It was an unusually large group that approached the final climb, with most of the favourites still in contention. Van Vleuten was the first to attack, 800m from the line, immediately shadowed by Kopecky, and her teammate, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio.
On the steepest section of the Via Santa Caterina climb, Moolman-Pasio’s challenge began to fade as Kopecky fought to stay on Van Vleuten's wheel.
Side-by-side in the narrow streets of Siena, Kopecky and Van Vleuten unleashed their sprints, and Kopecky managed to just edge the Movistar rider in the last hundred metres, before collapsing with the effort as she crossed the finish line.
Moolman-Pasio completed the podium, punching the air as she finished to celebrate her teammate's victory.
"I mean, I cannot believe this but this was actually the plan for the team," Kopecky said in her post-race interview. "Racing like this, with SD Worx is really super nice to do because I can attack myself, I have teammates behind me who have my back and I think today was perfect. I cannot believe this.
"You’re never confident [of beating van Vleuten] - we saw that last week - but I had a good feeling today and I knew the person to follow was Annemiek and first I had to let her go a bit. I don’t know what happened in my head but I just kept going and when we turned to the right I passed her but then the other corner she passed me again and it was really just one sprint to the last corner. It is amazing to win this race."
How it unfolded
The eighth edition of Strade Bianche Donne unfurled in the Tuscan hills surrounding Siena. Beginning and ending in the town, the peloton tackled five steep climbs and 31.4 kilometres of gravel roads, before arriving back in Siena along the Via Santa Caterina - a 16 per cent climb to the Piazza del Campo and the finish line.
Soon after the flag dropped, Rebecca Koerner (Uno-X ProCycling) was the first rider to attack, and she was later joined by Emily Newsom. (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) Together, they quickly amassed an advantage of 1:30, as the race hit the first gravel sector of the day.
On the second gravel sector, Newsom began to display her extensive gravel-racing experience, dropping her breakaway companion and, by the third sector with 94 kilometres still to race, Newsom led Koerner by 38 seconds, and the peloton by 3:00.
Meanwhile, back in the peloton, the favourites’ teams sent a rider each to control the pace until a blur of pinks and yellows and blues were all that could be seen behind the dust kicked up on the gravel roads.
They began to reduce Newsom’s lead so that on the San Martino, the longest gravel sector of the race, it fell from 2:15 to just a few metres, and she was caught as the race re-joined the tarmac roads, 55 kilometres from the finish.
A series of attacks followed in an attempt to break up the peloton, and though initially unsuccessful, the main field repeatedly fractured and reformed over the next 25km.
Briefly, a trio comprising Jeanne Korevaar (Liv Racing-Xstra), Grace Brown (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) and Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ) escaped but a group containing such strength was deemed too dangerous by the peloton.
Then, 29km from the finish, last year’s winner, Chantal van den Broeck-Blaak (SD Worx) attacked but she was immediately marked by Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) and Liane Lippert (Team DSM). In the chaos that followed as the peloton scrambled to chase, Marta Bastianelli (UAE Team ADQ) countered with Alena Amialiusik (Canyon-SRAM).
Although their attack was short-lived, it pulled away a strong group containing many of the days’ favourites. Behind, Movistar chased hard to bring van Vleuten back into contention, and the race regrouped with 24km still to race.
Three kilometres later, Kopecky showed her strength, launched her own attack, and opened up a 20 second gap ahead of the penultimate gravel sector. On the steep chalk roads, the peloton, formed of about 15 riders, reeled her back in.
With 14.3km to go, Van den Broek-Blaak attacked once again, but as soon as the race hit the last gravel sector van Vleuten accelerated, neutralising van den Broek-Blaak’s offensive, and distancing everyone in the race except Kopecky.
For five kilometres, this pair remained out front, separated from the peloton by a small ten-second gap but they were caught seven kilometres from the finish. Repeated attacks by Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Demi Vollering from SD Worx stressed the race, but still the group remained together.
It was an unusually large group, then, that approached the final climb with most of the favourites still in contention. Van Vleuten’s attack once again dropped everyone except Kopecky, and initially Moolman Pasio. As the gradient reached its steepest point, it seemed that Van Vleuten would drop the two SD Worx riders, but, somehow, Kopecky was able to hang on for the climb.
Positioning was crucial ahead of the final drop down into Siena's Piazza del Campo and the pair exchanged places as they fought for the front on the narrow streets. In the end, Kopecky took the lead into the crucial final right-hand bend and finished it off.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Lotte Kopecky (Bel) SD Worx||3:59:14|
|2||Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Movistar Team Women|
|3||Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) SD Worx||0:00:10|
|4||Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-Sram Racing||0:00:19|
|5||Cecilie Ludwig (Den) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope||0:00:24|
|6||Elise Chabbey (Swi) Canyon-Sram Racing||0:00:28|
|7||Marianne Vos (Ned) Jumbo-Visma Women||0:00:29|
|8||Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo Women|
|9||Shirin van Anrooij (Ned) Trek-Segafredo Women||0:00:34|
|10||Silvia Persico (Ita) Valcar-Travel & Service|
|11||Grace Brown (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope||0:00:39|
|12||Demi Vollering (Ned) SD Worx||0:00:50|
|13||Liane Lippert (Ger) Team DSM Women||0:01:37|
|14||Floortje Mackaij (Ned) Team DSM Women||0:01:39|
|15||Yara Kastelijn (Ned) Plantur-Pura||0:01:53|
|16||Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (Ned) SD Worx||0:02:07|
|17||Anouska Koster (Ned) Jumbo-Visma Women||0:03:24|
|18||Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco Women||0:03:28|
|19||Soraya Paladin (Ita) Canyon-Sram Racing|
|20||Sabrina Stultiens (Ned) Liv Racing Xstra|
|21||Coryn Rivera (USA) Jumbo-Visma Women||0:03:31|
|22||Alena Amialiusik (Blr) Canyon-Sram Racing|
|23||Femke Gerritse (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg||0:03:33|
|24||Niamh Fisher-Black (NZl) SD Worx||0:03:37|
|25||Audrey Cordon Ragot (Fra) Trek-Segafredo Women|
|26||Juliette Labous (Fra) Team DSM Women|
|27||Erica Magnaldi (Ita) UAE Team ADQ||0:03:46|
|28||Marta Bastianelli (Ita) UAE Team ADQ|
|29||Mavi Garcia (Spa) UAE Team ADQ||0:03:48|
|30||Anna Henderson (GBr) Jumbo-Visma Women||0:03:55|
|31||Magdeleine Vallieres Mill (Can) EF Education-TIBCO-SVB||0:04:16|
|32||Eugenia Bujak (Slo) UAE Team ADQ|
|33||Lily Williams (USA) Human Powered Health Women||0:04:33|
|34||Marta Lach (Pol) Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling Team||0:04:38|
|35||Vittoria Guazzini (Ita) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope||0:04:44|
|36||Arianna Fidanza (Ita) BikeExchange-Jayco Women||0:06:21|
|37||Sofia Bertizzolo (Ita) UAE Team ADQ|
|38||Silvia Zanardi (Ita) BePink|
|39||Paula Patiño Bedoya (Col) Movistar Team Women|
|40||Georgia Williams (NZl) BikeExchange-Jayco Women||0:06:27|
|41||Abi Smith (GBr) EF Education-TIBCO-SVB||0:06:31|
|42||Jeanne Korevaar (Ned) Liv Racing Xstra|
|43||Tamara Dronova (Rus) Roland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad|
|44||Quinty Schoens (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg||0:06:34|
|45||Elisa Balsamo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo Women|
|46||Nina Buijsman (Ned) Human Powered Health Women||0:06:40|
|47||Valerie Demey (Bel) Liv Racing Xstra|
|48||Marie Le Net (Fra) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope|
|49||Anna Shackley (GBr) SD Worx||0:06:43|
|50||Léa Curinier (Fra) Team DSM Women||0:06:54|
|51||Alicia Gonzalez Blanco (Spa) Movistar Team Women||0:07:05|
|52||Pauliena Rooijakkers (Ned) Canyon-Sram Racing||0:08:43|
|53||Marta Jaskulska (Pol) Liv Racing Xstra||0:08:46|
|54||Letizia Borghesi (Ita) EF Education-TIBCO-SVB||0:08:58|
|55||Sanne Cant (Bel) Plantur-Pura||0:09:54|
|56||Olivia Baril (Can) Valcar-Travel & Service||0:10:04|
|57||Greta Marturano (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo||0:10:29|
|58||Alice Maria Arzuffi (Ita) Valcar-Travel & Service||0:11:19|
|59||Anastasia Carbonari (Ita) Valcar-Travel & Service||0:12:41|
|60||Camilla Alessio (Ita) Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling Team|
|61||Teuntje Beekhuis (Ned) Jumbo-Visma Women||0:12:57|
|62||Leah Kirchmann (Can) Team DSM Women|
|63||Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Canyon-Sram Racing||0:12:58|
|64||Michaela Drummond (NZl) BePink|
|65||Julie Van De Velde (Bel) Plantur-Pura|
|66||Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Ita) Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling Team|
|67||Nadia Quagliotto (Ita) BePink|
|68||Linda Riedmann (Ger) Jumbo-Visma Women|
|69||Matilde Vitillo (Ita) BePink||0:13:02|
|70||Ronja Eibl (Ger) Plantur-Pura|
|71||Katia Ragusa (Ita) Liv Racing Xstra|
|72||Laura Süßemilch (Ger) Plantur-Pura|
|73||Barbara Malcotti (Ita) Human Powered Health Women||0:13:10|
|74||Amalie Lutro (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Women||0:13:14|
|75||Demi De Jong (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg||0:13:18|
|76||Victorie Guilman (Fra) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope|
|77||Francesca Balducci (Ita) Aromitalia Basso Bikes Vaiano|
|78||Lauretta Hanson (Aus) Trek-Segafredo Women|
|79||Amanda Spratt (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco Women||0:13:21|
|80||Sara Poidevin (Can) EF Education-TIBCO-SVB|
|81||Hanna Nilsson (Swe) Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling Team|
|82||Gaia Realini (Ita) Isolmant-Premac-Vittoria|
|83||Hannah Barnes (GBr) Uno-X Pro Cycling Women||0:13:31|
|84||Aude Biannic (Fra) Movistar Team Women||0:14:09|
|85||Katrine Aalerud (Nor) Movistar Team Women|
|DNF||Rasa Leleivyte (Ltu) Aromitalia Basso Bikes Vaiano|
|DNF||Francesca Baroni (Ita) Aromitalia Basso Bikes Vaiano|
|DNF||Inga Cesuliene (Ltu) Aromitalia Basso Bikes Vaiano|
|DNF||Milena Del Sarto (Ita) Aromitalia Basso Bikes Vaiano|
|DNF||Gemma Sernissi (Ita) Aromitalia Basso Bikes Vaiano|
|DNF||Prisca Savi (Ita) BePink|
|DNF||Jade Teolis (Fra) BePink|
|DNF||Sara Casasola (Ita) Born to Win G20 Ambedo|
|DNF||Anna Chili (Ita) Born to Win G20 Ambedo|
|DNF||Tatiana Chili (Ita) Born to Win G20 Ambedo|
|DNF||Sofia Clerici (Ita) Born to Win G20 Ambedo|
|DNF||Giulia Luciani (Ita) Born to Win G20 Ambedo|
|DNF||Giorgia Simoni (Ita) Born to Win G20 Ambedo|
|DNF||Laura Asencio (Fra) Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Lara Vieceli (Ita) Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Emily Newsom (USA) EF Education-TIBCO-SVB|
|DNF||Omer Shapira (Isr) EF Education-TIBCO-SVB|
|DNF||Kaia Schmid (USA) Human Powered Health Women|
|DNF||Ainara Albert Bosch (Spa) Isolmant-Premac-Vittoria|
|DNF||Alice Capasso (Ita) Isolmant-Premac-Vittoria|
|DNF||Alice Gasparini (Ita) Isolmant-Premac-Vittoria|
|DNF||Asia Zontone (Ita) Isolmant-Premac-Vittoria|
|DNF||Ayesha McGowan (USA) Liv Racing Xstra|
|DNF||Sara Martin Martin (Spa) Movistar Team Women|
|DNF||Rosalie van der Wolf (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg|
|DNF||Justine Ghekiere (Bel) Plantur-Pura|
|DNF||Olga Zabelinskaya (Uzb) Roland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad|
|DNF||Léa Stern (Swi) Roland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad|
|DNF||Gulnaz Khatuntseva (Rus) Roland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad|
|DNF||Hannah Buch (Ger) Roland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad|
|DNF||Aline Seitz (Swi) Roland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad|
|DNF||Maryna Ivaniuk (Ukr) Servetto-Makhymo-Beltrami TSA|
|DNF||Anna Potokina (Rus) Servetto-Makhymo-Beltrami TSA|
|DNF||Sofia Barbieri (Ita) Servetto-Makhymo-Beltrami TSA|
|DNF||Silvia Bortolotti (Ita) Servetto-Makhymo-Beltrami TSA|
|DNF||Viktoriia Melnychuk (Ukr) Servetto-Makhymo-Beltrami TSA|
|DNF||Chia Pedrelli (Ita) Servetto-Makhymo-Beltrami TSA|
|DNF||Jessica Allen (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco Women|
|DNF||Urska Zigart (Slo) BikeExchange-Jayco Women|
|DNF||Franziska Koch (Ger) Team DSM Women|
|DNF||Debora Silvestri (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo|
|DNF||Alessia Vigilia (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo|
|DNF||Alice Palazzi (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo|
|DNF||Cristina Tonetti (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo|
|DNF||Giorgia Vettorello (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo|
|DNF||Tayler Wiles (USA) Trek-Segafredo Women|
|DNF||Linda Zanetti (Swi) UAE Team ADQ|
|DNF||Rebecca Koerner (Den) Uno-X Pro Cycling Women|
|DNF||Hannah Ludwig (Ger) Uno-X Pro Cycling Women|
|DNF||Wilma Olausson (Swe) Uno-X Pro Cycling Women|
|DNF||Mie Bjørndal Ottestad (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Women|
|DNF||Elena Pirrone (Ita) Valcar-Travel & Service|
|DNS||Ilaria Sanguineti (Ita) Valcar-Travel & Service|
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Issy Ronald has just graduated from the London School of Economics where she studied for an undergraduate and masters degree in History and International Relations. Since doing an internship at Procycling magazine, she has written reports for races like the Tour of Britain, Bretagne Classic and World Championships, as well as news items, recaps of the general classification at the Grand Tours and some features for Cyclingnews. Away from cycling, she enjoys reading, attempting to bake, going to the theatre and watching a probably unhealthy amount of live sport.
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