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Leah Thomas takes podium despite mid-race mishap at Strade Bianche

SIENA ITALY AUGUST 01 Podium Leah Thomas of The United Statesand Team Equipe Paule Ka Celebration Trophy Flowers during the Eroica 6th Strade Bianche 2020 Women Elite a 136km race from Siena to Siena Piazza del Campo StradeBianche on August 01 2020 in Siena Italy Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
Leah Thomas (Image credit: Getty Images)

Despite a mid-race mishap that saw her drop her chain and crash in the final 20 kilometres, Leah Thomas (Equipe Paule Ka) bounced back to secure a podium place at Strade Bianche Women.

Thomas almost crashed a second time on the final ascent to the Piazza del Campo but finished third in the first WorldTour race since the season resumed.

“To be able to land on the podium in a WorldTour race, the first one kind of after coming back from this unknown situation, is pretty special,” she said.

“We had numbers and getting into all of the sectors safely was a huge part of our plan and they worked awesome.”

The result is the first podium in new team colours, after the Swiss outfit rebranded as Equipe Paule Ka over the summer.

“I am very happy. I think it’s great way to start off a new team,” she said.

Thomas had been part of an 11-rider group that broke clear of the peloton with about 50 kilometres to go, before Mavi Garcia (Ale' BTC Ljubljana) embarked on a lengthy solo attack.

She looked stronger than most of her companions on the climb and she was on the attack and chasing down Garcia with less than 17 kilometres to go when her chain came off on a gravel section. A roadside fan attempted to help her on her way after she replaced it but her front wheel slipped and she hit the deck, losing her yet more time.

Though she was passed initially by Karol-Ann Canuel (Boels Dolmans), Thomas regained her place within the chasing group. Thomas’ efforts had shed some riders but the group gained another after a huge chase from Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott), who had been distanced in the earlier attack at 50k. The Dutch woman did not wait long before she set off on the next target of Garcia.

“Annemiek bridged up to us and I tried to follow her on the last gravel section but I didn’t quite have the legs,” said Thomas.

Thomas may not have been able to keep the wheel of the world champion but she distanced her rivals and held off some strong competition chasing behind. A wobble on the final climb, where she came close to a barrier as she glanced over her shoulder, almost ended her podium hopes. However, she stayed on this time to roll across the finish line for third.

“It’s really special,” she said.  “I’m really happy to be hear and I’m really happy represent my team this way.”