Armitstead is an excellent ambassador for women’s cycling and rightly proud to be part of the first ever Women’s WorldTour series but true to character, she is not afraid to point out the Tuscan race is only a stepping stone on the road to her big goals of the 2016 season: The Tour of Flanders and the road race at the Rio Olympics in the summer.
“I think it’s really important and it’s exciting that we have the first race of the Women’s WorldTour,” she said during the pre-race press conference sat alongside men’s world champion Peter Sagan.
“I’ve said it a few times that I’ll reserve my judgment on the Women’s WorldTour until we see how it rolls out. But I think Strade Bianche is a really good race to start with. It’s an iconic race and a really successful race for us last year. It was probably one of the hardest races of season but I think it’s on a good course to showcase women’s cycling because you have to race it. It’s a good race to watch.”
Armitstead showed her early season form by winning the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad women’s race with a strong solo attack in the finale. However she is no cannibal and happy to share the success and responsibility with her teammates, revealing she has ‘trained through’ this week and not allowed time to recover so she is fresh for Strade Bianche. She will race with race number two on her rainbow jersey after finishing second behind Boels-Dolman teammate Megan Guarnier last year.
“This year is going to be a high pressure, long season all the way until October. Being world champion as well means it's been a difficult winter, a busy winter, so I have to approach each race with a strategy, and my strategy for Strade Bianche is to train through and use it as training. Obviously its difficult to come to a big race like Strade Bianche not with fresh legs but we’ve got a strong enough team to win,” she explained.
“I’m hoping for another win for Boels Dolmans. It’ doesn’t really matter if it’s a win for me or a teammate. This year it’s a difficult season, it’s a long so I don’t want too many goals. This race is a kind of on a journey to a goal I hope, so obviously the legs are good and the team wants to win. If it’s me or a teammate is not important. We have to win.”
Armitstead has been training on long climbs to prepare for this year’s tough Olympic road race course in Rio. However she loves to race and so will not hold back during the 121km of racing and the seven sectors of testing dirt roads that make Strade Bianche one of the toughest races on the Women’s WorldTour.
“The climbs I’m doing for Rio are about 10km long whereas here it’s about having short bursts of power and recovering quickly, it’s up and down all day. In Omloop Het Nieuwsblad I felt really strong on the cobbles but not great on the climbs. I’m really intrigued to see where I am tomorrow.”
Armitstead was at ease as she sat next to fellow world champion Peter Sagan. They both live in Monte Carlo but she told Cyclingnews that they have never crossed paths while out training.
It is not clear if Sagan watches women’s races but Armitstead said she studies Sagan's racing style even if they very different people off the bike.
“I obviously admire his racing style,” she said when asked about her fellow world champion.
“I think he’s a great racer to watch. I think I can learn a lot from him and so I love watching him race. His style off the bike is a little bit different to mine maybe, but each to their own…”