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Van der Breggen wins muddy opener to Women’s WorldTour at Strade Bianche

Anna van der Breggen won Strade Bianche on Saturday, the opener to the 2018 UCI Women's Worldtour, in Siena, Italy in horrific conditions.

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Defending UCI Women’s WorldTour champion Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) opened the 2018 women’s worldtour schedule with an emphatic solo win on Saturday at Strade Bianche in Siena, Italy in horrific conditions. The beautiful white roads of Tuscany were turned brown by a torrential downpour for the fourth edition of the women’s race, as riders were hardly recognizable with their multiple layers, as well as being covered dirt and grime from the famous dirt roads.

“I have no idea why I decided to attack from so far out but I just felt good at that moment – the steep sections were perfect for making a difference,” van der Breggen said. “To win the race today comes from circumstances: it was a quite epic race, maybe the hardest race I’ve ever done. At the finish I was feeling strange and empty; it means a lot to me to win the Strade Bianche.”

The battle for the final podium spots were between Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) and Elisa Long-Borghini (Wiggle-High5). The duo entered Siena nearly a minute behind van der Breggen with Niewiadoma dropping the Italian champion on the steep climb through the narrow streets to the famous Piazza del Campo.

Van der Breggen attacked on the seventh sector of sterrati with about 20 kilometers remaining. Italian road champion and defending Strade Bianche winner Elisa Longo-Borghini (Wiggle-High5) was the only one able to follow her out of the reduced peloton, which only contained about 20 riders. Longo-Borghini would suffer a mechanical shortly after the sector ended, leaving van der Breggen to put her time trial skills to good use and solo to the finish.

Niewiadoma attacked a select eight-rider chase group on the eighth and final sector of sterrati and bridged to Longo-Borghini. However, van der Breggen was out of reach, she was nearly a minute ahead by this point.

Top 10

  • 1. Anna Van Der Breggen, BOELS – DOLMANS CYCLING TEAM,04:10:48
  • 2. Katarzyna Niewiadoma, CANYON SRAM RACING,00:49
  • 3. Elisa Longo-Borghini, WIGGLE HIGH5,00:59
  • 4. Chantal Blaak, BOELS – DOLMANS CYCLING TEAM,01:32
  • 5. Lucy Kennedy, MITCHELTON-SCOTT,01:32
  • 6. Janneke Ensing, ALé CIPOLLINI,01:37
  • 7. Amanda Spratt, MITCHELTON-SCOTT,01:41
  • 8. Ashleigh Moolman, CERVéLO-BIGLA PRO CYCLING,02:25
  • 9. Ellen Van Dijk, TEAM SUNWEB,02:36
  • 10. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, CERVéLO-BIGLA PRO CYCLING,02:50

For the third consecutive year, Strade Bianche opened the Women’s WorldTour calendar. The race started in 2015 and has quickly become a stable on the spring calendar. Elizabeth Deignan (Boels-Dolmans) finished on the podium in the first three editions, including winning the 2016 race while wearing the rainbow bands as world road champion, but was not in attendance on Saturday. The women raceed 136 kilometers in the heart of the Tuscany, finishing in Piazza del Campo in the center of Siena. Along the way, they tackled eight sectors of the famous ‘white roads’ of the region for a total of 31.6 kilometers of dirt riding.

A breakaway of three riders escaped in the opening kilometers of the race, but the peloton kept them well within in reach, never letting the gap get larger than the two-minute mark. The leading trio were Mayuko Hagiwara (Ale-Cipollini), Sara Penton (Virtu Cycling), and Katia Ragusa (BEPink).

When the leaders hit the first sector of dirt 18 kilometers in the race, Hagiwara was dropped and returned to the peloton. Rain pelted the riders and once back onto the pavement, the riders were even more unrecognizable than before. Everyone was bundled-up to keep out the elements and then once over the dirt, their clothes became drenched in mud. The remaining two riders in the breakaway would be back inside the confines of the peloton before the fourth sector of dirt began just shy of 50 kilometers into the race.

Halfway through the race, an incredibly powerful three-rider break emerged off the fifth sector of dirt. World road champion Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) was on the attack and she was joined by former individual time trial champion Ellen van Dijk (Sunweb), and former team time trial world champion Alena Amialiusik (Canyon-SRAM). All three riders were not only some of the strongest in the race, but also represented the three strongest teams in the race. However, over 60 kilometers remained and the race had become one of attrition with the horrific conditions already beginning to play its part.

With 30 kilometers remaining, the gap back to the peloton from the leaders was only 30 seconds. At this point, the peloton had become a very select group of some 30 riders. The 35-kilometer road section between the fifth and sixth sectors of dirt did not play into the hands of the breakaway and after the short 800-meter sixth sector, it was gruppo compacto.

Van der Breggen and Longo-Borghini made there move on a tough climb on the penultimate sector of dirt with 20 kilometers remaining. The duo looked strong and powerful, but once back onto the pavement it was quickly just one in the lead. Longo-Borghini suddenly dropped off the pace. It would be revealed after the race she had something in her wheel at the time. Though, she would be able to fix the problem and stay ahead of a chase group that was close behind. The chase group included the Mitchelton-Scott duo of Lucy Kennedy and Amadan Spratt, as well as Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Cecilie Ludwig of Cervelo-Bigla. Blaak was also there, along with Niewiadoma and Janneke Ensing (Ale-Cipollini).

Van der Breggen entered the final stretch of dirt with less than 15 kilometers to go with a nearly 50-second advantage on Longo-Borghini. Niewiadoma blitzed the final sector to bridge to Longo-Borghini and leave her other chase group companions behind.

On the pavement, Kennedy drove the pace hard in the chase group in support of Spratt with Niewiadoma and Longo-Borghini in sight. Ensing had survived the sector in the chase group, as did Blaak and Moolman-Pasio.

Entering the city walls of Siena, van der Breggen’s lead over the chasers was nearly 90 seconds with the third group on the road, which contained the world champion, over two minutes down.

The Dutchwoman began her season at Strade Bianche and could not have started it any better than claiming the top step of the podium. Niewiadoma was able to ride away from Longo-Borghini on the tough uphill climb into the city-center walls and claim second in the race for the third year-in-a-row. As defending champion, Longo-Borghini rounded out the podium.

“It looks like I’ll always come second in the Strade Bianche,” Niewiadoma said at the finish. “It was an extremely tough race and I have a huge appreciation for all the riders who finished it. There aren’t enough words to describe everything that was happening on the roads today and, to be honest, I’m very happy to be on the podium. My family is here. There were on the road cheering for me. Both Anna [Van der Breggen] and Elisa [Longo Borghini] are amazing. I’m delighted to accompany them on the podium.”

Blaak bested the rest of the chase group to finish fourth and incredibly Kennedy finished fifth. It’s a solid result for the Australian after doing a lot of work in the finale of the race for her team leader Spratt, who finished seventh.

Full results

  • 1. Anna Van Der Breggen, (NED) BOELS DOLMANS CYCLINGTEAM, in 4:10:48
  • 2. Katarzyna Niewiadoma, (POL) CANYON // SRAM RACING, 4:11:37
  • 3. Elisa Longo Borghini, (ITA) WIGGLE HIGH5, 4:11:47
  • 4. Chantal Blaak, (NED) BOELS DOLMANS CYCLINGTEAM, 4:12:20
  • 5. Lucy Kennedy, (AUS) MITCHELTON SCOTT, 4:12:20
  • 6. Janneke Ensing, (NED) ALE CIPOLLINI, 4:12:25
  • 7. Amanda Spratt, (AUS) MITCHELTON SCOTT, 4:12:29
  • 8. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, (RSA) CERVELO – BIGLA PRO CYCLING TEAM, 4:13:13
  • 9. Ellen Van Dijk, (NED) TEAM SUNWEB, 4:13:24
  • 10. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, (DEN) CERVELO – BIGLA PRO CYCLING TEAM, 4:13:38
  • 11. Marta Bastianelli, (ITA) ALE CIPOLLINI, 4:14:58
  • 12. Megan Guarnier, (USA) BOELS DOLMANS CYCLINGTEAM, 4:14:58
  • 13. Tatiana Guderzo, (ITA) HITEC PRODUCTS – BIRK SPORT, 4:14:58
  • 14. Angelica Brogi, (ITA) AROMITALIA VAIANO, 4:15:02
  • 15. Alena Amialiusik, (BLR) CANYON // SRAM RACING, 4:15:02
  • 16. Liane Lippert, (GER) TEAM SUNWEB, 4:15:04
  • 17. Lucinda Brand, (NED) TEAM SUNWEB, 4:15:10
  • 18. Georgia Williams, (NZL) MITCHELTON SCOTT, 4:15:12
  • 19. Elena Cecchini, (ITA) CANYON // SRAM RACING, 4:15:14
  • 20. Alicia Gonzalez Blanco, (ESP) MOVISTAR TEAM WOMEN, 4:15:16
  • 21. Riejanne Markus, (NED) WAOWDEALS PRO CYCLING TEAM, 4:15:19
  • 22. Abby-Mae Parkinson, (GBR) TREK – DROPS, 4:15:25
  • 23. Anouska Koster, (NED) WAOWDEALS PRO CYCLING TEAM, 4:15:28
  • 24. Jeanne Korevaar, (NED) WAOWDEALS PRO CYCLING TEAM, 4:15:31
  • 25. Rachel Neylan, (AUS) MOVISTAR TEAM WOMEN, 4:17:20
  • 26. Soraya Paladin, (ITA) ALE CIPOLLINI, 4:18:09
  • 27. Tayler Wiles, (USA) TREK – DROPS, 4:18:19
  • 28. Eugenia Bujak, (SLO) BTC CITY LJUBLJANA, 4:18:30
  • 29. Ruth Winder, (USA) TEAM SUNWEB, 4:18:49
  • 30. Rozanne Slik, (NED) FDJ NOUVELLE – AQUITAINE FUTUROSCOPE, 4:19:08
  • 31. Clara Koppenburg, (GER) CERVELO – BIGLA PRO CYCLING TEAM, 4:21:35
  • 32. Lourdes Oyarbide Jimenez, (ESP) MOVISTAR TEAM WOMEN, 4:21:35
  • 33. Juliette Labous, (FRA) TEAM SUNWEB, 4:21:35
  • 34. Aude Biannic, (FRA) MOVISTAR TEAM WOMEN, 4:21:42
  • 35. Lotta Pauliina LepistÖ, (FIN) CERVELO – BIGLA PRO CYCLING TEAM, 4:21:48
  • 36. Karol-Ann Canuel, (CAN) BOELS DOLMANS CYCLINGTEAM, 4:22:23
  • 37. Erica Magnaldi, (ITA) BEPINK, 4:22:38
  • 38. Christine Majerus, (LUX) BOELS DOLMANS CYCLINGTEAM, 4:22:44
  • 39. Julie Van De Velde, (BEL) LOTTO SOUDAL LADIES, 4:23:36
  • 40. Eva Buurman, (NED) TREK – DROPS, 4:23:39
  • 41. Victorie Guilman, (FRA) FDJ NOUVELLE – AQUITAINE FUTUROSCOPE, 4:23:39
  • 42. Rossella Ratto, (ITA) CYLANCE PRO CYCLING, 4:23:44
  • 43. Elizabeth Holden, (GBR) TREK – DROPS, 4:23:44
  • 44. Jip Van Den Bos, (NED) BOELS DOLMANS CYCLINGTEAM, 4:23:47
  • 45. Eri Yonamine, (JPN) WIGGLE HIGH5, 4:23:49
  • 46. Martina Ritter, (AUT) WIGGLE HIGH5, 4:23:51
  • 47. Vita Heine, (NOR) HITEC PRODUCTS – BIRK SPORT, 4:23:51
  • 48. Pauline Ferrand Prevot, (FRA) CANYON // SRAM RACING, 4:23:56
  • 49. Ann-Sophie Duyck, (BEL) CERVELO – BIGLA PRO CYCLING TEAM, 4:23:58
  • 50. Christina Malling Siggaard, (DEN) TEAM VIRTU CYCLING, 4:23:58
  • 51. Hannah Barnes, (GBR) CANYON // SRAM RACING, 4:24:10
  • 52. Malgorzata Jasinska, (POL) MOVISTAR TEAM WOMEN, 4:24:39
  • 53. Arlenis Sierra, (CUB) ASTANA WOMEN’S TEAM, 4:26:33
  • 54. Natalya Saifutdinova, (KAZ) ASTANA WOMEN’S TEAM, 4:26:38
  • 55. Demi De Jong, (NED) LOTTO SOUDAL LADIES, 4:26:41
  • 56. Silvia Persico, (ITA) VALCAR PBM, 4:29:28
  • 57. Sarah Roy, (AUS) MITCHELTON SCOTT, 4:29:28
  • 58. Gracie Elvin, (AUS) MITCHELTON SCOTT, 4:29:31
  • 59. Emilia Fahlin, (SWE) WIGGLE HIGH5, 4:29:37