Chantal van den Broek-Blaak wins Strade Bianche

Chantal van den Broek-Blaak has put Strade Bianche behind her name. In Siena, the 31-year-old rider, who will hang her bike in 2022, crossed the line solo after riding the steep final climb with Elisa Longo Borghini.

The Strade Bianche women’s competition was in its seventh edition this year. Around Siena, the riders rode a 136 kilometer course with eight unpaved sections, good for more than 30 kilometers. Annemiek van Vleuten was allowed to try to defend her title, after she put the postponed sixth edition behind her name eight months ago. Mavi Garcia seemed to be on his way to victory for a long time, but after a catch-up race, the then world champion managed to catch up with the Spanish and eventually get out of the wheel on the steep final climb.

Under cloudy conditions, at a temperature of 7 ℃, the peloton was given the go-ahead shortly after a quarter past nine, including Anna van der Breggen, Katarzyna Niewiadoma, Elisa Longo Borghini and Marianne Vos in addition to Van Vleuten. The women took the first few gravel strips together. Only after the second lane, after 35 kilometers, was Elena Pirrone the first to make a hole. The 22-year-old rider managed to expand her lead to more than a minute on her own on the following lanes.

Pirrone animates the course
Despite her young age, Pirrone already has a lot of good results on her honors list. In 2017 she became junior world champion in both the time trial and the road race and two years ago she crossed the line fourth in the Brabantse Pijl. Last year she finished 36th with her debut in Strade Bianche. The solo of the talented Italian eventually did not last and on the long fifth unpaved sector of San Martino in Grania she was caught again, after an attack of almost 40 kilometers.

Belgian champion Lotte Kopecky and Niamh Fisher-Black rode away together on the same long fifth lane. The duo had three quarters of a minute on the pursuers at the end of the strip. In the intermediate phase from almost 40 kilometers to the last three lanes, the two leaders initially managed to extend their lead to almost a minute, but with 43 kilometers to go, everything came together again. However, a new attack was not long in coming.

Sabrina Stultiens, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak and Ellen van Dijk joined forces with Jelena Erić, Mavi García, Alena Amialiusik, Elizabeth Banks and Brodie Chapman. Then Stultiens, Van den Broek-Blaak, Van Dijk and García continued together. With a small lead on the chasing group, they started at 19 kilometers from the finish on the penultimate lane. There Marianne Vos and Kopecky crossed to the front, while Stultiens and García fell back. But with Van Vleuten, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Niewiadoma and Demi Vollering, Stultiens was able to return to the front.

Van Vleuten attacks on the last strip
As a result, a leading group of nine riders rolled off that penultimate gravel strip. On the way to the last sector, Longo Borghini, Van der Breggen, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Marta Cavalli also joined again. At fifteen kilometers from the finish line, Van den Broek-Blaak attacked the group from behind, after which Longo Borghini moved along. However, the duo did not get very far. With still thirteen kilometers to go, the last strip was cut. There Van Vleuten fired an arrow. At first Kopecky could still come along, but the Belgian had bad luck.

However, Van Vleuten did not continue alone, because Marianne Vos was able to hook up her wagon. After the strip, however, the others returned. At six kilometers from the finish, Van den Broek-Blaak pulled away and Longo Borghini jumped back on the wheel. Van der Breggen disrupted the chase, allowing the two leaders to run further. As the arrival in Siena got closer, Van den Broek-Blaak left the front work to Longo Borghini. After all, he had already won the race once.

Despite this, the attackers kept on ahead until the steep last climb to Piazza del Campo. Van den Broek-Blaak had something left in the tank and drove away from her fellow refugee in the narrow streets of Siena with a powerful attack. She then crossed the line with a safe margin. Longo Borghini managed to finish second. Shortly afterwards, Anna van der Breggen completed the party for SD Worx by seizing third place. Van Vleuten (fourth), Vollering (sixth), Vos (seventh) and Van Dijk (tenth) were also among the top ten.
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