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."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Wiggle High5||3:44:45|
|2||Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) WM3 Pro Cycling||0:00:02|
|3||Elizabeth Deignan (GBr) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam||0:00:05|
|4||Lucinda Brand (Ned) Team Sunweb Women||0:00:08|
|5||Annemiek Van Vleuten (Ned) Orica Scott Women||0:00:09|
|6||Shara Gillow (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope||0:00:12|
|7||Katrin Garfoot (Aus) Orica Scott Women||0:00:18|
|8||Amanda Spratt (Aus) Orica Scott Women||0:00:36|
|9||Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team||0:01:06|
|10||Elena Cecchini (Ita) Canyon SRAM Racing|
|11||Claudia Lichtenberg (Ger) Wiggle High5||0:01:09|
|12||Sofia Beggin (Ita) Astana Women's Team||0:01:16|
|13||Janneke Ensing (Ned) Alé Cipollini|
|14||Hanna Nilsson (Swe) BTC City Ljubljana||0:01:21|
|15||Karol-Ann Canuel (Can) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam||0:01:24|
|16||Dani King (GBr) Cylance Pro Cycling||0:01:25|
|17||Marianne Vos (Ned) WM3 Pro Cycling||0:01:27|
|18||Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team||0:01:46|
|19||Lauren Stephens (USA) Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank||0:01:49|
|20||Leah Kirchmann (Can) Team Sunweb Women||0:01:54|
|21||Lauren Kitchen (Aus) WM3 Pro Cycling||0:02:00|
|22||Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Canyon SRAM Racing||0:02:01|
|23||Floortje Mackaij (Ned) Team Sunweb Women||0:02:04|
|24||Olga Zabelinskaya (Rus) BePink Cogeas||0:02:05|
|25||Malgorzata Jasinska (Pol) Cylance Pro Cycling||0:02:06|
|26||Edwige Pitel (Fra) S.C. Michela Fanini||0:02:08|
|27||Marie Vilmann (Den) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team||0:02:13|
|28||Christine Majerus (Lux) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam||0:02:17|
|29||Rasa Leleivyte (Ltu) Aromitalia Vaiano||0:02:22|
|30||Alena Amialiusik (Blr) Canyon SRAM Racing||0:02:37|
|31||Carmen Small (USA) Team Veloconcept Women||0:02:56|
|32||Polona Batagelj (Slo) BTC City Ljubljana|
|33||Sheyla Gutierrez Ruiz (Spa) Cylance Pro Cycling||0:03:00|
|34||Ingrid Drexel Clouthier (Mex) Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank|
|35||Arlenis Sierra (Cub) Astana Women's Team|
|36||Urša Pintar (Slo) BTC City Ljubljana|
|37||Joelle Numainville (Can) Cylance Pro Cycling||0:03:14|
|38||Eugenia Bujak (Pol) BTC City Ljubljana|
|39||Gracie Elvin (Aus) Orica Scott Women||0:03:29|
|40||Alice Barnes (GBr) Drops Cycling Team||0:03:43|
|41||Coryn Rivera (USA) Team Sunweb Women||0:04:13|
|42||Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Fra) Canyon SRAM Racing|
|43||Rozanne Slik (Ned) Team Sunweb Women||0:05:08|
|44||Daiva Tuslaite (Ltu) Alé Cipollini|
|45||Agnieszka Skalniak (Pol) Astana Women's Team||0:07:32|
|46||Anna Potokina (Rus) Servetto Giusta||0:07:38|
|47||Amalie Dideriksen (Den) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam||0:08:06|
|48||Silvia Persico (Ita) Valcar PBM||0:08:27|
|49||Camilla Pedersen (Den) Team Veloconcept Women||0:08:30|
|50||Moniek Tenniglo (Ned) WM3 Pro Cycling||0:08:33|
|51||Eri Yonamine (Jpn) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope||0:08:41|
|52||Lisa Klein (Ger) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team||0:08:47|
|53||Georgia Williams (NZl) Orica Scott Women|
|54||Lara Vieceli (Ita) Astana Women's Team||0:08:52|
|55||Anna Plichta (Pol) WM3 Pro Cycling|
|56||Omer Shapira (Isr) Giusfredi Bianchi|
|57||Jenelle Crooks (Aus) Orica Scott Women||0:08:57|
|58||Clara Koppenburg (Ger) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team||0:09:00|
|59||Charlotte Bravard (Fra) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope||0:09:08|
|60||Simona Bortolotti (Ita) Giusfredi Bianchi||0:09:40|
|61||Alexis Ryan (USA) Canyon SRAM Racing||0:10:49|
|62||Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Wiggle High5||0:10:50|
|63||Arianna Fidanza (Ita) Astana Women's Team|
|64||Katia Ragusa (Ita) BePink Cogeas|
|65||Chloe Hosking (Aus) Alé Cipollini||0:10:52|
|66||Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) Lensworld-Kuota|
|67||Miriam Bjørnsrud (Nor) Hitec Products|
|68||Abby-Mae Parkinson (GBr) Drops Cycling Team|
|69||Trixi Worrack (Ger) Canyon SRAM Racing||0:10:57|
|70||Roxane Knetemann (Ned) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope||0:11:06|
|71||Audrey Cordon Ragot (Fra) Wiggle High5||0:11:25|
|72||Lija Laizane (Lat) Aromitalia Vaiano||0:12:09|
|73||Jelena Eric (Srb) BTC City Ljubljana||0:12:23|
|74||Mayuko Hagiwara (Jpn) Wiggle High5||0:13:15|
|75||Silvia Pollicini (Ita) Valcar PBM||0:15:30|
|76||Elisa Balsamo (Ita) Valcar PBM|
|77||Elizabeth Holden (GBr) Drops Cycling Team||0:15:59|
|78||Abigail Van Twisk (GBr) Drops Cycling Team|
|79||Greta Richioud (Fra) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope||0:16:32|
|80||Brianna Walle (USA) Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank||0:17:19|
|DNF||Christina Siggaard (Den) Team Veloconcept Women|
|DNF||Thea Thorsen (Nor) Hitec Products|
|DNF||Megan Guarnier (USA) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam|
|DNF||Romy Kasper (Ger) Alé Cipollini|
|DNF||Carlee Taylor (Aus) Alé Cipollini|
|DNF||Anisha Vekemans (Bel) Alé Cipollini|
|DNF||Alessia Bulleri (Ita) Aromitalia Vaiano|
|DNF||Nicole Nesti (Ita) Aromitalia Vaiano|
|DNF||Elena Franchi (Ita) Aromitalia Vaiano|
|DNF||Alessia Martini (Ita) Aromitalia Vaiano|
|DNF||Sofia Bertizzolo (Ita) Astana Women's Team|
|DNF||Francesca Pattaro (Ita) BePink Cogeas|
|DNF||Ilaria Sanguineti (Ita) BePink Cogeas|
|DNF||Maria Vittoria Sperotto (Ita) BePink Cogeas|
|DNF||Silvia Valsecchi (Ita) BePink Cogeas|
|DNF||Mia Radotic (Cro) BTC City Ljubljana|
|DNF||Nicole Hanselmann (Swi) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Rossella Ratto (Ita) Cylance Pro Cycling|
|DNF||Marta Tagliaferro (Ita) Cylance Pro Cycling|
|DNF||Hannah Payton (GBr) Drops Cycling Team|
|DNF||Susanna Zorzi (Ita) Drops Cycling Team|
|DNF||Eugénie Duval (Fra) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope|
|DNF||Michela Balducci (Ita) Giusfredi Bianchi|
|DNF||Vania Canvelli (Ita) Giusfredi Bianchi|
|DNF||Daniela-Georgina Dumitru (Rom) Giusfredi Bianchi|
|DNF||Chiara Perini (Ita) Giusfredi Bianchi|
|DNF||Emilie Moberg (Nor) Hitec Products|
|DNF||Ilona Hoeksma (Ned) Hitec Products|
|DNF||Simona Frapporti (Ita) Hitec Products|
|DNF||Nina Kessler (Ned) Hitec Products|
|DNF||Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Ita) Lensworld-Kuota|
|DNF||Annalisa Cucinotta (Ita) Lensworld-Kuota|
|DNF||Kim De Baat (Bel) Lensworld-Kuota|
|DNF||Valeriya Kononenko (Ukr) S.C. Michela Fanini|
|DNF||Mónika Király (Hun) S.C. Michela Fanini|
|DNF||Iraida Garcia Ocasio (Cub) S.C. Michela Fanini|
|DNF||Francesca Balducci (Ita) S.C. Michela Fanini|
|DNF||Anna Ceoloni (Ita) S.C. Michela Fanini|
|DNF||Kseniia Dobrynina (Rus) Servetto Giusta|
|DNF||Letizia Borghesi (Ita) Servetto Giusta|
|DNF||Antri Christoforou (Cyp) Servetto Giusta|
|DNF||Laura Camila Lozano Ramirez (Col) Servetto Giusta|
|DNF||Sabrina Stultiens (Ned) Team Sunweb Women|
|DNF||Heather Fischer (USA) Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank|
|DNF||Kathrin Hammes (Ger) Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank|
|DNF||Sara Mustonen Lichan (Swe) Team Veloconcept Women|
|DNF||Doris Schweizer (Swi) Team Veloconcept Women|
|DNF||Sara Penton (Swe) Team Veloconcept Women|
|DNF||Beatrice Bartelloni (Ita) TOP|
|DNF||Nadia Quagliotto (Ita) TOP|
|DNF||Elena Leonardi (Ita) TOP|
|DNF||Michela Pavin (Ita) TOP|
|DNF||Beatrice Rossato (Ita) TOP|
|DNF||Marta Cavalli (Ita) Valcar PBM|
|DNF||Dalia Muccioli (Ita) Valcar PBM|
|DNF||Chiara Zanettin (Ita) Valcar PBM|
|DNF||Amy Roberts (GBr) Wiggle High5|
|DNF||Riejanne Markus (Ned) WM3 Pro Cycling|
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