World champion Lizzie Armitstead (Great Britain/Boels Dolmans) won the opening round of the inaugural UCI Women’s World Tour Saturday at the Strade Bianche, moving up one spot from her result in the first women’s Strade last season. In the men’s race Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland/Trek-Segafredo) achieved a Strade Bianche hat trick by outkicking last year’s winner Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic/Etixx-QuickStep).
Armitstead’s teammate Nikki Harris split the peloton on the third of seven gravel sections. A group of about 40-riders including Canadian Leah Kirchmann was clear with 30-km to go. Rabo-Liv tried to attack with Anna Van der Breggen (The Netherlands) and Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Poland) on the fifth section, but only Niewiadoma’s effort stuck.
Armitstead followed and Swede Emma Johansson (Wiggle-High5) was able to come across. The Pole couldn’t dislodge her breakmates and with over a minute on the chasing group, last week’s winner of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad attacked just before the red flag to take the victory.
Kirchmann had the best Canadian result at 10th, crossing the line with Australian name-doppelganger Lauren Kitchen (Hitec) 1:21 later.
— UCIWomenCycling (@UCIWomenCycling) March 5, 2016
The day’s breakaway in the men’s race was comprised of a lot of Pro Continental team riders. Astana was one of the teams interested in keeping it on a short leash. But it was Etixx-QuickStep’s work on the fourth gravel section that divided the peloton into three parts and brought the crumbling escape closer. The fugitives submitted with 76-km to go just before section five.
Before the difficult sixth section–11.5-km long and containing the Monte Sante Marie climb–Gianluca Brambilla (Italy/Etixx-QuickStep) found himself in the middle of a five man move. The peloton shattered as mechanicals plagued the riders. Movistar kept the new escape close.
Brambilla went solo with 23-km remaining. Meanwhile, back in the pack, Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland/Sky) was destroying the field. But it was world champion Peter Sagan (Slovakia/Tinkoff) who initiated the winning move. He brought Stybar and Cancellara over to Brambilla.
Etixx had the numerical advantage as Siena drew nearer. Brambilla softened up the legs with another attack with 7-km remaining. A high-powered chase couldn’t seem to draw the breakaway any closer. Brambilla went again and this time was able to enter Siena alone. But once he came under the red flag the other three surged up the road to catch him.
Spartacus came around Stybar in the final corner to seize his third victory after the 2008 and 2012 crowns, while Sagan fell off the podium.
— CCC SprandiPolkowice (@CCCProTeam) March 5, 2016
2016 Women’s Strade Bianche
1) Lizzie Armitstead (Great Britain/Boels Dolmans) 3:30:13
2) Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Poland/Rabo-Liv) +0:03
3) Emma Johansson (Swede/Wiggle-High5) +0:13
10) Leah Kirchmann (Canada/Liv-Plantur) +1:21
35) Karol-Ann Canuel (Canada/Boels-Dolmans) +4:07
37) Joëlle Numainville (Canada/Cervélo-Bigla) +4:38
2016 Strade Bianche
1) Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland/Trek-Segafredo) 4:39:35
2) Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic/Etixx-QuickStep) s.t.
3) Gianluca Brambilla (Italy/Etixx-QuickStep) +0:04
56) Hugo Houle (Canada/AG2R) +21:20