Normality resumed in the Women's WorldTour at Trofeo Alfredo Binda with Lizzie Armitstead winning the race in the rainbow jersey and defending her title from 2015. The Boels Dolmans rider has now won all three races she's started, with a DNF at Ronde van Drenthe the only blemish on her first season as world champion. However, Armitstead had entered the race with the ambition of delivering teammate Megan Guarnier to the victory.
Jolanda Neff (Servetto Footon) attacked the reduced peloton on the Cuvio climb the with 25km to race and despite the directors from the team car, Armitstead turned super domestique, taking it upon her self to ensure the Swiss champion wasn't riding away to the victory.
"The race was hard all the way today. And then in the final lap, Jolanda attacked on the small climb, the new climb and I had in my ear my director telling me it wasn't our responsibility to chase it," the 27-year-old Briton said. "To stay calm and wait. But I was a little bit frustrated because I knew the peloton was not far behind us and [Giorgia] Bronzini was still there. She was riding really strong today and of course in her home WorldTour race, she's going to be motivated, so I didn't want the peloton to come back.
"I did a little more work than I was told in the radio. On the final climb, Rabobank attacked, and because I did a lot of work to keep the break going, I was dropped. But I could see them. I knew I had to get back," she said. "On the top of the climb I came back, and I directly attacked. It was my last move because today we were trying to work for Megan. I was just being a teammate and doing I thought a 'stupid attack' but nobody saw me coming from behind and I had a lot of speed."
Once Neff was reeled in with three kilometres to go, Armitstead was still working for Guarnier but as the race was quickly reaching its conclusion and Guarnier's group was yet to make contact with the two leaders, the World Champion launched her sprint for the win with Guarnier the quickest of the chasers.
With Chantal Blaak winning the Ronde van Drenthe, Boels Dolmans have a 100% record in the Women's WorldTour and lead the team rankings with 544 points. Rabo Liv is a distant second on 368 points with Wiggle High5 third on 280 points.
In her post-race press conference, Armitstead explained the emotion of winning back-to-back races in Italy while wearing the rainbow jersey.
"Yes, Strade BIanche is very special in the rainbow jersey. My experience in the rainbow jersey so far is the best in Italy," she said of her wins this season. "I'm not just saying that because I'm here. The Italians understand the rainbow jersey more than the other nations I've raced in. Everybody gets very excited about my jersey. It's a very nice place to race."
While some riders may struggle with the added pressure and responsibilities of wearing the rainbow jersey, Armitstead added that if there was any change to her life since the Richmond victory it was a greater sense of self belief in her abilities.
"I think one of my strengths as a rider is to keep balance in my life, so to be honest, my life hasn't completely changed," she reflected. "My life isn't just about cycling. I have bigger confidence, new confidence from the win. It makes winning easier when you have the knowledge that you can perform on the hardest day.
"I don't have time for different hobbies. What I mean by keeping balance is that I always still feel happy even if I have a bad race. It's not going to change my life – a good result or a bad result. Neither will change my life."
Olympic not WorldTour ambition
Armitstead was the most consistent rider in the women's pro peloton over the last two years, as her World Cup wins attest to, and she has picked up where she left off in 2016 with an early 20 point lead in the WorldTour standings over Katarzyna Niewiadoma. However, Armitstead is "not interested in keeping the jersey", explaining "I have a nicer one".
"It gives me pride to be winning the Women's WorldTour but it's not a goal this season. I want to be Olympic champion. That's my goal," she said, reaffirming her 2016 aims.
Having experienced the Olympic dais in 2012, claiming silver behind Marianne Vos in the road race, Armitstead is only interested in crossing the line in first place on August 7 in Fort Copacabana.
"My ambition is to become Olympic champion. I've become World Champion. That's one dream already ticked on my list but dominance for five years is not my dream," she said.
Although Armitstead Olympic ambition is clear, it's unlikely Trofeo Alfredo Binda is the last WorldTour race of the season in which the world champion raises her arms in triumph.
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