Küng Leads the Way for BMC Racing Team on a Tough Day of Racing at Strade Bianche3. March 2018, Siena (ITA) — Road Team
Cold and wet weather conditions set the stage for a dramatic edition of Strade Bianche with Stefan Küng leading the charge for BMC Racing Team on a tough day of racing through the Tuscan countryside.
The action began the moment the flag dropped today with riders battling to go clear over the opening kilometers of the 184km race before, a group of around 70 riders split off the front of the peloton after the first of eleven gravel sectors.
After 50km of racing, the front group, which included Küng and the rest of his BMC Racing Team teammates, was sitting 2’30” ahead. But soon, ten riders took the opportunity to attack, and they were allowed to go free on the approach to the start of the Montalcino climb with 126km of racing still to come.
The breakaway’s advantage was able to rise to over five minutes before, with the peloton coming back together, the gap began to fall, and as the race reached the 75km to go mark, the leaders had been pulled back to a manageable 1’20”.
With 60km to go and on the eighth gravel section - probably one of the toughest of the race - just three riders remained from the breakaway. As they came into view, Stefan Küng was one of a handful of riders that made the jump across while the rest of the reduced bunch completely exploded behind them.
Heading into the final 40km of the day, Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and Wout Van Aert (Veranda’s Willems Crelan) had started to forge on ahead and, at the same time, the chase group with Küng grew to around 30 riders.
As the duo’s advantage nudged towards the one-minute mark, the chasers began to respond, and after a series of counter-attacks, Küng was sitting in the second chase group on the road, 1’30” back with 23km to go.
Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) was able to join the leaders with 15km remaining before attacking on the final gravel sector and riding solo over the iconic run into the finish in the Piazza del Campo to take the day’s honors ahead of Bardet and Van Aert.
Küng continued to push hard behind the front group and eventually, after a gutsy ride in harsh conditions, he was BMC Racing Team’s best-placed rider, crossing the line inside the top twenty.
Quotes From the Finish Line
"It was a pretty special edition of Strade Bianche that's for sure, and we knew that it would be going into the race. In the beginning, I had some mechanical problems and needed a few bike changes, but then, everything was working well, and our team took the initiative in the middle of the race to make it hard. We were all there in full force, and I was covering the attacks on the section before Sante Marie. Greg wasn't having his best day so it was then up to me to represent the colors of the team and I tried to give it a go. It was a bit of a pity because one guy after another then moved across, and picking the right move was a little like playing roulette. I was a little bit on the back foot because even though I was in the group, we were neutralizing each other and so rider after rider got away."
"In the end, it was really difficult and I think everybody struggled to get to the finish. For me, it was a good race until 30km to go and then it got a bit out of hand. I have mixed feelings about the race, on the one hand I am happy that I was out at the front of the race but on the other, I would have liked to have finished a bit further up. I was missing just a little bit of form at the end, but in this company, a little bit is too much."
"I still love this race, and my love might even be stronger after today because it is one of the most epic races there is in cycling. No matter what the conditions are like, it is a really nice race, and I am already looking forward to next year. I know that I have work to do and I know where I have to work to get stronger. But for right now, it is all about getting clean again. It will probably take a couple of showers to get rid of all the mud from today."
Greg Van Avermaet:
“I felt good until the race really opened up. My body couldn’t go deep in this weather, and my legs didn’t respond as I wanted. I was disappointed because I really like this race but there was nothing that I could do.”
Sports Director, Valerio Piva:
"We had a little bit of bad luck at the start with a couple of bike problems for Stefan and Damiano and the race as a whole was quite chaotic especially with the weather and the bad roads. As the race settled down, we took charge of the race and helped to control it. Then at the really dangerous point of the race, we had five riders in the main group of around forty riders with Greg and Stefan in there."
"At Sante Marie, Stefan jumped to cover some attacks, but at the same time, Greg wasn't able to follow. However, we saw a lot of leaders dropped today, and the cold and bad weather definitely played a crucial role. Stefan was up there though, and he did a very good race and I am happy for him. He was where he needed to be at the right moment, and he did what we wanted him to do. I think we did the best that we could given the circumstances and how the race played out."
"The conditions today were extreme, and gravel was not the 'strade bianche' we know it was more like the 'mud strade' so it was an incredible race to watch. I have never seen these roads like that since Cadel Evans' stage victory at the Giro d'Italia in Montalcino. It was really hard today, and we knew it would be like this, but this could definitely have been why we saw some riders having problems."
One-day race: Siena > Siena, 184km
Top 3: 1. Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) 2. Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) 3. Wout Van Aert (Veranda’s Willems Crelan)
BMC Racing Team Top 3: 16. Stefan Küng 34. Greg Van Avermaet 35. Michael Schär