Zdenek Stybar wins Strade Bianche ahead of Greg van Avermaet and Alejandro Valverde
Last Updated: 07/03/15 6:17pm
Czech rider Zdenek Stybar produced a powerful performance to claim the biggest one-day win of his career at the Italian classic Strade Bianche on Saturday.
The Etixx – Quick-Step rider formed part of a three-man lead group with 12km remaining and went on to beat Greg van Avermaet into second place by two seconds and Alejandro Valverde into third by 18 seconds.
It was Etixx – Quick-Step’s 13th win of the season and Stybar’s superb show of strength over Strade Bianche’s endless barrage of climbs and 45km of gravel roads enhanced his credentials for next month’s Paris-Roubaix.
The lead trio arrived together at the final climb of Via Santa Caterina, which comes in the final 1km and has maximum gradient of 16 per cent, but then Van Avermaet attacked and only Stybar could follow.
However, the BMC Racing rider was exhausted by his efforts and when the road levelled out for the final 200m to the finish, Stybar had little trouble in dashing past him to claim his first win of the season.
Stybar said: "Greg surprised me when he attacked at the bottom and kept his speed to the top. I didn’t known whether to stay on his wheel or to stay with Alejandro, but in a millisecond I decided to go because I saw that Alejandro was dropping back.
"At the top I knew that I had to attack because whoever comes first with 200m to go wins. So I did. Finishing alone in the square in Siena is something I will never forget."
The day was played out in bright and sunny conditions but high winds battered the peloton and punctures and mechanical problems were both rife.
Peter Sagan had played a key role in creating an initial lead group of nine with just under 50km to go but later fell away, while Fabian Cancellara also joined that group but could not make it into the final three and eventually finished 19th.
Salvatore Puccio was Team Sky's highest finisher in 13th, 1min 3sec down, but Britain's Ian Stannard did not complete the race after sustaining a bruised knee in a crash.
1 Zdenek Stybar (Cze)Etixx – Quick-Step, 5:22:13
2 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, +2secs
3 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, +18
4 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo, +46
5 Diego Rosa (Ita) Astana, +56
6 Oscar Gatto (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela, +59
7 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx – Quick-Step, same time
8 Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek Factory Racing, +1:02
9 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida, +1:03
10 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha, +1:03