Annemiek van Vleuten wrote the Strade Bianche to her name on Saturday for the second year in a row. The Mitchelton-SCOTT rider crossed the line in Piazza del Campo after a nice race in the sweltering Tuscany.
37-year-old Van Vleuten joined the group in the final race to pursue leader Mavi García. The reigning world champion on the road joined the Spanish rider 6 kilometers from the finish, lost her on the final climb and only crossed the finish in Siena.
García finished second in 22 seconds from Van Vleuten, ahead of the American Leah Thomas. Anna van der Breggen was fourth in just over two minutes from her winning compatriot and Marianne Vos had to settle for sixth place (+2.26).
The Strade Bianche was the second WorldTour race for this year’s women. In February, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Race was held in Australia, after which the cycling season came to a halt in March due to the corona crisis.
Last week many riders came into action at a series of daily races in Spain, where Van Vleuten impressed with three wins. The Dutch, who already wrote Omloop Het Nieuwsblad to her name in February, won this year all competitions where she was at the start.
The preparation for the Strade Bianche was messy for the riders of Trek-Segafredo, including Ellen van Dijk and Lucinda Brand. In the night from Friday to Saturday, six bicycles were stolen from that team, so they had to start on spare bicycles. Van Dijk rode the Strade Bianche on Koen de Kort’s bicycle.
Spanish Garcia for a long time in the lead
The women’s course covered 139 kilometers, with no less than eight gravel strips totaling 31.6 kilometers. The Italian race ignited 50 kilometers from the finish when eleven riders – including Van Dijk – broke away from the large group. Shortly thereafter, García ran off alone.
The 36-year-old Spanish hit a twenty-second gap with her ten pursuers and enjoyed a two-minute lead over the peloton, which also included Van Vleuten and Van der Breggen. García quickly expanded that margin and soon drove three minutes from her pursuers.
That was the sign for Van Dijk to get rid of that group and look for the attack itself, but the Dutch of Trek-Segafredo was quickly caught up by the rest. In the end, she and five others remained in the hunt for García, who had a two-minute lead with 20 kilometers to go.
Until then, Van Vleuten played an anonymous role, but that completely changed 16 kilometers before the finish. The reigning world champion managed to join the pursuers out of the blue and soon went out on her own to hunt for García, whose lead shrank rapidly.
With 10 kilometers to go, the gap was only 30 seconds and Van Vleuten already joined García at 6.5 kilometers from the finish. The tired Spanish initially did not want to give up, but on the steep final climb – with an increase of up to 16 percent – she still had to give up and leave the victory to the unapproachable Van Vleuten.