The Qhubeka ASSOS team (TeamQhubeka.com) lined up for the 184km Strade Bianche, which also included 63km of gravel roads, motivated and prepared for the challenge that lay ahead.
Michael Gogl and Simon Clarke, our two protected riders of the day, were well taken care of by their young teammates: Robert Power, Emil Vinjebo, Mauro Schmid, Karel Vacek and Bert-Jan Lindeman at the start of the race.
Schmid was on the ball, after one of the first real moves of the day, which came on Sector 7. Watching this move, Gogl, Clarke and Power were able to sit in the wheels as the peloton hit. the race defining sector 8 of Monte Santa Maria.
Sector 8 lived up to its reputation as the race shattered to pieces on the 11km white gravel road. Gogl has shown that he is in great shape, able to keep up with the best riders in the world, like Van der Poel, Alaphilippe and Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma)p>
Emerging from the dust of Santa Maria, Gogl was part of the select lead group of 7 riders with Clarke and Power in the first pursuit group, about 25 “adrift and less than 45 km to go.
There were a few attacks and counterattacks in the leading group, all tied to Gogl, but the next big split would come on the last gravel section of the race. A powerful attack from Van der Poel saw the Dutch champion ride flawlessly with Alaphilippe and Bernal in tow.
Gogl kept up the pressure in the race alongside Van Aert, Pidcock and Tadej Pogacar (UAE) but there was no catching up of the top 3 riders in the final kilometers in Siena.
Van der Poel scored a nice victory while Gogl was able to improve on his 9th place from last year, finishing 6th in the row. Clarke was equally impressive, as one of the strongest drivers in the main pursuit group and finished 8th with his teammate and compatriot Power, making it a fantastic day for Team Qhubeka ASSOS taking 12th place. .
I have to say I felt really good all day and had fantastic support from the team. Everyone was amazing, all the staff and my other teammates the last few days, the way we organized this race was perfect. I think we showed everyone that we are up there with the best, two guys in the top 10 and one just outside the top 10, so I think we can be very proud of this performance and I I am very happy about it today.
Great work from the team today. I am a little disappointed to have missed the final split on the Santa Maria section. Van der Poel almost crashed, which made us both unclip. Unfortunately, I was unable to follow him to the front, as he did. I ended up in the split behind and just went up defensively with Michael up front. I was the best of the rest from that point on. But great work from the team, the young guys at the start and then myself, Michael and Rob Power later, it was just great. Gelling so well and being on top of every move doesn’t happen that often. Also, a huge thank you to the mechanics, we haven’t had a single puncture of the day and not having a puncture at Strade is very rare. Our equipment was absolutely perfect, no collisions, no punctures, what more could you ask for.
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