02 Mar 15 riders to watch at Strade Bianche (1.WWT)
Undoubtedly, American champion Megan Guarnier was the best cyclist of the 2016 season. A Rio Olympics or a Doha World Championships road race medal would have been the icing on the cake to an incredible year and her career season so far, where she won the inaugural UCI WWT series, claiming three round victories including Giro Rosa and Amgen Tour of California as well as proving an espectacular persistence thorough the season that led her frequently on the podium. Throughout these past seasons, Megan has developed an especial “love-performance delivering relationship” with Italy by not only 2015 Strade Bianche and 2016 Giro Rosa but also by being normally a top-finisher and key show-maker at Italy’s most important races (Strade Bianche, Alfredo Binda and Giro Rosa). Guarnier will try to start her UCI WWT series defence with a victory in Siena, at the city that witnessed in 2015 one of the most important victories in her career.
Elisa Longo Borghini
The 22-year-old Polish rider Kasia Niewiadoma finished second in 2016, being only overtaken by Lizzie Deignan on the final climb of Via Santa Caterina to the finish line. The current Polish national champion (both road race and time trial) enters a season that will likely be a turning point in her career, as her new role at WM3 Energie (after Rabobank-Liv farewell) will demand more results and responsibilities from the lightweight Polish climber. After a very solid start to the season in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Katarzyna Niewiadoma is one of the top contenders to watch at Strade Bianche.
Annemiek van Vleuten
The reigning Commonwealth road race champion, twice winner of the UCI Women’s Road World Cup, third at the inaugural UCI WWT series, is one of the top riders to watch at Strade Bianche. The 28-year old British rider will try to reedit her victory at the first UCI WWT event ever. Deignan will start her 2017 at the Tuscany roads and gravel sectors in which we hope to see the most blatant version of the superb British rider once her focus lays again on the spring classics (after her Rio Olympics medal pursuit).
Dutch rider Marianne Vos will race Strade Bianche for the first time this season. After a blank 2015 season marked by her injury, Vos made her gradual comeback last year, winning some races, earning some great results as well as delivering great performances proving once again why she is often labeled as the best cyclist ever. After a 2016 classic winter season, with her focus laying on the cyclocross (World Championships runner-up, Dutch champion, three World Cup wins among other great results), “The Cannibal” is ready to hit the roads with her new WM3 Energie team, willing to get back to her previous dominant position in the women’s cycling peloton.
One of the most awaited comebacks of the 2017 season. Only seven months after her post-Rio Olympics heartbreaking “open letter” where Ferrand-Prévot quoted that being World Champion simultaneously in three disciplines in one year was the worst thing that had ever happened to her, she is back on the start line of one of her favourite races. A tibial plateau stress fracture, personal changes, allergies, medication, fatigue, lingering sciatica problems disrupted her preparation for her 2016 Olympic dream. A dream that ended in a very disappointing way (26th at the road race and abandon at XCO) that made her state: “I don’t know when I’m back on a bike. The bike was what I liked most do, but it became my biggest nightmare.”. In September Ferrand-Prévot announced she had signed a four-year deal with Canyon-SRAM, after five successful seasons at Rabobank-Liv. Thus, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot will make her debut for Canyon-SRAM at Strade Bianche. Despite the fact that her current form is publicly unknown, her mere presence and her attitude towards racing made her one the best riders to follow in Siena. She will likely be the main card for Canyon-SRAM who has in Elena Cecchini, Alena Amialiusik and Tiffany Cromwell some good second changes of getting a top result in the Tuscany.
South African Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio is one our riders to watch at Strade Bianche. After crashing, due to a police motorbike parked in the middle of a roundabout, during the Chrono des Nations time trial and fracturing her iliac bone, Moolman-Pasio went back to racing at South African National Championships winning the gold and bronze medals, at the ITT and road race respectively. Despite the fact she won’t be in such a good form as in previous editions of the race, Ashleigh is one our riders to follow as she will try to get even after her 2016 Strade Bianche disqualification.
Last year Canadian rider Leah Kirchmann started her breakthrough season with an outstanding performance at the inaugural UCI WWT event, finishing in a remarkable tenth position in Siena. In her first “full European season” Canadian rider Kirchmann performed persistently well both at the classics or one-day races and at some stage races. That strength led her to finish as the runner-up of the inaugural UCI WWT series. A position that she will to try reedit or improve this season, where her team (Sunweb) has strengthen with several and important signings such as Dutch rider Lucinda Brand who heads to Siena on a really good form after an amazing cyclocross season and a great start to the season winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Anna van der Breggen (non-starter due to illness)
Unarguably the best rider during the Australian season together with her compatriot and teammate Katrin Garfoot. In 2016 Spratt finished 16th at Strade Bianche but couldn’t forward momentum ahead of her European season as she was hit by a car out training, missing Trofeo Alfredo Binda her first main target in the European season. Now, Australian Amanda Spratt heads to the Tuscany in a similar or even better form, ready to test her climbing legs in order to claim her first UCI WWT victory. Spratt, who can benefit of being less controlled than other top contender such as her teammate Annemiek van Vleuten, is one of our top riders to watch in Siena.
German rider Claudia Lichtenberg switched teams this season joining British registered Wiggle-High5. After a very solid 2016 season, where she delivered some great performances as well as showing some really form that made us recall some of her past moments, when she was one of the most dominant riders of the international peloton, Lichtenberg heads to Wiggle High5 in order to provide them with a second contender (Elisa Longo-Borghini is quoted as their leader for the UCI WWT series) after Mara Abbott’s retirement and Emma Johansson’s “different approach”.
Russian rider Olga Zabelinskaya returned to racing in 2016 after serving an 18-month ban. In her comeback season Zabelinskaya managed to get back to her previous level delivering some good performances and claiming some results, standing out her ITT silver medal at Rio Olympics as well as her fourth places at both the TTT and ITT of Doha World Championships. At Strade Bianche she will be the leader of Italian team BePink Cogeas, who will have on Belarussian emerging talent Ksenyia Tuhai, a second chance for the race.
British rider Dani King switched teams this season, joining US-registered Cylance after four seasons at Wiggle-High5, in pursuit of more race opportunities and responsibilities. Since focusing on the road in 2013, London Olympics TP champion (along with Laura Kenny and Joanna Rowsell) Dani King has evolved becoming one of best all-rounded super-domestiques in the international peloton. In 2017 King wants to step up in order to become a top contender for both one-day races and stage races. In Siena Dani King will try to improve her 14th position in 2016. For this endeavour she will count with the help of her teammates Joëlle Numainville, Małgorzata Jasinska, who finished 13th in Siena in 2016, and Sheyla Gutiérrez, who heads to the Tuscany on fire after claiming her second pro victory at Le Samyn des Dames. A solid rider to watch not only at Strade Bianche but also thoughtout the season together with her teammates.
New season and new team for the Swiss rider that in her fifth season as a professional rider will try to continue her steady progression within the international peloton. Despite the fact it will be her first participation at Strade Bianche, Schweizer will count on with the help of her teammate Carmen Small, a very experienced rider, really keen on this type of spring classics. Swiss National champion (both ITT and road race) Doris Schweizer is another of our riders to follow in Siena.