Chantal van den Broek-Blaak won Strade Bianche in a beautiful way on Saturday. The 31-year-old from Rotterdam settled on the steep final hill with the Italian Elisa Longo Borghini and crossed the line solo in Siena, Italy.
Van den Broek-Blaak and Longo Borghini jumped from a group with favorites at 6 kilometers from the finish line and stayed out of the grip of top favorites Annemiek van Vleuten and Anna van der Breggen, among others.
On the final hill towards the Piazza del Campo in Siena, Longo Borghini attacked first, but Van den Broek-Blaak countered the attack of the Italian and then took off himself. Longo Borghini had no answer and bowed his head. Van der Breggen came in third, Van Vleuten fourth.
It is the first victory of the season for Van den Broek-Blaak, who won the Tour of Flanders last season. In recent years, the single world champion had mainly to content himself with places of honor.
Van den Broek-Blaak is working on her last year and a half as a professional cyclist. The Rotterdamse will stop in the spring of 2022, after which she will continue as sports director with her SD Worx team. She made that announcement at the same time as Van der Breggen, which will stop at the end of 2021.
Van Vleuten and Vos attack
Several riders tried to form the race of the day right from the start in Siena on Saturday, but the nervous peloton did not allow anything. Only the Italian Elena Pirrone got some space after 30 kilometers, but she was caught halfway through the race.
The regrouping was the signal for the New Zealand Niamh Fisher-Black – a teammate of Van der Breggen – and the Belgian Lotte Kopecky to attack the long fifth gravel strip. But they also got no more than half a minute and were caught up by six pursuers, including Van den Broek-Blaak, Ellen van Dijk and Sabrina Stultiens.
Just before the penultimate gravel strip, the three Dutchmen broke away from the group with the Spanish Mavi García, but once on the gravel the groups melted together again thanks to work by Van Vleuten and Marianne Vos. It was striking that Van der Breggen had to leave a hole. She did not return to the group with favorites until 16 kilometers from the finish.
Van der Breggen’s catch-up race turned out to be a sign on the wall, because she had to pass again in a new breakaway by Van Vleuten and Vos on the last gravel strip. However, Van Vleuten and Vos were caught again, after which Van den Broek-Blaak and the Italian Longo Borghini tried their luck just before the final hill. On the steep wall, Van den Broek-Blaak turned out to be the strongest.
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