The Women's WorldTour will kick off with Strade Bianche on March 6 in Siena, Italy. The one-day race will once again be routed through the white gravel roads of Tuscany and offer one of the most challenging races of the top-tier series.
Annemiek van Vleuten will return to defend her title, won just six months ago as part of the revised calendar in August. Having said goodbye to her longtime Mitchelton-Scott team in December, she will line up under her the new colours of Movistar Team Women as one of the favourites to win.
Van Vleuten has won the last two editions of Strade Bianche, and other past winners include Anna van der Breggen of SD Worx, Lizzie Deignan and Elisa Longo Borghini of Trek-Segafredo.
Join Cyclingnews for live coverage of 2021 Strade Bianche, and check in after the race for our full report, results, gallery, news and features.
Relive Van Vleuten's solo victory at 2020 Strade Bianche
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) - The defending champion will be looking to open the Women's WorldTour season with a victory, like last year, to impress her new squad Movistar Team Women. Last weekend at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, she was caught out when the main move went up the road, and she will be looking for a bit of redemption in Italy.
Anna van der Breggen (SD Worx) - The double world champion has already secured a victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in dominant form, riding solo to the finish in Ninove. She is in her last season as a professional cyclist before retiring at the end of the year, but she is taking this season seriously and wants to keep winning while she still can. Watch for her to play a dominant role on the steep climbs and gravel sectors throughout Tuscany.
Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM Racing) - Second in 2016, second in 2017, second in 2018, third in 2019, surely this will be the year that Niewiadoma stands on the top step of the podium. This race is an outright target every year for the Canyon-SRAM rider, so watch for her to be in every major move on the way back to Siena.
Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) - Trek-Segafredo line up with two former winners in Longo Borghini and Lizzie Deignan, the defending champion of the Women's WorldTour. It's an Italian race and Longo Borghini will be targeting her home event and looking to make a winning move on home soil. Longo Borghini won the 2017 edition, but she was also on the podium in 2015 and 2018.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) - She is still hunting her first victory on the Women's WorldTour. She excels on punchy climbs and has the stamina to outlast most of her rivals, so watch for her to be in the main move.
Cyclingnews' will publish a full list of riders to watch soon.
The women's 136km race will start at 9:10am CET and include a total of 31.4 kilometres of gravel, before finishing on the steep ascent at the Piazza del Campo in Siena. The route is nearly identical to the last two editions, with the key aspects revolving around the six steep pitches and eight gravel sectors on the loop around Tuscany.
As the race enters the last kilometre and approaches the centre of Siena, the riders will face a 16 per cent climb to the finish line. It begins with a nine per cent gradient with 900 metres to go, and then reaches 10 per cent with 500 metres to go, increasing up to 16 per cent along the Via Santa Caterina.
The slope eases up in the final 300 metres, and then there is a descent followed by a flat run-in to the Piazza del Campo.
- Vidritta, 17km (2.1km long)
- Bagnaia, 25km (5.8km)
- Radi, 36.9km (4.4km)
- La Piana, 47.6km (5.5km)
- S.Martino in Grania, 67.5km (9.5km)
- Monteaperti, 111.3km (0.8km)
- Colle Pinzuto, 117km (2.4km)
- Le Tolfe, 123km (1.1km)
- Radi, 32km
- Monteaperti, 107.7km
- Vico d'Arbia, 111.3km
- Colle Pinzuto, 115km
- Tolfe, 120km
- Via Santa Caterina (finish)
What to expect
As always, we can expect the peloton to blow apart along the steep climbs and gravel sectors that make Strade Bianche so famous, particularly during the last quarter of the race.
The racing will largely depend on the weather, too. Last year the race was held under scorching 30-plus degrees Celsius in August. The year before that, the race was held in sunny, spring conditions, and both occasions won by Van Vleuten. The 2018 edition was one of the most memorable cases of survival of the fittest as Van der Breggen went on a long-range solo attack in unimaginable weather conditions; cold, rain and covered with what resembled wet chalk from head to toe. It won't be forgotten.
On Saturday, the early forecast calls for temperatures reaching 12 degrees Celsius and a 50 per cent chance for rain.
The women's peloton has only gotten to race one event this year, at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and there is a real threat that more races could be cancelled due to COVID-19, so the riders are taking every opportunity to race to the maximum.
We can expect to see great teamwork from SD Worx, Trek-Segafredo, Team DSM, but also expect to see strong individual performances from former winners Van Vleuten, Van der Breggen, and Longo Borghini, and keep an eye on Niewiadoma, Uttrup Ludwig, Marta Bastianelli (Alè BTC Ljubljana Cipollini), and Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma).
- Movistar Team Women (Esp)
- Trek - Segafredo (USA)
- Alè BTC Ljubljana Cipollini (Ita)
- Canyon-Sram Racing (Ger)
- FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope (Fra)
- Liv Racing (Ned)
- Team BikeExchange (Aus)
- Team DSM (Ger)
- Team SD Worx (Ned)
- A.R. Monex Women's Pro Cycling Team (Ita)
- Aromitalia Basso Bikes Vaiano (Ita)
- Bepink (Ita)
- Born To Win G20 Ambedo (Ita)
- Ceratizit - WNT Pro Cycling Team (Ger)
- Isolmant - Premac - Vittoria (Ita)
- Jumbo-Visma Women Team (Ned)
- Lotto Soudal Ladies (Bel)
- Massi Tactic Women Team (Esp)
- Parkhotel Valkenburg (Ned)
- Servetto - Makhymo - Beltrami tsa (Ita)
- Team TIBCO - Silicon Valley Bank (USA)
- Top Girls Fassa Bortolo (Ita)
- Valcar - Travel & Service (Ita)
Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
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