With mud and dust caked on his face, Krists Neilands could only shake his head at the finish line of Strade Bianche and say “there is no sport like this one.”

The Latvian crossed the line in Siena’s Piazza del Campo in 16th place, after a typical tale of good legs but some bad luck on the white roads of Tuscany.

It was a really tough race,” said Neilands. “I enjoyed it but at the same time I was a bit unlucky as coming into the seventh sector, which was super important, I was at the front with my teammates in a good position but at the start of the sector there was a crash. I also crashed but I managed to get on my bike pretty quickly but I found myself already in the cars at the back of the peloton so I had to do a super big effort to come back.”

While race winner Tadej Pogačar’s decisive move came in the form of a solo attack with 80 kilometers to go, Neilands battled to get back to the peloton where he formed part of a select group of 20 or so riders in pursuit of Pogačar.

Neilands looked good, initially making the front split in the chase group when things started to open up before the race started to well and truly take its toll.

I managed to get back to the front group and then it was just about the legs, of course. By the end of the race I was having some cramps and I was fighting with myself. I already said yesterday before the start of the race that this is one of the hardest and toughest races of the season, and it was.”

Neilands was followed closely by Dylan Teuns, who finished in 23rd place, and Simon Clarke, before IPT’s Strade Bianche debutants Stevie Williams, Nadav Raisberg, and Riley Sheehan battled their way to the finish. It wasn’t the best birthday for fellow debutant Marco Frigo after a crash on sector seven saw his race end prematurely but fortunately, the Italian escaped unscathed.