Strade Bianche - Pogacar's Decisive Win

Words by Zach Nehr / Photo: @sprintagency 

Tadej Pogačar told everyone at Strade Bianche where he was going to attack: “On the Sante Marie,” he said in a pre-race interview. Yet, no one could do anything about it. Few expected Pogačar to attack so far from the finish. Even fewer expected him to stick it. 

But as he’s done so many times in his career, Pogačar surprised everyone with one of the most incredible performances in cycling. The Slovenian was solo for more than two hours, averaging 340w and nearly 39 kph on the gravel roads to Siena. 

Pogačar’s Plan

There wasn’t much to hide in Pogačar’s pre-race plan. He told everyone before the race that he would attack on the five-star Sante Marie gravel sector, and that’s exactly what he did. When Pogačar won the 2022 Strade Bianche, he attacked in the same exact spot: solo on the Sante Marie. 

Pogačar went 31 seconds faster than anyone in cycling history on the Sante Marie gravel sector. On Pogačar’s Strava, you can see one of the 100+ KOMs he took that day.

The only difference was that, in 2022, Strade Bianche was 184km long, and the Sante Marie sector was 50km from the finish. In 2024, Strade Bianche grew to a total of 215km, and the Sante Marie was now 80km from the finish. But that didn’t change Pogačar’s plan. He wanted to make the race hard, and that’s exactly what UAE Team Emirates did.

Pogačar and UAE Team Emirates raced on ENVE’s SES 4.5 wheels, which are the team’s go-to wheelset for all weather conditions and different road surfaces. Those wheels were paired with 30 mm tires for Strade Bianche, increasing traction and cornering speed, while also reducing the risk of punctures on the gravel roads. 

Putting the Plan Into Action

Before live television pictures, UAE Team Emirates was already driving the pace with over 100km to go. The goal was to tire out the peloton and put Pogačar in the perfect position for a big attack on the Sante Marie. 

With 81km to go, Pogačar made his move, dropping everyone off his wheel and going solo. During his attack, Pogačar had a maximum 5-minute power of 460w and an average power of 340w. Over the white Tuscan roads and many slippery descents, Pogačar averaged 38.8 kph during his solo effort and built up a lead of more than three minutes over second place. 

By the time he reached 5km to go, Pogačar was already celebrating, smiling at the camera, and pumping up the crowds as he rode by. 


Why an 80km Solo Attack?

Few riders in cycling history have dared to attack so far from the finish. 40km is typically the point at which riders think about attacking. But to go solo with 80km to go? That performance is on a completely different level. 

Not only did Pogačar win Strade Bianche, but he won it comfortably. After riding solo for 60km, Pogačar’s gap to the chase group was three minutes and growing. He probably could have won by a greater margin, but Pogačar slowed down to smile for the cameras and coast through the final few hundred meters in Siena. 

So why did he attack with 80km to go? Pogačar has a history of long solo moves. He went from 50km out at the 2022 Strade Bianche and 31km to go at the 2023 Il Lombardia

Here’s a short list of Pogačar’s biggest solo wins (race; length of solo):

  • 2023 Il Lombardia: 31km
  • 2023 Amstel Gold Race: 28km
  • 2022 Strade Bianche: 49km
  • 2019 Vuelta ciclista a España: 39km

Take one look at Pogačar’s race calendar, and you can see why he was so strong during a 2-hour solo effort. The 25-year-old is racing Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a race in which four of the six previous editions have been won by long solo attacks. 

Pogačar is also racing the Giro-Tour double this year, and both Grand Tours feature a stage with gravel sectors  – Stage 6 at the Giro, and Stage 9 at the Tour. While many of his GC rivals will be in survival mode, Pogačar could be going on the attack and taking minutes in the GC. 

Was Pogačar’s 81km solo a warning shot sent ‘round the world? His rivals certainly took note, as did the rest of the cycling world. In fact, Pogačar’s win at the 2024 Strade Bianche may go down in cycling history as one of the greatest solo attacks of all-time. Only time will tell if Pogačar’s not-so-secret plan will be used again. Pay close attention to his pre-race interviews because he might tell you exactly what’s about to happen. 

Pogačar returns to racing at Milano–Sanremo, followed by the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, and Liège–Bastogne–Liège. Pogačar will race on ENVE SES 4.5 wheels during the spring and summer, but watch out for the SES 2.3 climbing wheels during the hilliest stages. His handlebar of choice is the soon-to-be-released SES Pro Team One-Piece that was designed around with his specific input. 

Link to Pogačar’s Strava