Good morning and welcome to live coverage of Strade Bianche women. The riders will be setting off on Italy's dusty white roads in a little under half an hour.
Before the riders do set out from Siena, why not take a look through our preview here.
We've had a few races this year so far, despite coronavirus doing its best to scupper the calendar, but this is the first Women's WorldTour event of the season. It should have been the Cadel Evans Road Race, but coronavirus... Here's hoping we see the race happening next year.
Final countdown before the start of #StradeBianche pic.twitter.com/X7cQBpBBGTMarch 6, 2021
Annemiek van Vleuten is the defending champion today. Who can forget her stunning chase down of Mavi Garcia? Will she be able to repeat her success in Siena? She's had just one race so far this season, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
There was some talk that there might be some rain today but, at the moment, it is dry and a little bit warm.
Buongiorno da Siena!#StradeBianche @eolo_it pic.twitter.com/6KU6ItIlLCMarch 6, 2021
Sign on is complete in Siena and we can expect the riders to depart shortly.
The winner of today's race will also take home a hefty prize pot after a crowdfunding campaign was launched to give the women the same prize money as the men. After the campaign raised 22,000 euros, the women will actually be taking home more than the men. Read more about it here.
The riders have passed through the short neutralized section within Siena and reached the city borders. Let the racing begin.
Of course, Van Vleuten is not just the defending champion here. She is the two-time defending champion after winning the last two editions. In fact, she is the only rider to have won this race twice, let alone in consecutive years.
An early mechanical problem for Maria Giulia Confalnieri but she is sorted and back on her way.
If you are considering tackling some gravel roads yourself, why not check out BikePerfect's list of best bikes for the gravel.
Mavi Garcia made a big impression on the race last year, this is what she had to say to the race website ahead of the start. "It was almost my best result of last season, and now I remember it and I think it’s not easy to do it. although, while you’re doing it, you make the most of it. I always want to try [to win]. It’s hard, it’s very long, but I’ll always try. There are no secret [to winning]. You need legs and a good head, and that’s it.”
132km to go
The attacks have been relentless right from the start. Nobody has been able to build a significant gap just yet, though.
The women have about 31km of gravel roads to battle with today. The first of those comes up in the not too distant future, after 17km of racing.
The first gravel sector is 2.1km long and heads slightly downhill. It's long but one of the easier sectors that the riders will face today.
Despite being the two-time defending champion, Van Vleuten says she is not focusing on a third consecutive title. This is what she had to say this morning to the official race website.
“I can tell you I feel different. We’ve done one race, Nieuwsblad, so, sure, we need a little bit time to work super good together, but it was super good and I’m super excited to do this race with my new team. I’m not thinkg about winning three Strade Bianches in a row, my focus is to put out everything I have, have a really good race. Yes, it would be very beautiful , but it’s not easy. It’s also a lottery, you need to also to a lot of luck. and a lot of focus, and that’s the objective today. If you say that women’s cycling is between Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten, then we don’t take into account how strong the field is in women’s cycling. I think we have so much more natioanlties, We have so much more strong girls that put out a good performance, I think we have a really good battle.”
🏁 115 km to go: Coming out of Sector 1, the peloton is still all together. We can see UCI World Champion🌈 @AnnavdBreggen of @teamsdworx sitting comfortably at the back, waiting for the real action to begin.#UCIWWT #StradeBiancheMarch 6, 2021
The riders will have just over five kilometres between the end of the first and the beginning of the second gravel sector. The second sector is one of the longest of the day at 5.8km.
We're following the women's race right now, but did you also know that there is a men's race today? It's nice that the women's races also allow men's races. Mountainbiker Ben Zwiehoff will be hoping his skills will help him today as he is riding in the men's race. Read more about it here.
Some unfortunate news from the BikeExchange team as Georgia Williams steps off the bike. It's unclear at the moment why she abandoned.
109km to go
Floortje Mackaij has had a crash on the second gravel sector and Emilia Fahlin has suffered a mechanical issue.
BikeExchange may have lost Georgia Williams but they still have Amanda Spratt, along with Lucy Kennedy and Ane Santestaban in their line-up today. This is what Spratt had to say ahead of the start.
"It’s a huge race for us, it’s such an iconic race, and I always love getting here early in the season and riding on the beautiful Tuscan roads, and we have a strong team here today so I’m excited to get out there. It’s a really, really strong field. We saw last week in Nieuwsblad SD Worx in particular were very strong. But I think we need to have good numbers in the final after that long gravel sector I expect it will start to explode and breakaways go so we want to be there.”
Mackaij and Fahlin are chasing back onto the pack after their respective mishaps, both on new bikes.
The riders have been going for nearly an hour and we still don't have a significant breakaway. It is then no surprise that the riders have been going along at a decent average pace of about 37kph.
104km to go
The second sector is done and dusted, pun intended, and the peloton is making its way to the third. It comes up in about five kilometres and is 4.4km long. Movistar and Jumbo-Visma are dominating the front of the bunch.
Onto the third sector of gravel and we have an attack from Elena Pirrone. She's got a small gap of about 15 seconds on the buch behind.
At the other end of the bunch, Asia Zontone has been forced to abandon. She is the second rider to call it a day early after Georgia Williams stepped off.
92km to go
Pirrone's lead is growing slightly. Her advantage is still pretty slim at 22 seconds.
The peloton can no longer see Pirrone on the twisting third sector of gravel. Out of sight, out of mind.
Following their various incidents, Banks, Mackaij and Fahlin are all back in the peloton.
A mechanical problem for Maria Vittoria Sperotto and it spells the end of her race ambitions. Strade Bianche is a cruel race sometimes.
The riders are onto the 5.5km fourth sector of gravel. Pirrone is making some very good ground at the moment and she has extended her lead to 47 seconds now.
This fourth sector is pretty high-speed with some downhill sections. It also has some tricky corners that could cause trouble for some riders.
82km to go
Pirrone is struggling to keep a hold of her advantage on this high-speed gravel sector. She is now just 20 seconds ahead of the baying pack.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig is one of the favourites for the podium today, particularly with that difficult finale into Siena. This is what the effervescent Dane had to say about the race this morning.
“I’m so excited, I mean, I love racing in Italy, and especially here in Tuscany. It’s so beautiful and Strade Bianche is one of my favourite races, so I’m excited! To win I need to have a good day on the bike, good legs, and I need to be a little bit lucky. But, yeah, I’m excited, I’ll do my very best.”
The riders have left the fourth gravel sector and with it a little bit of respite. There's about 14km before they hit the fifth, which is the longest of the day at 9.9km. The pace in the bunch has slowed now that they are back on the tarmac and Pirrone is able to nudge her lead back out to 30 seconds.
Some news on the abandon that was reported by race radio earlier. Georgia Williams is still in the race, so says her BikeExchange team. That is great news because she can have an impact on this race.
The easing up of the pace is giving riders a chance to drop back to their team car to collect refreshments and talk tactics. It's also an opportunity to catch a bit of a breather before we hit the gravel again.
The SD Worx squad are among those who have dropped off the back for a catch up with the team car. The Dutch team, whose kit looks frustratingly like the Liv Racing kit, is packed with potential winners. Anna van der Breggen, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Chantal Blaak are among those that could win it for the formidable team.
Another stacked team is Trek-Segafredo, even with the news that Lizzie Deignan had to pull out due to a cold. Elisa Longo Borghini will be the big favourite but the team also has Lucinda Brand and Ellen van Dijk who can do a considerable amount of damage.
72km to go
Making the most of this lull, Pirrone has built up a lead of 1:10 on the peloton. I imagine that it will be quickly reduced when the riders hit the gravel again in the not too distant future. This next sector coming up is an opportunity to do some real damage to the bunch.
A rider that I haven't mentioned today but we should be very wary of is Marianne Vos. She's making her debut for the new Jumbo-Visma women's team. It would be a fantastic start to the relationship if the Dutchwoman could come away with a victory.
The hammer has dropped as the riders hit this fifth gravel sector. Pirrone now has just 30 seconds on the bunch, which has really ramped up the pace. It's going to be a big struggle for her to maintain this.
Due to its length and many uphill sections, the San Martino in Grania gravel sector can prove decisive for many riders. You're unlikely to win the race here but you can lose it, as the old adage goes. It's tough and only the strongest will remain at the front on the other side.
The riders will be happy to know that once they finish the gravel sector, there is a lovely downhill sections. Unfortunately for the riders, they have a lot of uphill to come.
63km to go
The high pace has really stretched the bunch out and there are plenty of riders struggling on the back now.
It was inevitable really, but Pirrone has been caught by the front of this snake-like peloton. It was always going to be tough to stay out front at this point of the race. The pace for the opening two hours of racing has been 34.9kph.
There is no respite and no sooner has Pirrone been caught do we have another attack. Niamh Fisher-Black has jumped off the front.
Apologies for getting my teams mixed up, Fisher-Black is of course riding for SD Worx.
Lotte Kopecky has joined forces with Fisher-Black. Thankfully for my own confusion, which seems to be a bit of a problem this morning, Kopecky is in the colours of Belgian national champion.
Kopecky has had a great start to the season with victory at Le Samyn and fourth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Today is not really a day for her, but she could surprise us if she's going really well.
Fisher-Black and Kopecky continue up front. The duo have about 44 seconds on the pack behind.
52km to go
The riders are off the gravel and back onto tarmac. The downhill section after the gravel is allowing some dropped riders to regain contact with the bunch.
Nearly a miniute now for Kopecky and Fisher-Black at the front of procedings. They are working very well together at the moment.
There's a long stretch now on paved roads before the next gravel sector. Again, it's another chance for a bit of respite but the pace is still quite high so the riders can't relax too much. The next sector is short and sweet at 0.8km.
The gap for our leading pair is dropping again and they have just 34 seconds on the bunch. The peloton, understandibly, doesn't want to give them much room.
We are also doing live coverage of the men's race, which has set off. You can follow all of the action here if you fancy following two races at the same time.
45km to go
A mechanical issue for Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio. She's quickly sorted and back on her way into the bunch, thankfully.
Fisher-Black and Kopecky are still maintaining a small advantage over the peloton, which seems content to let them dangle out front for now.
There are some small attacks coming off the peloton as riders try to bridge across to the two attackers. The bunch remains pretty big at this point with about 40 riders still up there.
Gruppo compatto as the escapees are brought back into the bunch.
Attacks are still coming from the bunch but nothing is able to stick at this time.
A group of eight riders has now banded together and is making some space on the bunch.
It's just seven riders off the front and they are: Jelena Erić (Movistar) Mavi García (Ale), Alena Amialiusik (Canyon-SRAM), Brodie Chapman (FDJ), Sabrina Stultiens (Liv Racing) and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (SD Worx), Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo).
36km to go
This is an extremely strong group to get away and they have a gap of 37 seconds.
We can now add Lizzy Banks, who crashed earlier today, to that list of riders out front.
Lizzy Banks has had an eventful race so far. She loves this race and she spoke to Kirsten Frattini ahead of the event.
"It’s exciting to go to this iconic Italian race, which for me, is my favourite race on the calendar to watch or race. It was my favourite race before I had ever watched or raced it. I went to Siena on my honeymoon in 2016, and I said to my husband, ‘next time I’m here, I’ll be back racing.’ I made it last summer finally. It’s a really special event for me, so beautiful and iconic, and although it’s a modern classic, it’s the most important and the best classic in my mind.”
What to expect:
“I don’t want to let one of the big riders get off the front. I don’t just want to wait for the final and watch one of the best riders in the world ride off. I hope that we do something exciting in the race, and help to make the race, rather than be the people who watch the race and kind of go off the back of what’s happening. I hope that we can be protagonists in the race and do something exciting. It will depending on the weather, the forecast is changing, depending on what happens, it will have a huge impact on how it is raced. If you have more cards to play and act early, rather than just waiting, it can create an exciting and unpredictable scenario.”
27km to go
The eight leaders now have a gap of 47 seconds. No group or rider has been able to take more than a minute on the bunch yet today.
The leading group has fractures with just four remaining out front. They are Garcia, Van den Broek-Blaak, Stultiens and Van Dijk.
Behind them, the peloton is losing riders over this short gravel section.
The leaders have a very small margin of 18 seconds over the peloton as they return to the tarmac.
18.8 to go
The road is heading upwards and the leaders' advantage has drastically reduced to less than 15 seconds.
Van Dijk puts the hammer down as riders bridge over. It looks like Lotte Kopecky is now in that front group, as is a Jumbo-Visma rider. Van Vleuten is digging deep in a chasing group and looks like she's going to bridge the gap.
The Jumbo-Visma rider is Marianne Vos. So it's Vos, Van Dijk, Van den Broek-Black, Stultiens and Kopecky in that front group.
Behind them, there are four riders within touching distance. One of those is Van Vleuten.
Van Vleuten has put in a mighty effort to close the gap to the front to make it a nine-rider leading group. Meanwhile, Longo Borghini and Van der Breggen are chasing back on in another group.
It looks like Stultiens is actually in that Longo Borghini group and she was dropped a short while ago. In the front group, we currently have: Vos, Kopecky, Gracia, Blaak, Van Dijk, Van Vleuten, Uttrup Ludwig, Niewiadoma and Vollering.
The next chasing group has made it up to the front to add Longo Borghini, Van der Breggen, Spratt, Moolman-Pasio, Stultiens and Cavalli to the leaders.
14km to go
A stinging attack from Van dern Broek-Blaak and Longo Borghini sets off in chase of her.
More attacks coming grom behind as Garcia tries to jump clear but she can't.
The front group is all back together but there are cracks forming as the riders hit the final sector of gravel. Van Vleuten is pushing hard with Vos in her wheel.
Garcia and Kopecky are losing ground on the front group under this pressure.
11km to go
Meanwhile, Vos and Van Vleuten have pulled out a gap on the rest of the leaders as they return to the tarmac. Van der Breggen is leading the chase behind.
It looks like it was a mechanical that caused Kopecky to lose ground on that short uphill section. She's not going to be able to regain contact with the leaders.
Van Vleuten is doing a lot of the heavy lifting in this front group. She wants to get rid of Vos.
There are some splits ocurring in the chase group. Van der Breggen doesn't look to be on top form today as she loses a wheel on another small rise in the road.
10km to go
The two leaders have a very small gap on the chasers, no more than about 10 seconds at this time.
Van Vleuten and Vos are reeled back in by a group of four riders. The chasers are a few seconds back.
Longo Borghini and Van der Breggen are in that chasing group, which is about to regain contact.
There's a bit of a standoff at the moment as the riders try to figure out who will be the next to attack.
It is Cavalli that goes next for FDJ.
Moolman-Pasio and Van Dijk bridge over but the three riders are brought back in.
7.3km to go
Another short stalemate as the leaders edge closer to the centre of Siena.
Moolman-Pasio is leading the group at the moment. SD Worx has some good numbers in this front group at the moment.
Van den Broek-Blaak goes again and she is once again followed by Longo Borghini. The have a very small gap at the moment.
5.6km to go
Niewiadoma is making the chase behind and she is shutting this move down. Longo Borhini digs in, she doesn't want to give up just yet.
Niewiadoma sits up, she doesn't want to do all of the chasing and there is a real slow in the chase. Could this be a chance for Longo Borghini and Van den Broek-Blaak to get away?
4.6km to go
An attack from Cavalli from the chase group and Van Vleuten follows her.
Van den Broek-Blaak and Longo Borghini have 15 seconds on the group hehind and it looks like Cavalli and Van Vleuten have been brought back.
An attack from Moolman-Pasio.
An interesting move given SD Worx have a rider up front. They're obviously concerned about Longo Borghini and that final climb to the plaza.
Into the final 3km and the two leaders still have 14 seconds on the chasers.
Longo Borghini is getting frustrated with Van den Broek-Blaak, who is not lending any help in the attack. Meanwhile, Moolman-Pasio has been brought back in.
1.4km to go
Another attack from SD Worx behind but it is neutralised by Van Dijk, who is doing what she does best. Van Dijk does not want to let anyone get too much of a gap.
Cavalli has a go off the front but the gap has gone up to 19 seconds now. It's small but it could be enough.
Flamme rouge for the two leaders
Cavalli is gaining ground on the leaders but not quickly enough at the moment.
Longo Borghini and Van den Broek-Blaak hit the bottom of the final climb
Longo Borhini continues to lead the way
Van Vleuten and Van der Breggen attack behind and catch Cavalli
Meanwhile, Van den Broek-Blaak attacks and drops Longo Borghini
She's over the top of the climb and it looks like Van den Broek-Blaak will win
Van den Broek-Blaak wins Strade Bianche in Sienna.
Longo Borghini takes second and Van der Breggen is in third.
That was a superb ride by Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, impressively dropping Elisa Longo Borghini on that final climb to solo to the line. Longo Borghini will be disappointed with that finale after the way she rode today.
Van der Breggen appeared to be in trouble earlier in the race but she put in a huge effort at the end and dropped Van Vleuten on the final climb. A strong day for the SD Worx team.
I'm not leaving you just yet (boo I hear you say), but you can relive today's thrilling action with our report, gallery and results page here.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (Ned) Team SD Worx||3:54:40|
|2||Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo||0:00:07|
|3||Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Team SD Worx||0:00:09|
|4||Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Movistar Team Women||0:00:11|
|5||Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope|
|6||Demi Vollering (Ned) Team SD Worx|
|7||Marianne Vos (Ned) Jumbo-Visma Women Team||0:00:23|
|8||Marta Cavalli (Ita) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope||0:00:27|
|9||Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM Racing||0:00:30|
|10||Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Trek-Segafredo||0:00:32|
Van den Broek-Blaak said she hadn't expected to win but she sensed that Longo Borghini had cracked in the final kilometre and took her chance.
"I felt pretty good but it was not really the plan for me to win today. We have such an amazing team, so it was unexpected.
"Yesterday, we made a plan and, actually, from the beginning everything went well. The plan worked out straight away and everyone was supermotivated and focused in the race.
"We were there with four in a group of 11 so of course we can play the game. It was my job to try it again and Elisa came with me. I was not allowed to ride and I thought it was super smart because normally I cannot follow Elisa on the climbs so I was scared about her. With 1km to go, I could feel she broke and that I still had something left in the tank. It’s one of my best races in my career."
What a race that was. Full of drama and attacks and a brilliant finale. Van den Broek-Blaak has long been a great rider but she's really ticking off her list of missing big victories as she goes into her final season. It will be a shame to see her hang up her wheels at the end of the year.
.@AvVleuten thanks her Movistar Team-mates for the support at #StradeBianche: “I had everything I needed - I just wasn’t able to finish it off.” On to the next one, champ! 👏💫💙 #RodamosJuntos pic.twitter.com/poxpSMCIs6March 6, 2021
Elisa Longo Borghini was fairly pragmatic at the finish after losing out to Chantal van den Broek-Blaak. This is what she had to say.
"When I saw Chantal not doing a turn with me I knew that she would probably win the race but I still believed in it until the end. IN the final, she had better legs than me and chapeau to her for such a victory because it is such an important one and a special one. Coming here in Piazzo del Campo in Siena is just beautiful and I guess it’s a really enjoyable victory."
That is it from Strade Bianche Women today. Make sure to follow the men's race, which you can find here.
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