Tadej Pogacar revela su punto de ataque en la Strade Bianche, lo ejecuta con éxito y se lleva la victoria.

Teams gather in the bus, the director assembles the cyclists, and, isolated from the world, explains the strategy to surprise their rivals. Previously, they would do this in hotels, like Giorgio Albani did in the 1971 Tour with Molteni. After Ocaña’s display in Orcières-Merlette against Eddy Merckx, where he distanced the Belgian by nine minutes, Albani planned to attack downhill right from the start. It was raining, and Albani’s riders set off without raincoats. Lucien Aimar sensed something was off; a Kas team rider noticed the bicycles had been modified with a larger chainring. When the race began, they had to push the massive gear to get going.

The others, taken by surprise, spent the whole day chasing. When they reached the finish line, there was no audience. They had arrived two hours early. The mayor of Marseille, Gaston Defferre, declared his eternal hatred for the Tour.

But some cyclists are transparent, like Tadej Pogacar. The Slovenian was returning to competition after 140 days. At the start of the Strade Bianche, he left the bus meeting where his director had retrieved the confidential strategy envelope from the safe, and when the first microphone approached him, he revealed the plans: “I’ll attack at Santa Maria.” It wasn’t bragging or bluffing; he was giving fair warning. “Whoever has the strength, follow me”, so there, on the eighth stretch of gravel and dirt, amidst a storm, he kept his word.

He didn’t look back or get out of the saddle. He just accelerated, and although Pidcock and Simmons tried to keep up, their effort lasted only seconds. There were 81 kilometers to the Piazza del Campo in Siena, and Pogacar was already flying solo. As soon as he attacked, the clouds parted, and the sun came out in Tuscany, as if meteorological events surrendered to him, as he extended his lead. At kilometer 140, he was almost a minute ahead of the chasers. Twenty kilometers later, at 2.36 and at 170, he had increased it to 3.29.

The longest Strade Bianche (215 kilometers) in its short history was over when more than a third still remained, all due to the Pogacar phenomenon, which began as it ended, unchanged. He remains the same, insatiable, a predator, relentless with the rivals, but also friendly, affable, smiling, as he ascended the cobbles of Santa Caterina in the final kilometer. At a 15% gradient, with dried gray mud stuck to the tires, lodged between the cogs and the chain, staining his jersey, yet fresh as a lettuce after outclassing all his rivals like a wild horse in the Palio di Siena, in that same square where he raised his arms and bicycle.

No one challenged him. Only his celebrations narrowed the gap to the runner-up, Tom Skujins, at 2.42. Van Gils came third, and Pidcock fourth, the winner in 2023. The rest arrived like lost souls, far from the Pogacar phenomenon that starts very strong. As always, let’s continue.

In the women’s race, held a few hours earlier, uncertainty about the victory lingered until the slope of Santa Caterina. On the demanding final ramp, world champion Lotte Kopecky left her companion until then, Elisa Longo Borghini, behind with 500 meters to go and crossed the finish line alone at the Piazza del Campo. Demi Vollering finished third.

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