Annemiek van Vleuten is back to top form after a bad knee injury and subsequent off-season surgery, as the Dutch world time trial champion won Saturday’s WorldTour opener Strade Bianche in Tuscany, Italy. Racing under dry conditions, van Vleuten attacked in the final two sections of white gravel to take her first Strade Bianche title. Van Vleuten was fourth in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last week.

The Course
The men’s and women’s races had the same opening 55-km and closing 40-km and both faced the 9.5-km white road section that included the San Martino in Grania climb. The women had eight sections of white roads over 136-km with 31.6-km on gravel in total. The final three sections—Monteaperti, Colle Pinzuto and Le Tolfee—are where the decisive moves were likely to be made.

In Siena the narrow, 500-metre Via Santa Caterina ramp to the finish hits 16%. The final 500-metres are downhill.

Breakaways

The first 2/3 of the race was characterized by a few breakaways unable to stay out front, including one with Canadian Karol-Ann Canuel. Soon after her first endeavour failed, Canuel went again with two others, heading into Monteaperti where once more they came to heel. The end result of all this action was a whittling down of the peloton heading into the final two sectors.

Endgame

A strong group of eleven emerged from the final decanting, with van Vleuten, Chantal Blaak, Anna van der Breggen, Marianne Vos and Katarzyna Niewiadoma the most notable riders. Van Vleuten attacked on the steep final section, Le Tolfee, with 11-km remaining.

The 2018 WorldTour winner had a 30-second gap as she headed into Siena. Last year’s Strade Bianche champion van der Breggen headed up the shrinking chase group with a teammate.

Van Vleuten hung tough, winning by 37-seconds, and grabs the first WorldTour lead. Annika Langvad was runner-up and Niewiadoma, second for three years in a row, rounded out the podium.

Canuel was top Canadian at 34th. Alison Jackson was 47th and Leah Kirchmann 53rd.


2019 Strade Bianche Women

1) Annemiek van Vleuten (The Netherlands/Mitchelton-Scott) 3:48:49
2) Annika Langvad (Denmark/Boels-Dolmans) +0:37
3) Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Poland/Canyon-SRAM) +0:40
34) Karol-Ann Canuel (Canada/Boels-Dolmans) +4:45
47) Alison Jackson (Canada/TIBCO-SVB) +10:08
53) Leah Kirchmann (Canada/Sunweb) +13:00

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