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Ben Healy and Lennert Van Eetvelt battled their way up the final climb into Siena at the end of the 215km Strade Bianche (Photo: Ilario Biondi-SCA-Cor Vos)

Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) looked like he’d been to war after an aggressive ride in the 215km Strade Bianche today, when the Irish rider lit it up repeatedly in the final 50km in pursuit of lone leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates).

Healy said before the start that he and his team mates, Richard Carapaz and Neilson Powless, were lining up with ambitions of “at least a podium”. In the end, the Irish champion was the team’s best performer, but had to settle for 12th place.

When Pogačar attacked with 81km to go, he simply powered clear of a large chasing group, containing Healy. And once the race entered into the final 50km, Healy move it up a gear and put in repeated attacks on the front in a bid to get a small chasing group going.

However, while he was clearly making the group hurt, stringing it out every time he went to the front, he was not successful in splitting the chasers, who began riding for 2nd place not long after Pogačar had attacked on the 11.5km Monte Sante Marie gravel section.

In the end it was a frustrating afternoon for Healy, who looked like he had the legs to take a podium place, but didn’t get the breaks when he fired his bullets. Instead, Toms Skujiņš (Lidl-Trek) and Maxim van Gils (Lotto-Dstny) saw their attacks from the chasing group pay off as they managed to break clear and took 2nd and 3rd.

After that duo had made their move for the remaining two podium spots – attacking with about 35km to go – Healy paid for his efforts and was distanced when the chasing group began to split in the final.

By the time Skujiņš and van Gils set off in pursuit of Pogačar, the lone leader had built a lead of four minutes on the chasers, with an epic two-hour ride off the front on his own. And though Skujiņš and van Gils cut that gap to 2:44 by the finish, Pogačar’s win was assured from a long way out.

In the end, Healy trailed home in 12th place, some 5:23 down after spending the early part of the race chasing when Pogačar and others got clear, and then again trying to go solo, but being heavily marked, in the final 50km.

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