Intermittent rain turned the 11th edition of Strade Bianche into a slippery mess, and a whole heap of luck was needed in addition to strong legs.
Fabio Felline had the legs but was hit with misfortune when he was caught in a crash in one of the early gravel sectors. He needed a new bike, and with the team car far behind, it left him with a furious and neverending chase. Boy van Poppel gave everything in trying to help Felline, but the Italian would never see the head of the race again.
"I was in the front in one of the dangerous points of the race," explained Felline. "Some riders, including Quinziato (BMC), went down in front of me and I crashed too. The problem was I broke my shifter, and I needed to wait for the team car to change the bike. And so, I did the whole race chasing the front, but it was impossible to get back. So for sure, I was not super lucky."
Felline did eventually catch Jasper Stuyven, who had made it into a select chase group of favorites before the hammer fell for good in sector 8, the gravel road dedicated to Fabian Cancellara with reason. Everything shattered on a climb, leaving Stuyven – who admitted later he was not on a good day – behind and then as if to rub salt into the wound, he punctured.
"Before the sector after 60k, Lotto put it a little bit in the gutter," said Jasper. "They went full gas, and I was there in good position. Then on the long sector, there was a crash. I did not go down, but I was caught up in the middle. I was pretty quick out of the mess and chased with Kwiatkowski but I never really recovered from it. I just didn't have the best day.
"I really like this race, but to be good I really needed a really good day, and I didn't have it. I tried and tried, and I think on sector 8 our group split, and then I also flatted. Also, in the head, I was not good enough to fight. So then after I tried to work a little bit for Fabio until he went. I didn’t have the best day today, but yeah, it cannot always be how you want – there's ups and downs."
Jasper, knowing his race was over, gave the last of his energy to help Fabio, who was clearly on a good day. Felline gave one last valiant effort in the final kilometers. He attacked and fought all the way to the finish, trying to make the most out of a frustrating day.
"In the last 20-30kms I tried one more time, and Luca (Guercilena, General Manager) was pushing me in the car, 'come on come on' to catch back as many guys as possible. This was my race – if you think about it, it was crazy."
Felline crossed the line in 13th place. After such a long chase, it was an impressive result.