UAE Team Emirates' Tadej Pogacar clinches stunning win in season opener

Slovenian goes on solo attack 81km from finish line at Strade Bianche

Powered by automated translation

UAE Team Emirates rider Tadej Pogacar fired a warning shot to his rivals by storming to victory in the Strade Bianche with a solo attack 81 kilometres from the finish line in Siena, Italy.

Pogacar claimed a statement victory in his first race of the 2024 season in which he will attempt a Giro d'Italia-Tour de France double for the first time, with the Paris Olympics also on his mind.

Pogacar finished two minutes and 44 seconds ahead of Toms Skujins, bettering the previous record winning margin of 42 seconds set by Fabian Cancellara in 2012.

The 215km race is one of the jewels of the Classics season. It started and finished in Siena and included 15 gravel sections.

Two-time Tour winner Pogacar had said before the start that he would attack on the Monte Santa Maria and he did just that, charging from the pack and racing on his own for over two hours before winning the 215km race set in the Tuscan countryside.

"It was really tough conditions and there were no more resources left in the group so it was only 25 riders... There was a moment when you couldn't see anything and I decided to go on the attack," the Slovenian told Eurosport.

"I knew that it was going to be long but I knew that when I had a gap that I just go to the end."

Pogacar said he had to plan his race smartly, given the challenges that await the rest of the year.

"When I knew I had a good gap, I only focused my energies on going to the finish," he told UAE Team Emirates' website.

"The first race of the season is always difficult, but I did a perfect preparation during the winter and I worked hard to be ready for this debut and it worked. I had good feelings in the first part of the race, the team did a super good job, I felt fine also when it was raining a lot and so I understood it was the proper moment to attack."

Pogacar basked in the applause of fans as he crossed the line in Siena's Piazza del Campo, getting off his bike and raising it into the air in celebration at a huge win against a strong field which also included Ineos' defending champion Tom Pidcock, who finished fourth.

His charge was even more impressive than the way he won in Siena for the first time two years ago, when he attacked from 50km and got no reply from his rivals, as this year's edition was the longest in the race's 17-year history.

An extra loop was added to the course to make the young race, which is gaining in status to the point that some are calling it the sixth "Monument" due to the 71 kilometres of dusty white gravel which make it unique.

The next big target for Pogacar is Milan-San Remo in a fortnight, the season's first official Monument and a race that he hasn't yet won.

Updated: March 03, 2024, 9:41 AM