Jakob Fuglsang couldn’t better his runner-up position at last year’s Strade Bianche, and was beaten by Wout van Aert, the rider behind him in third place in the 2019 edition.
The Dane was doubled over at the finish, his hands having taken a battering and his face caked in dust.
“It was nice to be back but, oof, the last 50km after my little attack I exploded a little bit because of the heat,” Fuglsang said, explaining what happened after he looked to take the race to his rivals. “Think I overheated and I found it difficult to get my legs back and to cool down, you dont really cool down when it’s 40 degrees.”
Fuglsang just seemed happy to be back racing, and says he couldn’t resist when Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) attacked, the pair having fought it out between them on many occasions last year when searching for one-day race victories.
“The race went as it went and the guys they did a good job for me, I just found myself a little alone. I mean, Deceuninck made it hard and Alaphilippe attacked very early to open the race and I couldn’t really do much else other than follow, I spent a lot [there].
”But all in all I was there in the front but missed a little bit in the end, probably what I spent in my attack, when Schachmann went I went with him and then it was on the downhill that he dropped me. Then I was alone and they caught up pretty quickly behind.”
Fuglsang says the heat combined with his early exertion maybe cost him a better result as he failed to keep up with the moves at the pointy end of the race, but the Astana rider seemed content to take a fifth-place finish in the first race back after the coronavirus break.
“I think the heat was the thing killing most people today, what most guys were suffering from. For sure it’s different to racing in March and then of course also as a first race.
“I saw Schachmann going, Bettiol looked at me every time somebody went like it was for me to close, he didn’t have any team-mates left so I decided ‘okay, I’ll go after him’ and then in the descent in the dust of the motorbikes Schachmann dropped me and I was alone.
“I tried to push on but maybe I pushed a little bit too hard and overheated.“
The heat wasn’t the only danger to the riders, as the dust also further completed racing during a global pandemic, with Fuglsang at one point signalling the motorbikes to move out the way.
“In that moment, I wanted them to go away because I couldn’t see where I was going,” Fuglsang said. “And of course, when you’re in front and you’re trying to attack you don’t want to get held up by the motorbikes.”
With Il Lombardia and the Giro d’Italia amongst the races on his calendar for the revised season, it’s likely Fuglsang wont have to wait long for a victory on Italian soil.