Reigning Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar impressed on the dirt roads of Strade Bianche had no response when eventual race winner Mathieu van der Poel attacked with 24km to go with the Slovenian eventually taking seventh in Siena.
The UAE Team Emirates rider came into the Italian one-day race as a genuine contender after a strong start to the season in which he won the UAE Tour.
He was well placed in the decisive, big-name group that formed during the key monte Santa Maria dirt sector of the race with 50km to go. But when Van de Poel put on the afterburners on the final dirt ramp with 12km to go, an already struggling Pogacar found himself cut adrift.
Only world champion Julian Alaphilippe and Egan Bernal could follow Van de Poel’s vicious acceleration with the Dutchman eventually moving clear on the final climb before the line to take yet another impressive solo win.
Pogacar, who had teammate Davide Formolo to support him during several important points before the main selection, remained in the second group after Van der Poel attacked and would eventually cross the line in seventh, 54 seconds behind the winner.
Last year’s champion Wout van Aert was forced to settle for fourth, just ahead of Pogacar, who was pleased with his own result.
“It was a good race for us and we were active all day, and as a team, we did a super good race. In the end, I was in the front of the race and in the break but on the sector when van der Poel attacked I had a moment of crisis and I was barely coming to the top,” Pogacar said at the finish.
“I didn’t give up and I was fighting for fourth place in the end. We were trying to catch the front group but there were no way that we could catch them. Then I tried to do my best in the final to Siena but I was quite finished then. I’m quite happy with my seventh place.”
Pogacar now heads to Tirreno-Adriatico as he continues his path to the Tour de France, where he will be looking to win his second consecutive title.