Team Qhubeka ASSOS (TeamQhubeka.com) lined up for the 184km Strade Bianche, which also included 63km of gravel roads, motivated and prepared for the challenge that lay ahead.
Michael Gogl and Simon Clarke, our two protected riders of the day, were well looked after by their youthful teammates: Robert Power, Emil Vinjebo, Mauro Schmid, Karel Vacek and Bert-Jan Lindeman in the early part of the race.
Schmid was on the ball, following one of the first real moves of the day, which came on sector 7. By policing that move, Gogl, Clarke and Power were able to sit in the wheels as the peloton hit the race defining sector 8 of Monte Santa Maria.
Sector 8 lived up to its reputation, as the race broke to pieces over the 11km of white gravel road. Gogl showed he was on top form, being able to follow the best riders in the world, like Van der Poel, Alaphilippe and Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
Emerging from the dust of Santa Maria, Gogl was part of the select lead group of 7 riders with Clarke and Power in the first chase group, roughly 25” adrift and with less than 45km to go.
There were a couple of attacks and counter attacks in the leading group, all of which Gogl was equal to, but the next significant split would come on the final gravel sector of the race. A powerful attack from Van der Poel saw the Dutch champion ride clear with Alaphilippe and Bernal in tow.
Gogl kept the pressure on in the chase together with Van Aert, Pidcock and Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates) but there was no catching the top 3 riders over the closing kilometers into Siena.
Van der Poel took a nice victory while Gogl was able to better his 9th place of last year, placing 6th at the line. Clarke was equally impressive, as one of the strongest riders in the main chase group and finished 8th with teammate and countryman Power making it a fantastic day for Team Qhubeka ASSOS by taking 12th place.
I have to say I felt really good all day and had fantastic support from the team. Everybody was just incredible, all the staff and my other teammates over the last few days, how we organised this race was perfect. I think we showed everyone that we are up there with the best, two guys in the top 10 and one just outside the top 10 so I think we can be very proud of this performance and I am very happy with today.
Super job from the team today. I am a little disappointed that I missed the final split on the Santa Maria section. Van der Poel nearly crashed, which caused us to both unclip. Unfortunately, I couldn’t follow him back to the front, as he did. I ended up in the split behind and just rode defensively with Michael in the front. I was best of the rest from that point. But super job from team, the young guys early on and then myself, Michael and Rob Power later on, it was just great. To gel so well, and be on top of every move, that does not happen so often. Also, a massive thanks to mechanics, we did not have one puncture all day and to not have a puncture at Strade is very rare. Our equipment was absolutely spot on, no crashes, no punctures, what more could you want.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Team Qhubeka ASSOS.
Jean Smyth (Head of Communications)
Mobile: +27 63 4701 1710 or +31 625 739 033
About Team Qhubeka ASSOS:
Team Qhubeka ASSOS (TeamQhubeka.com) is a purpose-led, high-performance team, fighting to win on the world's biggest stage, to inspire hope and create opportunity. Founded in 2007, Team Qhubeka ASSOS (formerly NTT Pro Cycling) became the first-ever African cycling team to gain a UCI WorldTour license, in 2016.
We achieved our first major win in 2013 when Gerald Ciolek won Milan-San Remo, one of the five Monuments of cycling. We have competed in six Tour de France’s and notched up 7 stage wins, with Mark Cavendish wearing the coveted Yellow Jersey at the 2016 Tour de France.
We are a multicultural, diverse team with bases in South Africa, the Netherlands and Italy. There are 19 nationalities represented across our World Tour and continental feeder team rosters. Our focus on developing African cycling has resulted in more than 55 riders from the African continent be given the opportunity to race on the world stage, since the team's inception.
We race to help people to move forward with bicycles through our relationship with Qhubeka Charity. Through our work with Qhubeka, we have contributed to the distribution of over 30 000 bicycles in communities in South Africa.
Qhubeka (Qhubeka.org) is a charity that moves people forward with bicycles. People earn bicycles through our programmes, improving their access to schools, clinics and jobs.
A bicycle is a tool that helps people to travel faster and further, and to carry more. In the face of extreme and persistent poverty, bicycles can change lives by helping to address socioeconomic challenges at the most basic level – helping people to get where they need to go.
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Team Qhubeka ASSOS deliver fantastic team performance at Strade Bianche (1)