CYCLING: Defending champ Van Vleuten starts 2019 with victory at Strade Bianche

France's Julian Alaphilippe wins the Strade Bianche

Dutch star Annemiek van Vleuten won her first Women’s World Tour seasonal title in 2018 by coming on strong in the last third of the season, winning three of the final nine individual races of the season. She didn’t wait to get a win in 2019, taking the season-opening Strade Bianche in Siena (ITA).

With 15 km to go, Van Vleuten was part of a group of 11 riders who broke away, but then kept going and separated herself from the pack, building a 35-second lead with 10 km left and she cruised in for a 37-second victory over Denmark’s Annika Langvad. Her devastating move strung out the pack left Langvad second and Poland’s Kasia Niewiadoma third.

It was van Vleuten’s 17th win in a World Tour event, not counting her two World Championship wins in the Individual Time Trial.

In the men’s race, Julian Alaphilippe (FRA), Wout van Aert (DEN) and Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) took off at the 160 km mark, with van Aert dropping back by the 167 km mark and Alaphilippe and Fuglsang battling to the finish. The French star had the most power left over the final climb and got to the line first by a couple of seconds.

Although a veteran presence on the World Tour, Alaphilippe is only 26 and owns 22 career wins, of which 10 have been in World Tour events. Could this be his year? Summaries:

UCI World Tour/Strade Bianche
Siena (ITA) ~ 9 March 2019
(Full results here)

Men (184 km): 1. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA), 4:47:14; 2. Jakob Fulsang (DEN), 4:47:16; 3. Wout van Aert (BEL), 4:47:41; 4. Zdenek Stybar (CZE), 4:48:14; 5. Tiesj Benoot (BEL), 4:48:14; 6. Greg van Avermaet (BEL), 4:48:15; 7. Alexey Lutsenko (KAZ), 4:18:18; 8. Simon Clarke (AUS), 4:48:22; 9. Toms Skujins (LAT), 4:48:26; 10. Tim Wellens (BEL), 4:48:35. Also in the top 50: 21. Brent Bookwalter (USA), +2:48; … 36. Ben King (USA), +9:17.

Women (133 km): 1. Annemiek van Vleuten (NED), 3:48:49; 2. Annika Langvad (DEN), 3:49:26; 3. Kasia Niewiadoma (POL), 3:49:29; 4. Marta Bastianelli (ITA), 3:49:33; 5. Cecile Ludwig Uttrup (DEN), 3:49:33; 6. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA), 3:49:40; 7. Marianne Vos (NED), 3:49:41; 8. Janneke Ensing (NED), 3:49:43; 9. Anna van der Breggen (NED), 3:50:17; 10. Chantal Blaak (NED), 3:50:39. Also in the top 50: 11. Ruth Winder (USA), +2:50; … 17. Leah Thomas (USA)_, +3:38; … 37. Tayler Wiles (USA), +5:22.