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RACE PREVIEW: Strade Bianche

The peloton heads to the white roads of Tuscany for the second round of the UCI Women’s World Tour.

World Tour Recap

The opening round of the Women’s World Tour saw Liane Lippert power to victory along a rain- soaked waterfront in Geelong, Australia. The German, Team Sunweb rider showed impressive strength to solo to victory in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race having attacked a select group of riders six kilometres from the finish. Sierra Arlenis (Astana) and Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) rounded out the podium finishing just 15 seconds adrift in an exciting finale.

Liane Lippert (second from right) with her Team Sunweb Australian roster

The young 22-year-old talent will start Strade Bianche in the purple jersey as World Tour leader and will also be metaphorically wearing blue as the best young rider – a classification she has a very good chance of winning this year.

Strade Bianche: The Course

Starting and finishing in Siena the 136km circular route through the hilly landscape of Tuscany features eight gravel sectors and several steep climbs. Winding their way through the picturesque vineyards of the Chianti region, the peloton faces a total of 31km of gravel roads split into eight sectors as well as five climbs with double-digit gradients.

The unpaved, gravelled country lanes account for 23% of the race with the longest ‘strada bianca’ – the 9.5km sector of San Martino – coming after 70km. The most notorious sector – the four-starred Colle Pinzuto – comes just 20km from the finish and marks the start of a climactic finale. With 12km to go, the peloton faces the final gravel sector- Le Tolfe – which opens with a technically demanding descent before continuing onto a punchy 18% climb into the village of Tolfe.

Leah Kirchmann tackling the white gravel roads of Strade Bianche. Photo Anton Vos/Cor Vos © 2019

The final 10 kilometres of the race are twisting and undulating and usually a tactical affair. The finale itself is dramatic with the final kilometre providing an exciting end to the race. With 900m to go the riders pass under the iconic Fontebranda Gate where the flagstone-road kicks up to 10% providing one last decisive test. At 500m to go the gradient steepens to 16% before a sharp right sees riders turn into the heart of the medieval city. The final 100 meters dip down into Siena’s illustrious Piazza del Campo and can often provide a nail-biting climax to a thrilling race.

Strada Bianche is relentless and a race of attrition with each gravel sector and hill serving to thin down the bunch. Set against the backdrop of the impressive Tuscan scenery, the race is breath- taking to watch, and the mix of terrain, roads and unpredictability makes it a spectacular race for fans and riders alike.

Eight Riders to Watch

Annemiek van Vleuten

The current world champion soloed to an impressive victory in last’s years edition of Strade Bianche and will be looking to defend her crown as queen of the white roads in 2020. Van Vleuten used Le Tolfe to attack her rivals and with no one able to match her strength she quickly built up a lead over a select chasing group. In the final 10km the Mitchelton-Scott rider extended her lead in a fashion that would later become a trademark ‘Annemiek’. After a winning start to the year, with victory in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (where she again soloed to victory) van Vleuten will prove difficult to beat.

Anna van der Breggen

There are very few races that Anna van der Breggen hasn’t won and Strade Bianche is just one of many classic victories that the Boels Dolmans rider has chalked up. Having conquered the white roads in 2018, the Dutch woman knows what it takes to win on the unpredictable and challenging ‘strada bianche.’

Chantal van der Broek-Blaak

Like teammate and fellow compatriot van der Breggen, Chantal van der Broek-Blaak has an impressive record of results in spring classics. The 30-year-old from Zuidland has a palmares stacked with victories and podiums, yet success at Strade Bianche has eluded her. Having finished fourth in 2018, van der Broek-Blaak will be determined to finally make it onto the podium in 2020.

Marta Bastianelli

Despite a brilliant Classics campaign in 2019, Bastianelli, would have been disappointed not to make the podium in Siena. The Italian was narrowly beaten to third by just four seconds and so she’ll be especially motivated to make it onto the podium this time round. With the added incentive of racing on home soil for an Italian team, Bastianelli will be gunning to take the victory in one of Italy’s most iconic races.

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig

A fan favourite, the bubbly and charismatic Dane came fifth in last year’s edition so she’ll be looking to build on this performance in 2020. The steep final kilometre should suit her well and if she can make the selections and arrive at the head of the race by Fontebranda Gate she could very well take victory in Siena. After missing last weekend with flu, her new team – FDJ – will be hoping she has made a full recovery ahead of her debut appearance this Saturday.

Kasia Niewiadoma

Niewiadoma has the most consistent record of superb performances in the five-year history of Strade Bianche. With three second places and a third, there is only one spot of the podium the Polish rider has yet to stand on in the historic Piazza del Campo. Could 2020 be the year Niewiadoma takes that elusive win?

Elisa Longo Borghini

The only Italian ever to win the women’s Strade Bianche, Longo Borghini has a brilliant track record in Tuscany. A win in 2017 and two third places in (2015 and 2018), the Trek Segafredo rider certainly knows what it takes to win on the white roads. No doubt she’ll be looking to add another victory to her Strada Bianche tally and in doing so become the first rider to accumulate two wins in Siena.

Liane Lippert

The 22-year-old German has had a great start to the year, winning the opening round of the UCI women’s world tour as well as coming secnd at the Tour Down Under. With the purple leader’s jersey on her shoulders this weekend, the Team Sunweb rider will be hoping she can translate her winning ways from the southern hemisphere to the European roads.

Summary

When: 7th March, 9.30CET start
Where:  Siena, Italy
What: 136km road race

Who to watch:
Annemiek van Vleuten *****
Anna van der Breggen ****
Marta Bastianelli ****
Kasia Niewiadoma ****
Top Outsider: Lizzy Banks

TV Coverage: Eurosport x GCN

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