02 Mar Strade Bianche Preview (1.WWT)
A year after the inaugural race of the first UCI Women’s World Tour series, the historic city of Siena will witness again the start of the UCI WWT series with Strade Bianche Women Elite. On Saturday, 4 March 2017 the gravel and clay roads of Siena will host the third edition of Strade Bianche Women Elite. The excitement around the second UCI WWT series despite something palpable is noticeably lower than in the inaugural edition. However, in this occasion there race will have live TV coverage (during its final hour).
Who will contest Boels-Dolmans supremacy? The Dutch registered team won both the two previous editions of Strade Bianchi (Megan Garner in 2015 and Lizzie Deignan in 2016) and the inaugural UCI WWT series, winning ten out of seventeen round. Will they continue their spectacular winning streak in Siena?
For this first round of the second UCI WWT series we have asked French rider Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Wiggle-High5) to share some impressions and feelings ahead of both this race and the second edition of the UCI WWT circuit. “I expect a good start for the team, it’s a race which suits us and with our two Italians we’re a bit at home. Personally I have good legs so I hope to be part of the game and be front” stated Audrey regarding her expectations for the first UCI WWT of the season.
Strade Bianche is a race Audrey Cordon-Ragot knows well as she took part in it in its inaugural edition: “I’ve a really good memory of Strade 2015, I was 14th.” Regarding her impressions of its parcours Cordon-Ragot mentioned: “The entire lap is hard, you never recover you need to be awake all the time. Of course the graveled roads are the segments where most of the things will happen but I’m looking forward to see how the teams will act and which tactics they’ll use.”
“We take the start and we race to win, we’ll choose the best tactic at the right moment to be on the top step, we are now riding together for 3 years for most of us so we know each other really well and I think it’s our strength. Boels will race to win as well so it should be a hard and good battle.” stated Audrey. Regarding her team expectations for the 2017 UCI WWT series Audrey replied that “nobody stepped up to say that she wants to win the GC, so I guess we’ll take the races one by one, and if we arrived at the point someone is playing the GC than we’ll go for it, no pressure just pleasure!”
Finally we asked Audrey Cordon-Ragot about a paramount topic in cycling as specially in women’s cycling, TV coverage. “TV coverage is the key to get more sponsors and more attention from the spectators, even more for a race like Strade which is an impressive one, as well as Flanders!”. Regarding Ronde van Vlaanderen lack of TV production Audrey mentioned: “It’s really sad they won’t broadcast it, for me it’s a rear step that’s shouldn’t happen but it will not stop us to race it hard and to give a good image of our sport.”
Saturday, 4 March 2017, local time from 09:30 am untill 13:10 pm approx (UTC+1)
One of the most charming races in the world. Strade Bianche’s course is a one-of-a-kind. It starts and finishes in Siena, and is not easy at all, as it features 8 gravel sectors totalling 30.5 km on dirt roads out of 127. Indeed, it is a gruelling race with gradients as high as 18%, and an uphill finale with a steep spurt running up Via Santa Caterina, at the heart of the old town of Siena. The 8 gravel sectors are the following ones:
- At km 11, a perfectly straight and slightly uphill dirt-road segment of 2.1 km.
- At km 17, the first challenging segment, an uphill dirt-road segment of 4.7 km with maximum gradients over 10%.
- At km 27.8, shortly after Radi an up-and-down 4.4 km dirt-road segment.
- At km 38.5, the fourth gravel sector starts, less demanding, mainly downhill leading to Buonconvento.
- At km 58.9, and shortly after Monteroni d’Arbia, the longest dirt-road sector begins. San Martino in Grania, 9.5 km across the unique scenery of the Crete Senesi hills. The longest dirt-road sector, marked by gentle ups and downs in the first part, and ending with a long, curving climb leading back to paved road.
- At km 102.7, an unpaved two-digit gradient sector 800 meters long.
- At km 107.6, the second last segment of 2.4 km on the steep Colle Pinzuto climb (gradients reaching max 15%).
- At km 113.7, the last dirt-road segment of 1.1 km, marked by a quick descent and followed by a steep climb (max 18%), ending in Le Tolfe.
Favourites & Outsiders
Annemiek van Vleuten, Lizzie Deignan, Marianne Vos
Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, Leah Kirchmann, Dani King
Amanda Spratt, Claudia Lichtenberg, Olga Zabelinskaya, Lauren Kitchen, Doris Schweizer
Our favourite: Elisa Longo Borghini
The 2017 UCI WWT goal for British-registered Wiggle-High5 team is the overall victory with Italian rider Elisa Longo-Borghini. Thus, this first round will be paramount in order to assess or evaluate their expectations. Bronze Rio Olympics medallist Longo-Borghini has proven a great form in these first races of the season, finishing fifth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and being caught by the peloton at Omloop van het Hageland with only a few hundred metres to go. At Strade Bianche Italian climber Elisa Longo-Borghini is our main favourite and one of the most dangerous wheels to have under control, unless you would not like to fight for the win.
Our outsider: Amanda Spratt
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.
Sheyla Gutiérrez (Cylance) will be our only Spanish representative at the 2017 edition of Strade Bianche. She heads to the Tuscany after a remarkable start to the season, winning last Wednesday Le Samyn des Dames.
Who to follow
Former World champion Lizzie Deignan (Boels-Dolmans) won on Saturday, 5 March 2016 the second edition of Strade Bianche Women Elite, the first race ever of the UCI Women’s WorldTour, covering 121km from Siena to Siena. On the final climb to the finish line Lizzie overtook her breakaway partners, European champion Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Rabobank Liv) and Swedish rider Emma Johansson (Wiggle High5).
How to follow the race
The race will be broadcasted live in Europe from 12:20 pm to 13:20 pm (UTC+1) on Eurosport.
A few Twitter accounts and hashtags (among others) to follow the race:
A few Facebook accounts: