spring classic since 2011, when she won the Tour of Flanders.

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Photos: © Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images & © Bettiniphoto / http://www.bettiniphoto.net/

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