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Van Vleuten bosses Strade Bianche as the WorldTour returns

Canada's Canuel with personal best in ninth

Annemiek van Vleuten continued her domination of the women’s peloton on Saturday by retaining her Strade Bianche title in Siena, Italy, destroying a big gap to a solo leader to win on the return of the WorldTour. It was only the second race of the 2020 Women’s WorldTour, Leah Kirchmann’s Sunweb teammate Liane Lippert having won the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in February. Canada’s Karol-Ann Canuel placed ninth, her best ever result in the near-Momument.

The Course

On a broiling day the 123 women faced 8 sectors of white gravel, 36-km of it, over 136 km. Three riders, including Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, crashed on Friday recon rides and couldn’t start. Trek-Segafredo had some of its bikes stolen and competed on back-up machines; Ellen van Dijk was using Koen de Kort’s rig from the men’s team.

Eight sectors of white gravel awaited the WorldTour women.

Defending champ Van Vleuten had to be the favourite at the start, the Dutch world champion having won all four of her 2020 races, including three one-day contests in Spain from July 23 to July 27.

An early breakaway was hauled back by Sector 3, where a split occurred in the peloton. However, after 60-km it was all back together at the feed zone, the dust-covered riders anticipating the mostly uphill, 9-km Sector 5.

Garcia goes solo

Sector 5 whittled the peloton down to 40 riders. A further decanting came on the roads before Sector 6, and Canuel would represent Boels-Dolmans in the group of eleven. It was still too much company for Mavi Garcia (Spain/Alé BTC Ljubljana), who bounded away solo.

Garcia dragged out a 3:00 lead and hit the steep, penultimate sector with a healthy gap.

Hard work for Garcia on 15% gravel.

Out of nowhere

To everyone’s astonishment, van Vleuten caught up to Canuel and three other chasers. Her own team was surprised.

With 15-km and the last, brutal sector to go, Garcia had a 2:30 gap. Van Vleuten shed the other chasers and lit out after Garcia. It was soon clear that Garcia was doomed and the Dutch ace caught her with 6-km remaining.

The duel would conclude on the steep Porta di Fontebranda climb in Sienna just before the finish line. Van Vleuten’s chase had sapped her, and Garcia wouldn’t go down easy on the first surge. But the world champion finally rode away from the Spaniard with 600-metres to go to take the victory.

2020 Strade Bianche
1) Annemiek van Vleuten (The Netherlands/Mitchelton-Scott)
2) Mavi Garcia (Spain/Alé BTC Ljubljana) +0:22
3) Leah Thomas (USA/Équipe Paule Ka) +1:53
9) Karol-Ann Canuel (Canada/Boels-Dolmans) 4:20