Longo Borghini wins Strade Bianche Women

Niewiadoma and Deignan round out podium after dramatic finale

Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) celebrated a dramatic Strade Bianche victory in rain-soaked Siena on Saturday, outfoxing Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3) and defending champion Lizzie Deignan to the Piazza del Campo finish line. The Italian was part of a five-rider breakaway that formed on the seventh of eight gravel sectors of the 127-kilometre UCI Women's WorldTour opener.

"I think it was a thrilling finale to watch and a thrilling finale to ride," Longo Borghini said afterwards. "This is another great victory after my two big Classics wins. It's great to have the winner's trophy. This is an important win for me because it's one of the most beautiful races in the world. It's rare. I'm very proud to have honoured the race by racing so hard."

Longo Borghini's ability to "race hard" was on full display during last weekend’s European season opener. The 25-year-old inspired the race-winning move at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last Saturday, ultimately finishing in fifth place. The following day, she launched a late race flyer at Omloop van het Hageland that was caught only when the bunch opened its sprint, which was eventually won by her teammate Jolien d'Hoore.

"After Rio, I realised I don't need to fear anyone," said Long Borghini, bronze medallist at the 2016 Olympics. "I've realised my true abilities. Before I was fearful of my rivals. Now I respect them, but I'm not afraid."

En route to her Strade Bianche victory, Longo Borghini overcame a crash on the fifth sector of the race.

"It was in the longest sector of the dirt road, on a flat part at the start," Longo Borghini noted. "Chloe Hosking [Alé Cipollini] crashed in the middle of the road, and I couldn't avoid her. I got back on, and Piccolo Donna [teammate Audrey Cordon] gave me her bike because we're the same size. I got my spare bike at the end of the sector."

How it unfolded

The elite women set out from Siena under ominous skies. Both former Strade Bianche winners were on the start line in Boels-Dolmans duo Megan Guarnier (2015) and Lizzie Deignan (2016). Their teammate, Olympic road champion Anna van der Breggen, was the most notable non-starter. Van der Breggen's illness left the Dutch-registered powerhouse one rider short before racing had begun.

The opening kilometres of the nearly four-hour long race were fairly subdued. Guarnier withdrew with concussion symptoms following sector four. Longo Borghini and Niewiadoma were amongst the fallers on sector five – around the time that the rain began to fall heavily.

"I think it was a passive race partly because of the crash," Deignan told Cyclingnews after the podium ceremonies. "Elisa and Kasia's teams needed time to react. It was also passive because we couldn't race the way we normally do. With only four instead of six, we had to play a defensive game, which I don't like to do."

A non-threatening breakaway of three riders was the first to gain traction. The trio, including Lauren Stephens (TIBCO), Floortje Mackaij (Team Sunweb) and Lara Vieceli (Astana), gained a maximum advantage of around 90 seconds at kilometre 90 before Orica-Scott organised the chase.

A familiar figure on the front of the peloton closed the last of the gap, as Luxembourgish champion Christine Majerus, with Deignan on her wheel, drove a reduced peloton into the penultimate gravel sector.

"Christine [Majerus] and I went on instinct at that point," said Deignan. "It was the second to last gravel section. Everyone was kind of strung out. There was a descent into it. If you're on Christine's wheel, you're going to be 100 metres ahead of everyone else anyway. She is such a beast. We started the second to last gravel sector together in the first position, and I took it over from there. There was a small selection over the top."

It was from that selection that the podium would emerge. Longo Borghini, Deignan and Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Cycling) were joined by Orica-Scott pair Annemiek van Vleuten and Katrin Garfoot.

Eighteen kilometres and one gravel sector remained. A strong chase was taking shape in the leading quintet’s wake, but the leaders, lacking updates, were unaware that the chase was closing in.

"There were no time checks or anything," said Deignan. "We didn't know what was going on."

Three kilometres from the finish, Shara Gillow (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) and then Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) caught the leaders. Brand didn't stick around and immediately rode through the group. Gillow quickly followed suit.

Brand hit the steep climb up Via Santa Caterina with a four-second advantage on Gillow and another handful of seconds on Longo Borghini, Deignan, Niewiadoma and the Orica-Scott riders, who now included Amanda Spratt.

"I never really thought the two would stay away because they had given it everything to chase us," said Longo Borghini. "In a finish like that, you need the legs, and you could see that they were tired."

Longo Borghini was the first to bridge across. Niewiadoma’s attempt to attack from the outside was impeded briefly by a motorbike, but she too made it across to the front of the race. Longo Borghini and Niewiadoma headed towards the final corner atop the climb, 300 metres from the finish line, nearly side-by-side.

"I knew after watching previews editions of the race that the first through the corner at the top of the climb would win," said Longo Borghini. "I gave it everything to get there first. When I did, I gave it absolutely everything to win.

"I tried to be careful in the last corner because the surface was smooth," she added. "I went a bit long…but I made it."

With the race win came the UCI Women's WorldTour overall leader's jersey. "I've never worn a jersey before," said Longo Borghini. "It will be strange but nice."

During the post-race press conference, the race winner praised not only her teammates but also race organisers. "What perhaps is missing from women's cycling is media attention," said Longo Borghini. "I want to thank RCS for showing the race live today. It's a good sign, and let's hope it happens more and more. Strade Bianche has helped the women's movement, and we're all so happy to honour the race."

Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Wiggle High53:44:45 
2Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) WM3 Pro Cycling0:00:02 
3Elizabeth Deignan (GBr) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam0:00:05 
4Lucinda Brand (Ned) Team Sunweb Women0:00:08 
5Annemiek Van Vleuten (Ned) Orica Scott Women0:00:09 
6Shara Gillow (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope0:00:12 
7Katrin Garfoot (Aus) Orica Scott Women0:00:18 
8Amanda Spratt (Aus) Orica Scott Women0:00:36 
9Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team0:01:06 
10Elena Cecchini (Ita) Canyon SRAM Racing  
11Claudia Lichtenberg (Ger) Wiggle High50:01:09 
12Sofia Beggin (Ita) Astana Women's Team0:01:16 
13Janneke Ensing (Ned) Alé Cipollini  
14Hanna Nilsson (Swe) BTC City Ljubljana0:01:21 
15Karol-Ann Canuel (Can) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam0:01:24 
16Dani King (GBr) Cylance Pro Cycling0:01:25 
17Marianne Vos (Ned) WM3 Pro Cycling0:01:27 
18Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team0:01:46 
19Lauren Stephens (USA) Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank0:01:49 
20Leah Kirchmann (Can) Team Sunweb Women0:01:54 
21Lauren Kitchen (Aus) WM3 Pro Cycling0:02:00 
22Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Canyon SRAM Racing0:02:01 
23Floortje Mackaij (Ned) Team Sunweb Women0:02:04 
24Olga Zabelinskaya (Rus) BePink Cogeas0:02:05 
25Malgorzata Jasinska (Pol) Cylance Pro Cycling0:02:06 
26Edwige Pitel (Fra) S.C. Michela Fanini0:02:08 
27Marie Vilmann (Den) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team0:02:13 
28Christine Majerus (Lux) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam0:02:17 
29Rasa Leleivyte (Ltu) Aromitalia Vaiano0:02:22 
30Alena Amialiusik (Blr) Canyon SRAM Racing0:02:37 
31Carmen Small (USA) Team Veloconcept Women0:02:56 
32Polona Batagelj (Slo) BTC City Ljubljana  
33Sheyla Gutierrez Ruiz (Spa) Cylance Pro Cycling0:03:00 
34Ingrid Drexel Clouthier (Mex) Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank  
35Arlenis Sierra (Cub) Astana Women's Team  
36Urša Pintar (Slo) BTC City Ljubljana  
37Joelle Numainville (Can) Cylance Pro Cycling0:03:14 
38Eugenia Bujak (Pol) BTC City Ljubljana  
39Gracie Elvin (Aus) Orica Scott Women0:03:29 
40Alice Barnes (GBr) Drops Cycling Team0:03:43 
41Coryn Rivera (USA) Team Sunweb Women0:04:13 
42Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Fra) Canyon SRAM Racing  
43Rozanne Slik (Ned) Team Sunweb Women0:05:08 
44Daiva Tuslaite (Ltu) Alé Cipollini  
45Agnieszka Skalniak (Pol) Astana Women's Team0:07:32 
46Anna Potokina (Rus) Servetto Giusta0:07:38 
47Amalie Dideriksen (Den) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam0:08:06 
48Silvia Persico (Ita) Valcar PBM0:08:27 
49Camilla Pedersen (Den) Team Veloconcept Women0:08:30 
50Moniek Tenniglo (Ned) WM3 Pro Cycling0:08:33 
51Eri Yonamine (Jpn) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope0:08:41 
52Lisa Klein (Ger) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team0:08:47 
53Georgia Williams (NZl) Orica Scott Women  
54Lara Vieceli (Ita) Astana Women's Team0:08:52 
55Anna Plichta (Pol) WM3 Pro Cycling  
56Omer Shapira (Isr) Giusfredi Bianchi  
57Jenelle Crooks (Aus) Orica Scott Women0:08:57 
58Clara Koppenburg (Ger) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team0:09:00 
59Charlotte Bravard (Fra) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope0:09:08 
60Simona Bortolotti (Ita) Giusfredi Bianchi0:09:40 
61Alexis Ryan (USA) Canyon SRAM Racing0:10:49 
62Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Wiggle High50:10:50 
63Arianna Fidanza (Ita) Astana Women's Team  
64Katia Ragusa (Ita) BePink Cogeas  
65Chloe Hosking (Aus) Alé Cipollini0:10:52 
66Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) Lensworld-Kuota  
67Miriam Bjørnsrud (Nor) Hitec Products  
68Abby-Mae Parkinson (GBr) Drops Cycling Team  
69Trixi Worrack (Ger) Canyon SRAM Racing0:10:57 
70Roxane Knetemann (Ned) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope0:11:06 
71Audrey Cordon Ragot (Fra) Wiggle High50:11:25 
72Lija Laizane (Lat) Aromitalia Vaiano0:12:09 
73Jelena Eric (Srb) BTC City Ljubljana0:12:23 
74Mayuko Hagiwara (Jpn) Wiggle High50:13:15 
75Silvia Pollicini (Ita) Valcar PBM0:15:30 
76Elisa Balsamo (Ita) Valcar PBM  
77Elizabeth Holden (GBr) Drops Cycling Team0:15:59 
78Abigail Van Twisk (GBr) Drops Cycling Team  
79Greta Richioud (Fra) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope0:16:32 
80Brianna Walle (USA) Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank0:17:19 
DNFChristina Siggaard (Den) Team Veloconcept Women  
DNFThea Thorsen (Nor) Hitec Products  
DNFMegan Guarnier (USA) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam  
DNFRomy Kasper (Ger) Alé Cipollini  
DNFCarlee Taylor (Aus) Alé Cipollini  
DNFAnisha Vekemans (Bel) Alé Cipollini  
DNFAlessia Bulleri (Ita) Aromitalia Vaiano  
DNFNicole Nesti (Ita) Aromitalia Vaiano  
DNFElena Franchi (Ita) Aromitalia Vaiano  
DNFAlessia Martini (Ita) Aromitalia Vaiano  
DNFSofia Bertizzolo (Ita) Astana Women's Team  
DNFFrancesca Pattaro (Ita) BePink Cogeas  
DNFIlaria Sanguineti (Ita) BePink Cogeas  
DNFMaria Vittoria Sperotto (Ita) BePink Cogeas  
DNFSilvia Valsecchi (Ita) BePink Cogeas  
DNFMia Radotic (Cro) BTC City Ljubljana  
DNFNicole Hanselmann (Swi) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team  
DNFRossella Ratto (Ita) Cylance Pro Cycling  
DNFMarta Tagliaferro (Ita) Cylance Pro Cycling  
DNFHannah Payton (GBr) Drops Cycling Team  
DNFSusanna Zorzi (Ita) Drops Cycling Team  
DNFEugénie Duval (Fra) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope  
DNFMichela Balducci (Ita) Giusfredi Bianchi  
DNFVania Canvelli (Ita) Giusfredi Bianchi  
DNFDaniela-Georgina Dumitru (Rom) Giusfredi Bianchi  
DNFChiara Perini (Ita) Giusfredi Bianchi  
DNFEmilie Moberg (Nor) Hitec Products  
DNFIlona Hoeksma (Ned) Hitec Products  
DNFSimona Frapporti (Ita) Hitec Products  
DNFNina Kessler (Ned) Hitec Products  
DNFMaria Giulia Confalonieri (Ita) Lensworld-Kuota  
DNFAnnalisa Cucinotta (Ita) Lensworld-Kuota  
DNFKim De Baat (Bel) Lensworld-Kuota  
DNFValeriya Kononenko (Ukr) S.C. Michela Fanini  
DNFMónika Király (Hun) S.C. Michela Fanini  
DNFIraida Garcia Ocasio (Cub) S.C. Michela Fanini  
DNFFrancesca Balducci (Ita) S.C. Michela Fanini  
DNFAnna Ceoloni (Ita) S.C. Michela Fanini  
DNFKseniia Dobrynina (Rus) Servetto Giusta  
DNFLetizia Borghesi (Ita) Servetto Giusta  
DNFAntri Christoforou (Cyp) Servetto Giusta  
DNFLaura Camila Lozano Ramirez (Col) Servetto Giusta  
DNFSabrina Stultiens (Ned) Team Sunweb Women  
DNFHeather Fischer (USA) Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank  
DNFKathrin Hammes (Ger) Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank  
DNFSara Mustonen Lichan (Swe) Team Veloconcept Women  
DNFDoris Schweizer (Swi) Team Veloconcept Women  
DNFSara Penton (Swe) Team Veloconcept Women  
DNFBeatrice Bartelloni (Ita) TOP  
DNFNadia Quagliotto (Ita) TOP  
DNFElena Leonardi (Ita) TOP  
DNFMichela Pavin (Ita) TOP  
DNFBeatrice Rossato (Ita) TOP  
DNFMarta Cavalli (Ita) Valcar PBM  
DNFDalia Muccioli (Ita) Valcar PBM  
DNFChiara Zanettin (Ita) Valcar PBM  
DNFAmy Roberts (GBr) Wiggle High5  
DNFRiejanne Markus (Ned) WM3 Pro Cycling  

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