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Live coverage

Strade Bianche 2016

Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 2016 Strade Bianche

 

 

 

 

Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 2016 Strade Bianche. This is just the 10th edition of the Italian one-day race, but such is the appeal of the iconic route with its picturesque gravel roads (strade bianche), it has quickly established itself as an important date in the Classics season. 

The riders rolled out at 11 o'clock local time and after several kilometres in the neutral zone, racing is underway.

So, 176 kilometres to be covered today, including no fewer than 50km of those chalky, gravelly tracks that roll through the hills of Tuscany. It's a grey day and it started to rain just as the riders rolled out, which will add another dimension to those strade bianche. 

 

Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) did not take to the start today. He's the only non-started of the race.

 

After a couple early skirmishes, a breakaway group has established itself. 

 

There are eight riders in there, including Jesse Sergeant (AG2R-La Mondiale), Tom Van Asbroeck (LottoNL-Jumbo), and the Lotto Soudal duo of Jens Debuscherre, and Pim Ligthart. Marcin Mrozek (CCC Sprandi Polkowice) and Riccardo Stacchiotti (Nippo Vini Fantini) are also in there.

 

 

Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) did not take to the start today. He's the only non-starter of the race.

 

Here's how the race profile looks

 

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) was one of the last riders to sign on at the start in Siena but he still had time for a quick chat with Cyclingnews' Stephen Farrand. The Belgian finished second in 2015 after Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) passed him before the final turn into the finish.

 

“I hope it can be my race today. I always feel good on these kinds of roads. I like the parcours an its my kind of racing. I always look forward to this race. This race has a place in my top three of most beautiful races,” he said.

 

“Last year the weather was a little bit better, this year it could rain and so become a little bit special but I think I’m ready for it. I’m looking forward to the dirt roads sectors and the finale in Siena. It suits me rally well and this year I can be first.

 

The riders on the early opening sector of gravel track 

 

 

The women's Strade Bianche is taking place at the same time as the men's and the race is really hotting up with roughly 35km remaining. 

 

Nikki Harris broke clear from a thinned-out bunch and has been joined by Lucinda Brand. That means the other teams have to work hard to chase while Boels Dolmans and Rabo Liv can sit in. 

 

Race radio was down for a while but it has now been confirmed that the other two members of that breakaway are Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Androni) and Lorenzo Rota (Bardiani-CSF). Southeast and Novo Nordisk, then, are the only Pro Conti teams without a representative in the break. The gap is heading out towards six minutes.

 

The bunch now comes through the second sector of gravel track after just over 40 kilometres. 

It's all kicking off in the women's race now. There was a regrouping at the front of a race but now Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans), Emma Johanssen (Wiggle-High 5) and Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Rabo Liv) have forged clear ahead of a chasing group of seven.

 

The break's advantage in the men's race has come down below the three-minute mark now. 

 

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is an expert on dirt roads and cobbles despite being a Grand Tour contender but, he confirmed the Astana team will work for Jakob Fuglsang today.

 

“It’s rained in the last few days at home and so I haven’t done a lot of training, I’ve just tried to hold onto my form from the Tour of Oman. This is my first race in Europe and so it’s a change of climate. We’ll see how my legs feel in the race,” he said at the start.

 

“This race is different to anything else, even to the stage of the Tour de France I won on the pave. This is a one-day race and the riders that are here are also very different. I’m here because it’s a fascinating race on beautiful roads. I hope my legs are good in the finale but today Jakob Fuglsang will do the race for us. We’ll work around him to help him.”

Under 10km to go now in the women's race and it looks like this trio is going to hold off the chasing group. 

A tricky finish awaiting the women in the Piazza del Campo. It's technical and the road kicks up viciously inside the final kilometre. 

 

116km remaining from 176km

Astana help pick things up in the bunch in the men's race with 60km covered. (Photo from Trek-Segafredo)

 

 

Into the final couple of kilometres now for the women.

 

Lizzie Armitstead leads up the steep little climb in the final 500 metres!

 

Niewiadoma wasn't far behind but Johanssen dropped

 

And the world champion takes it! Lizzie Armitstead wins the 2016 women's Strade Bianche. 

That's two wins in two races in the rainbow jersey for Armitstead - what a start to the season. She's now the leader of the UCI Women's WorldTour, with Strade Bianche the first race in that new series. 

 

We have a brief report from the women's race, which you can find by clicking here. We'll have a full report, photos, and reaction coming in shortly. 

Our focus now returns squarely to the men's race, and it's getting interesting out there.

 

It's kicking off in the men's race now too and the peloton has split in three. Etixx-QuickStep are driving in that front group, which contains about fifty riders, and the gap to the break has come down to a minute.

 

Rain falling now in Siena. #stradebianche pic.twitter.com/0bZ4somtrH

Rota and Stacchiotti are struggling in the breakaway and it's looking like they might be cut loose.

 

An update from the CCC Sprandi Polkowice team: Maciej Paterski was involved in a crash and has been taken to hospital with a suspected knee injury. 

 

85km remaining from 176km

We've just come through the fourth strada bianca and we're just past the half-way mark in the race.

 

Etixx still the major force at the front of the bunch, but now the breakaway's lead is stretching back out towards the two-minute mark.

 

Feed zone for the riders, so the pace will be knocked off a little. 

The riders will need that fuel as we're not far away from a crucial phase of the race with two long sectors near Lucignano d'Asso and Asciano - 9.5km and 11.km long respectively. Then there's the descent to San Giovanni di Asso - a real test of nerve.

 

BMC takes things up on the front of the first part of the peloton now and the break's lead is being shredded.

 

76km remaining from 176km

The game is up for the breakaway, who are caught with just over 76 kilometres remaining.

 

Onto the fifth sector now and we have movement off the front. Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx - QuickStep), Andriy Grivko (Astana), Brent Bookwalter (BMC), Pim Ligthart (Lotto Soudal) and Salvatore Puccio (Team Sky) have gone clear. 

 

Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) will have sector of dirt road named in his honour if he wins a third edition of Strade Bianche. However, he was cautious about his chances before the start.

 

“It’s windy and it’s going to rain, so it’s going to be a tough race. At Strade Bianche we have a mix of cobbled Classics riders and Ardennes riders and that’s what makes a special race but also a very hard race. We’ll see what happens out on the road.”

 

We are hearing that Damiano Cunego (Nippo Vini Fantini) crashed during the third sector of dirt roads. He has been taken to hospital and reportedly has a fractured wrist.

 

Ligthart has been dropped by this small lead group, who have a slender advantage over the Trek-led bunch as we come out of the fifth sector.

 

The Lotto Soudal rider in this break is in fact Maxime Monfort.

 

A bit of gentle downhill now for the riders on the approach to the sixth sector, which is the second longest at 11.5km and features the climb up the Monte Sante Marie. 

The breakaway riders have just over half a minute over the peloton, which has really thinned out again. There can't be more than 40 or 50 in there.

 

Onto the sixth sector of dusty gravel track now, this is a particularly punishing one.

Riders are getting dropped from this bunch now as the rolling roads paths become deceptively steep. 

 

Grivko is struggling up ahead and has just lost contact with that lead group.

Grivko is back on but now the riders head downhill in the bunch behind and things are really stringing out.

 

And Puccio has a mechanical. There's something wrong with the Sky rider's chain and he has to pull over, and is passed by the peloton. 

Mechanical, too, for Dayer Quintana (Movistar), while Astana's Michele Scarponi and Valerio Agnoli are dropped.

 

Lars Peter Nordhaug has attacked this ever-thinning main bunch and is setting off in pursuit of the leaders.

 

The 'bunch', if we can still call it that, now contains only about 30-odd riders. There a fractured remnants of the previous group trying to get across.

 

Another mechanical for Puccio, whose day is going from bad to worse.

 

45km remaining from 176km

The main group is 1:08 behind the four leaders with 45 kilometres remaining. Nordhaugh is dangling there in no man's land at 45 seconds behind the leaders.

Movistar take things up on the front towards the end of this sixth sector, and Nordhaug sees his advantage scythed. He's been swallowed up by the main group.

 

37km remaining from 176km

The gap to our intrepid escapees is 46 seconds with 37km to go. 

Astana are sitting just behind Movistar on the front of the peloton. They've got a man out front but they want to be ready if and when they come back. 

 

Sky has now put a rider on the front just ahead of the Movistar train. With Puccio suffering such bad luck in the break they are now looking to plan B.

 

This chasing group is pretty small now and some riders look like they're going to struggle to keep up the pace. 

 

31km remaining from 176km

The breakaway are working well together but their advantage continues to come down. With just over 31km to go it is now only 38 seconds. 

 

31km remaining from 176km

The breakaway are working well together but their advantage continues to come down. With just over 31km to go it is now only 38 seconds. 

 

2015 winner Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) won Strade Bianche in 2015 and is back in the hope of a second victory.

“I like these kinds of races. It’s special but very, very hard. The weather will make it even harder but I hope that will help me.”

Stybar is still in the main group with Petr Vakoc for company.

 

29km remaining from 176km

The pace has drastically increased after an injection of pace from Movistar. It's now only 20 seconds.

 

Grega Bole obviously feeling the strain and he gives his muscles a bit of a shake. He was one of those struggling at the back before. 

 

A quick check of the bunch and it seems most of the favourites, if not all, have made the cut Sagan, Van Avermaet, Stybar and Cancellara are all accounted for.

 

The peloton can now see the escapees as they ride along these flat roads. Brambilla has a dig off the front of the escape group. He is caught but he's obviously feeling strong right now. 

 

25km remaining from 176km

The riders are travelling through Montiaporti, with just 25km to the finish now. 

 

The riders come onto the seventh sector of 'strade bianche'. More undulating roads on this one and it could be a launchpad for attacks.

 

Brambilla ups the pace in the break and drags Bookwalter with him. The two have opened up a a gap on Monfort and Grivko.

 

Downhill stretch now and that duo have opened up a sizeable margin. Fast pace in the bunch now too

 

Big surge of pace now from Michal Kwiatkowski on the front of the bunch!

 

Brambilla drops Bookwalter

 

Kwiatkowski has torn this main group to pieces . He has got rid of a good 12-15 riders, who are gathering into groups and trying to get back on. 

 

20km remaining from 176km

Brambilla is giving it everything here as he tears away solo. 20 kilometres - it's a big ask.

 

Onto the eighth sector he goes now, with a lead of 20 seconds. This one is 2.4km long with another steep climb.

 

And Sagan turns it up in the bunch! The world champion is reeling in Brambilla here, with not many able to hold his wheel.

 

Sagan comes to the front of the race. He's with Brambilla and another QuickStep rider, and Fabian Cancellara has just bridged across.

 

It's Stybar in this front group - this is a quite a break. Nibali, Van Avermaet, et al caught in the split up groups behind. 

 

15 seconds now for this quartet. A reminder: Sagan, Stybar, Brambilla, Cancellara.

 

Cancellara is a two-time winner of this race (2008 and 2012). Stybar won it last year, while Sagan was second two years ago.

 

Fuglsang turns up the heat in the chasing group, which contains only about 7 riders. Jasper Stuyven (Trek) is on his wheel. 

 

Nibali, Kwiatkowski, Van Avermaet on the front now giving chase. 

 

Also in that group are: Bob Jungels, Matteo Trentin, Peter Vakoc, Fuglsang, Bookwalter, and Jay McCarthy.

 

Final sector of dirt track! It's a short one at just over a kilometre

 

Nibali dropped. The Italian falls away as the path heads uphill. The Astana team did say their leader for today was Fuglsang.

11km remaining from 176km

Just over 10km to go now and the gap is less than half a minute

 

A chase group of around six has formed thanks to an injection of pace from Van Avermaet. Nordaugh, Vakoc, Fuglsang, Ulissi, Benoot, Valverde in there.

 

Fuglsang drives this group now. They're running out of time.

 

How will Etixx play this one with the numerical advantage. They've not always been able to make their strength in depth count (see Het Nieuwsblad 2015). A softener from Brambilla to come surely.

 

And Brambilla goes! Stybar sits tight - over to you Sagan and Cancellara.

 

It's Cancellara who takes in the initiative and closes the move down. Downhill now and the riders are in their aero tucks

 

6km remaining from 176km

The gap is still 15 seconds. This is well and truly in the balance.

 

Brambilla goes again. Obvious tactics from Etixx-QuickStep

 

Brambilla almost takes a wrong turn and has to correct his line. This attack isn't being closed down as quickly as the previous one.

 

4km remaining from 176km

Brambilla is away here with 4 to go. Cancellara and Sagan are taking the turns on the front, looking to reel him back in slowly but surely. A few seconds is the gap at the moment, which won't count for much by the steep sections at the finish.

 

Fuglsang still the most prominent figure in the chasing group behind

 

1km remaining from 176km

Brambilla heads into the centre of Siena with a lead of around eight seconds.

 

The Italian is gritting his teeth, bobbing his head, giving it everything. No panic as yet from Sagan or Cancellara.

 

1km remaining from 176km

Flamme rouge!

 

Remember, the finish is very tricky in the tight, steep streets of Siena. There's a brutal climb between 800m and 500m to go.

 

Brambilla is onto that climb still in the lead

 

 

Here come Sagan, Stybar and Cancellara!

 

Brambilla is buckling here, wrestling with the bike, but he's going to get to the top of this alone. From there it's downhill to the line

 

Now the others crest - they're onto him!

 

Cancellara comes round with Stybar!

 

Cancellara leads it out and takes the victory!

 

Brambilla comes over for third place, with Sagan rolling in for fourth

 

A jubilant Fabian Cancellara embraces his team staff - they're bouncing up and down. And now the Swiss star is lifting his bike above his head. What a win.

 

That's Cancellara's third victory in the race and, as promised, he will now have a sector of gravel track named after him.

 

Top 10

 

1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek Factory Racing 04:39:35
2 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step
3 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx - Quick-Step 00:00:04
4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo 00:00:13
5 Petr Vakoc (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step 00:00:34
6 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 00:00:37
7 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 00:00:41
8 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
9 Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Team Sky
10 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 00:00:50

 

We'll be bringing you a report, results, and photos shortly, not to mention all the news and reaction from our man on the ground Stephen Farrand.

 

Three times a winner (Photo courtesy of SRF Sport)

 

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