Even in the rain, Strade Bianche is the most beautiful of races, with a parcours that never disappoints and a peloton that holds it in the highest of esteem. Today’s men’s and women’s races proved gritty and gruelling with crashes taking their toll, but Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High 5) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) both brought guts and grace to their wins today.
Riders of the Races
Women’s Strade Bianche
It must be fairly daunting to have the last two champions lining up with you – Megan Guarnier and Lizzie Deignan, both from Boels-Dolmans – in an overcast Siena. Even if you feel you’re on a good day, the fact that they are both on the same team must give you pause as you start rolling into the Tuscan landscape. Then to crash in the fifth of the gravel sectors as the rain starts to soak you through must make you wonder if you’re going to be able to go through four hours of this and come out with anything to show for it. But that’s just me. I bet none of this crossed the mind of Elisa Longo Borghini. She rode hard yet patiently all day until, after bridging to the lead group in the last few kilometres, she found herself side by side with Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Cycling) with 300m to go and took the inside corner for a hard-fought and most thrilling of today’s wins.
After Rio, I realised I don’t need to fear anyone. I’ve realised my true abilities. Before I was fearful of my rivals. Now I respect them, but I’m not afraid.
Men’s Strade Bianche
The men’s race might not have been as rain soaked as the women’s but there was still a lot of drama, including Lion of the Peloton, Peter Sagan, abandoning halfway through for GummyBear Tummy™ and a large crash in sector six that tore the peloton asunder, never to be sundered again. With powerful riders, including Greg Van Avermaet, Zdenek Stybar, Tim Wellens and Tom Dumoulin, yo-yoing from front group to chase group for much of the second half of the race, it was fitting that it was on the newly named Cancellara stretch, about 50km from the finish, that Michal Kwiatkowski really started to show that he was giving as good as he got – and then some. Like his World Championship win a few years ago, KwiatKrush jumped away with 15km to go, taking on the 18% climb in the last gravel sector with determination (and 30secs in hand), and then measuring his effort (and the slickness of the roads) to ride the most beautiful of final kilometres to a most beautiful solo victory. It’s good to have you back, Michal!
Sectors of beauty
1 Fabian Cancellara was in Siena this week for the naming of his own section of the parcours – the Monte Sante Maria sector 8, 11.5km of gravelly goodness – about 50km from the finish. Fabs is the first rider to be awarded this honour and it might be a bit of a wait for the next three-time winner to get a sector named after them, as KwiatKrush is the only rider in the peloton with two Strade wins to his name.
2 When will Strade Bianche become a Monument? Okay, okay, it’s only just received WorldTour status, even though it’s been going since 2007 but from the get-go, this race has been special. It has a parcours that was inspired by the short, very sharp, climbs of the Tour of Flanders and the sectors of Paris-Roubaix and it has THE most beautiful and exciting final kilometre of any race in the calendar. Where do we start the petition to make this the sixth Monument?
1 Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) 3:44:45
2 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3) +0:02
3 Lizzie Deignan (Boels-Dolmans) +0:05
4 Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) +0:08
5 Annemiek Van Vleuten (Orica Scott) +0:09
1 Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) 4:42:42
2 Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) +0:15
3 Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) +0:17
4 Zdenek Stybar (QuickStep Floors) +0:23
5 Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) +1:26