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Julian Alaphilippe wins the men's 2019 Strade Bianche in exciting finale

Deceuninck-QuickStep continue their domination of the 2019 Classics

Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) won the 2019 Strade Bianche after chasing a last ditch attack from Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) just before the summit of the climb into the centre of Siena. As the road flattened out, the Frenchman went around the Dane and pushed on to the win.

Behind, after a valiant effort to bridge across to the lead pair, Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) crossed the line for third having expended all his energy before the final climb.

Grit and dust: 2019 Strade Bianche

Starting and finishing in Siena, the 2019 Strade Bianche set out for a 184km ride through the stunning hills of Tuscany.

Within that length there are 11 sections of white gravel roads that give the race its name. Different to last year, when the gravel was turned to claggy muck by bad weather, this year it was a warm and dusty affair as the riders raced back to Siena.

The 11 sections of gravel road make up 60.6km of the race, with sections lasting from as little as 800m up to the more challenging distances of 11.5km and 11.9km.

Despite its young age, having only started in 2007, Strade Bianche has made its way into the heart of the wider category of races we know as the Classics.

Similar to the cobbled roads of more prestigious races in Flanders and its surrounds, the sectors of gravel saw the race split into small groups as strength, tactics and bike handling all played their part in separating the riders.

Earlier in the day, Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) had won the women's race by going solo on the final gravel sector and staying clear to the finish.

What would prove to be the eventual podium - Fuglsang, Alaphilippe and Van Aert - pushed on with around 20km left to the end of the race, the win almost within their sights.

Despite his podium finish last year, Van Aert was soon out the back of the lead group and found himself in no man's land, adrift between the leaders and the chasers.

Hitting the final sector of gravel with 13km left to race, Van Aert was 29 seconds behind the lead pair but held a whole minute over the group behind. As such, the podium - or at least its first two steps - looked like it might be a foregone conclusion.

Fuglsang and Alaphilippe continued to ride together once the final gravel road of the day was behind them, all the while Van Aert was fighting his bike to claw them back and the group behind him looked to have left it too late to get anything out of the day.

The nearer the Belgian got to those ahead of him, so too did the group behind gain on him. Fuglsang was the first to have a dig, unsuccessfully trying to get away from Alaphilippe with 5.5km to go.

The Frenchman and Dane then returned to their previous alliance and both took their turn on the front, even if they did give each other a little glance each time they came through.

Descending into the foot of the final climb, Van Aert was laid low on his top tube trying to get back in contact before the summit finish.

As the neutral service car passed them, the leading pair will have known that Van Aert was bearing down on them. Every time the Astana and QuickStep riders looked at each other, the Jumbo-Visma man chipped a little bit more off their advantage until he caught and passed then with 1.1km to the finish line.

Alaphilippe wasn't prepared to see the win go away from him and he bridged across with Fuglsang on his wheel to make it a lead trio once more.

Heading up the steep slopes towards the finish line, Alaphilippe would be most people's favourite. Fuglsand found himself boxed in, but an exhausted Van Aert opened the door and the Dane was soon away up the climb but with Alaphilippe in hot pursuit.

Strade Bianche 2019 results