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Tom Pidcock won the Strade Bianche on Saturday, the Briton just holding off a powerful field to claim the Italian classic cycling race.
Ineos rider Pidcock earned the second major win of his young road racing career with a superb display in an eventful 184-kilometre race on the dusty white roads around Siena.
A former cyclo-cross world champion and mountain bike Olympic gold medallist, Pidcock made the most of his off-road pedigree as he won his first Spring classic and first one-day race since the Brabantse Pijl in 2021.
The 23-year-old pulled away with just over 20km remaining in Tuscany, eventually finishing 20 seconds ahead of France’s Valentin Madouas with Jumbo-Visma’s Tiesj Benoot close behind in third.
Hotly-tipped Mathieu van der Poel and Julian Alaphilippe were way off the pace as Pidcock took the title from Tadej Pogacar who is in France for Paris-Nice this weekend.
“Honestly it’s going to take some sinking in,” said Pidcock.
“I had a good feeling this week that something good was going to happen today. I kind of knew that today was my day and that it actually paid off is incredible.”
A three-man group of Alessandro De Marchi, Sven Erik Bystrom and Ivan Romeo pulled away early, stretching a gap to the peloton to well over four minutes.
Romeo dropped off the breakaway just as the peloton entered the eighth of 11 gravel sectors. Pidcock joined them after a brilliant break from the main pack.
Pre-race favourite Van der Poel eventually made a move with 41 kilometres remaining but he struggled to make it across as attacks and counter-attacks fragmented the main bunch.
The Dutchman was in disappointing form and was left out of the running with over 30 kilometres remaining as the leading trio became a duo featuring Pidcock and De Marchi.
Pidcock then pulled away from veteran De Marchi and pushed for the win as he headed into the Colle Pinzuto, the penultimate gravel sector of the race, with an 18-second advantage on the chasing pack which included last year’s Milan-San Remo winner Matej Mohoric.
At one point the gap between that group and Pidcock was cut to just seven seconds but indecision allowed Pidcock to develop a big enough lead heading into the final climb that ensured he arrived first in front of packed crowds in Piazza del Campo.
“They came close and I thought ‘I’ve messed it up, I’ve gone too early, I’ve wasted my shot here’,” added Pidcock.
“It was so fast all day and I thought if I get the gap and keep going it’s hard to bring back.”