One week after showing himself on the Belgian cobblestones (9th in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad), Kevin Geniets did it again on Saturday, but on the white roads of Tuscany this time. In the Strade Bianche, the champion of Luxembourg impressed once again as he managed to keep up with the favourites when the race really started. The 24-year-old young man eventually lost a few places in the final but still managed to secure a solid top-20 in Piazza del Campo, in Siena.
“I didn’t want to have any regrets”, Kevin Geniets
Although the Strade Bianche has become one of the most popular races on the calendar in recent years, it could not welcome the spectators on this 2021 edition due to the sanitary restrictions. “It looked a bit empty, especially at the finish. But once again, if we have to choose between not racing and racing with no crowd, this is an easy call, said Sébastien Joly. We are still fortunate to be able to do our job in quite good conditions while the situation is not easy in many countries, including here. We need to appreciate that”. Therefore, there was almost no crowd when the riders started just before noon for 184 hilly kilometers, including sixty-three of gravel roads. With many teams keen to show themselves, the day’s breakaway was formed after more than an hour. Eight riders took the front, but their maximum lead of four minutes did not last for long as the pace in the bunch soon rose. In the sequence of the fifth and sixth sectors, the gap only was of one minute and Rudy Molard took advantage of this to bridge across with Loïc Vliegen. “Rudy has the ideal profile for this kind of race, but as this race was new for him, his goal was rather to break away,” explained Sébastien. “He eventually attacked just before the feeding zone, which might have been a good move because that’s usually where it calms down a bit, but Jumbo-Visma didn’t let anyone make a gap. He was a little disappointed, but it was a good experience for him for the future”.
Rudy Molard was caught by the peloton on the white road n°7 of San Martino di Grania, where he found himself alongside Stefan Küng, Kevin Geniets or Romain Seigle. The latter also tried to enter a move exiting the sector, like the Swiss champion did shortly after, but it was eventually a dozen riders who took a few steps ahead approaching the decisive and long (11.5km) Monte Sante Marie sector. “At the start, we wanted to protect Stefan and Valentin but we also had Kevin right behind, explained Sébastien Joly. We figured it could be good to anticipate the leaders’ race, which Kevin did perfectly. He saw the right move going and he even got there with Romain”. “It was a really tough race from the start and the race exploded quite early,” said the Luxembourg champion. I was lucky to be in that group that went just before the sector so I was one step ahead. The favourites joined us and I tried to follow. I told myself “at worst I blow up and that’s it”. I didn’t want to have any regrets. I didn’t want to miss an opportunity. I held on but they were riding a bit too fast for me and I felt I was not going to make it”. In a group of barely ten riders, including some world champions, Monuments and Tour de France winners, the 24-year-old bravely fought but had to let the group go in the final part of the sector. “He is of the last ones to drop from the champions’ group”, summed up Sébastien Joly.
“Kevin keeps on progressing”, Sébastien Joly
Seven men then took the lead while Kevin Geniets entered a chasing group: “We did a good ride together, and we came back only ten seconds from the leading riders, but we did not manage to bridge the gap. We really didn’t have any time to recover. It was full-gas almost until the finish.” In front, Alaphilippe, Bernal and van der Poel eventually got away in the last “sterrato” before the Dutchman got the better of his rivals on the last climb, in the Siena’s city centre. A bit later, Kevin Geniets crossed the line in Piazza del Campo in 16th. “It’s a great race for him,” said Sébastien. “We felt at the finish that he gave his all and this performance shows he keeps on progressing”. “I am very, very happy,” said the young man. “A few weeks ago, I said that I had worked well this winter and that I really wanted to take it to the next level. I think the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and this race gave me promising answers. The work pays off, we must continue like this and above all stay focused for the Classics that are lying ahead”. To conclude, Sébastien Joly highlighted a material point. “Once again,” he said, “the big pro is that we didn’t have any punctures. Kevin just had a slow flat tire, but we’re not even sure that it was a pinch issue. We have really been at the top of our game from that point of view for two years. This is a big advantage”.