Complete Live Report
Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 2019 Strade Bianche Women on March 9 in Siena, Italy. The race marks the first round of the 2019 Women's WorldTour, and so provides both an opportunity to secure the first victory of the 23-event series and the early leader's jersey.
2019 Strade Bianche Women - Route Profile
Hello and welcome to our live text coverage of the women’s Strade Bianche, which kicks off the 2019 Women’s WorldTour in Siena, Italy.
Thanks for joining us today for what is surely going to be an exciting race!
It’s an important race today, not only because of it’s position on the world-class series, but also because it provides an opportunity for one rider to secure the first victory of the 23-event series and the early leader's jersey.
It’s great to see the defending champion and new world champion Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) in the race and wearing her new world champion's jersey, in an attempt at a second consecutive win.
Of course, she opened her road season at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last weekend in Belgium where we all got a chance to see her wearing her new kit.
There we go! A bigger image is below so that you can see the Boels Dolmans team as they signed on to Strade Bianche this morning, and Van der Breggen in her new world champion's jersey.
The women started the race at 9:00 a.m. CET, local Italian time, this morning under sunny sky, and as expected, it has been a dry race this year.
As expected, it was Boels Dolmans and Mitchelton-Scott, the two highest ranked teams in the UCI women’s teams world ranking, set the pace in the early kilometres of the 136km race this morning.
You can preview the top 15 teams in the UCI World Ranking for the women's teams in this story. This is an important ranking because the top15 teams in the world receive automatic invitations to the Women's WorldTour races like Strade Bianche. Link to story is here.
And thank you to the UCI for providing early race updates on their Women's WorldTour Twitter line: @UCI_WWT
Two riders had attached ahead of the first sector of gavel this morning in Vidritta; Anja Longyka (BTC) and Chiara Perini (BePink), then joined by two bridgers Ilaria Saguineti (Valcar) and Jelena Eric (Ale Cipollini).
As they hit the first section of gravel at the 118km mark, the dust kicked up, which was expected due to the dry conditions today. They pushed their lead out to 25 seconds.
Upon reaching the second sector on gravel in Bagnaia, the four riders’ lead grew to just over half a minute.
However, the sector was roughly 6km and presented the riders with the first sharp climb, of many today, and they were caught by the peloton before exiting the gravel.
In addition, to their Twitter updates, the UCI are also providing short video clips of the race, and you can see the dry conditions are causing a lot of chalky dust to fly along these beautiful white gravel roads in Tuscany.
It's also relatively warm outside for European late-winter/near-spring, and riders are wearing shorts, which is like night and day compared to last year's race.
It's really such a perfect day for a bike race!
Team Sunweb drove the peloton into the fourth sector of gravel, which was called La Piana and was 5.5km that included several short climbs.
Although the peloton fractured into several groups here, they all merged back together as the hit the tarmac again with 85km to go.
- 70km remaining from 136km
The peloton, for the most part, is still intact as the race hits the halfway mark and races toward the longest section of gravel today - S.Martino in Grania (9.5km)
World champion and defending champion Van der Breggen warned us that the dry weather conditions would make the race harder for someone like her to win.
Instead of being a pure race of attrition, as it was last year, there will be more tactics involved.
You can read all about Van der Breggen's pre-race predictions in this story here.
- 67km remaining from 136km
The UCI are reporting that Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Bigla) has had a flat tire. Although that is not ideal, especially ahead of the longest gravel sector, she still has plenty of time to catch back up.
There are four gravel sectors still to come, and here are their distances: S.Martino in Grania (9.5km), Monteaperti (0.8km), Colle Pinzuto (2.4km) and Le Tolfe (1.1km).
Strade Bianche isn't just challenging because of the gravel, though, there are some incredibly steep climbs to contest, which make it one of the toughest one-day races on the calendar.
The first major climb already took place after the second gravel sector with pitches as steep as 10 per cent before heading into Radi (32km mark).
The peloton will face another steep climb at the end of the sixth gravel sector in Monteaperti (107.7km mark), with gradients in the double digits before hitting the tarmac again in Vico d'Arbia (111.3km mark).
There is also a climb toward Colle Pinzuto (115km mark) that is 15 per cent and the climb to Tolfe (120km) is 18 per cent.
And of course, after all that, they will face the final 16 per cent climb to the finish line at the Piazza del Campo in Siena.
Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) has crashed. We will have an update on her condition shortly.
- 64km remaining from 136km
Several attacks are happening from teams Sunweb, Virtu Cycling and Boels Dolmans, however, all of their top riders remain at the front of an in-tact peloton.
Spratt would have been one of the major contenders today for Mitchelton-Scott. She showed great form in the opening races down in Australia, winning the Women's Tour Down Under, and she traditionally targets the European Classics.
Mitchelton-Scott have a strong team today with a number of riders who can win this year's edition of Strade Bianche.
Time trial world champion Annemiek van Vleuten is in great form, even if she says that she is not 100 per cent back to top form after her crash at the World Championships last year.
She has been training for 11 weeks now, since her knee injury, and even did a climbing training camp with the men's Mitchelton-Scott team before travelling to Tenerife for an altitude camp.
She was fourth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last weekend, and even though she said Strade Bianche will be too hard for her to win, we still think she's a solid contender today.
She was also the winner of the Women's WorldTour series last year.
- 55km remaining from 136km
As expected, gravel sector 5; S.Martino in Grania (9.5km long), has caused splits in the peloton over the decisive climb. Once at the top of the climb, the riders will be back on the tarmac and can assess who made it into the front group.
American champion Coryn Rivera and her Sunweb teammates were all over the front of the race in the earlier sectors of gravel.
- 45km remaining from 136km
We are back on the tarmac and the race is headed toward gravel sector 6 near Monteaperti, which is short at only 0.8km. But - and here is the big BUT - there is a very steep climb at the end of that sector.
The gradient will reach into the double digits before hitting the tarmac again in Vico d'Arbia (111.3km mark).
- 45km remaining from 136km
Rivera was briefly involved in a 12-rider lead group that has emerged along the paved section of the route.
That group has been brought back because it contained too many strong riders including Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo), Elena Cecchini (Canyon-SRAM) and Le Samyn winner Jip van den Bos (Boels Dolmans).
Speaking of Trek-Segafredo, this will be an interesting team to watch this year, because it is new but has managed to make it into the top 4 teams on the UCI World Ranking.
This is largely because they have top-point riders like Van Dijk, Elisa Longo Borghini, Audrey Cordon-Ragot and Lotta Lepistö. And they have also hired Lizzie Deignan.
They have had four wins this season so far, and will certainly want to capture an early-season WorldTour win, too.
Cyclingnews launched our Women's Edition Podcast this year and we highlighted the team team in the second episode. Click to listen below.
Behind the scenes with Trek-Segafredo – Women's Edition Podcast
- 37km remaining from 136km
And the race is starting to heat up with a breakaway of six riders. We will have those names for you shortly.
- 34km remaining from 136km
That was a dangerous move with Lucinda Brand (Sunweb), Jeanne Korevaar (CCC), Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Trek-Segafredo), Hannah Barnes (Canyon-SRAM) and Karol-Ann Canuel (Boels). They didn't gain much time before being caught.
The field is back together.
The peloton is approaching the sixth sector of gravel at Monteaperti (0.8km).
Kasia NIewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) is still in the race. She has placed second in the last three editions of Strade Bianche, but said she doesn't feel any extra pressure to win.
A new lead breakaway has emerge ahead of sector 6.
Karol-Ann Canuel (Boels) and Elena Cecchini (Canyon-SRAM) have jumped out of the peloton, again, and brought with them Tayler Wiles (Trek-Segafredo).
Canuel, Cecchini and Wiles have started sector 6. Remember this sector under a kilometre but has a steep climb at the end.
Italian fans are lining the route and will, no doubt, be cheering for Cecchini. She is one of Italy's best Classics riders and a real threat today.
The trio have been caught on the gravel but watch for new attacks on the climb up to Vico d'Arbia, where they will ride back onto the tarmac.
After the race today, we will have a full report and event news by our reporter Lukas Knöfler, along with results and a gallery of today's Strade Bianche.
The women are approaching the final two sectors of gravel - 7 and 8: Colle Pinzuto (2.4km) and Le Tolfe (1.1km).
Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) is in the group and she told reporters at the start of the race that she was really looking forward to today's Strade Bianche, which is her first road race of the season after a successful cyclo-cross campaign.
In many ways, Strade Bianche Women is becoming more equal to the men's race, however and unfortunately, the prize money offered to the women's peloton is but a fraction to that of the men's field.
The winner of the men's Strade Bianche will share €16,000 with his teammates, with a total prize pot of €40,000. The winner of the women's race takes home just €2,256, with a total prize pot of €10,260.
Cyclingnews' Stephen Farrand spoke with race director Mauro Vegni, who acknowledged the difference, and said he hopes to close the gap in the future.
Anna van der Breggen said that she believes the size of the prize pot is the lesser of evils when it comes to the stark inequality that remains between men's and women's cycling.
The last hour of Strade Bianche Women is expected to be televised.
- 14km remaining from 136km
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) is leading the front group, which is only 15 or so riders.
The lead group includes Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv), Anna van der Breggen (Boels), Chantal Blaak (Boels), Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Bigla), Marianne Vos (CCC_Liv), Janneke Ensing (Sunweb), Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo), Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) and Marta Bastianelli (Virtu)
- 11km remaining from 136km
Van Vleuten has attacked!
Van Vleuten returned to racing at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. It was her first race back after knee surgery. She has been training for 11 weeks but told Cyclingnews she was still missing her very top form, and didn't expect to win today.
She is the time trial world champion. And she now has a lead of 30-second lead.
- 8km remaining from 136km
Van Vleuten's gap his holding steady at about 30 seconds.
She is on a steep climb, on tarmac, pushing a big gear but looking very strong.
Defending champion van der Breggen is sitting in the chase group. She has teammate Annika Langvad in the chase group, too, who is doing much of the work.
Van der Breggen and Langvad will be racing Cape Eoic later this month.
Van der Breggen has now taken up the chase. There is only 7km to go, and so if the chase group don't work together, they will not catch Van Vleuten.
Van Vleuten has gone over the big climb the climb to Tolfe (120km) is 18 per cent and she only has the one big climb to the finish line.
Van Vleuten will next ride up the final 16 per cent climb to the finish line.
It begins with a nine per cent gradient with 900 metres to go, and then it only gets steeper.
With 500 metres to go the pitches reach 10 per cent and then up to 16 per cent along Via Santa Caterina.
The slopes ease up in the final 300 metres, and then there is a descent followed by a flat run-in to the Piazza del Campo.
- 4km remaining from 136km
Van Vleuten has increased her lead to 45 seconds.
Van der Breggen is doing much of the work at the front of the chase group, with little help from anyone. They will surely be racing for second place today.
Ensing has attacked the chase group.
Van der Breggen has brought back Ensing.
Vos has now moved to the front of the chase group.
At the front of the race, however, Van Vleuten is looking very comfortable and smooth, and she is well on her way to victory at Strade Bianche with a gap of 45 seconds.
- 2km remaining from 136km
Van Vleuten is approaching the gates of the city, Siena.
She will soon turn onto Via Santa Caterina and start the final climb to the cobbled Piazza del Campo.
Van Vleuten has just raced under the final kilometre banner with a lead of 40 seconds.
Van Vleuten is on the final 500 metres with pitches of 10 per cent and 16 per cent along Via Santa Caterina.
Crowds are cheering for the Dutch rider.
She is out of the saddle and racing to the top of the climb.
Van Vleuten reaches the top and she is on the final 300 metres, and the descent followed by a flat run-in to the Piazza del Campo.
Van Vleuten looks back and there is no one behind her. She wins Strade Bianche!
Langvad attacked on the steep climb and races in for second place.
Niewiadoma finishes third.
Van Vleuten is celebrating her victory with her Mitchelton-Scott team staff, manager and colleagues.
She takes a well-earned drink of water as she prepares for the podium presentation.
This is Van Vleuten's first victory at Strade Bianche. She will also take the first leader's jersey of the Women's WorldTour.
Van Vleuten blows a kiss to the crowds in Siena while standing among them in the Piazza del Campo.
"I worked very hard because this race was on my wish list. I thought maybe it would be too early for me to win here [after injuring her knee]."
"I waited for a good moment to attack. I had to put the hammer down on the uphill."
"This is one of my best victories."
Van Vleuten says at the podium in a post-race interview.
2019 Strade Bianche - Top 10
1 Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Mitchelton-Scott 03:48:49
2 Annika Langvad (Den) Boels Dolmans 00:00:37
3 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM 00:00:40
4 Marta Bastianelli (Ita) Team Virtu Cycling 00:00:44
5 Cecile Uttrup Ludwig (Den) Cervelo-Bigla
6 Asleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) CCC Team 00:00:51
7 Marianne Vos (Ned) CCC Team 00:00:52
8 Janneke Ensing (Ned) Team Sunweb 00:00:54
9 Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Boels Dolmans 00:01:28
10 Chantal Blaak (Ned) Boels Dolmans 00:01:50
Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) says in a post-race interview.
"I only did ten weeks of training after I broke my knee at the World Championships in Innsbruck, but I worked very, very hard because this race was really on my wish list to win. It’s one of my favourite races but I thought ten weeks of training would not be enough.
"I was waiting for a good moment. I only had one teammate and we were a bit out numbered with only two in a big group, so we had to play poker a little bit and then I had to put the hammer down on the uphill.
"This is one of the best victories of my career. I said yesterday when we took pictures in the Piazza del Campo, that this is he best place to finish a race."
Thank you for joining our live coverage of the 2019 Strade Bianche!
You can find the full report, results and a gallery from today's race in the link below.