2023 Strade Bianche – Race Report

How the race finished

Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx) won Strade Bianche in a 1-2 sprint finish with teammate Lotte Kopecky, after the pair caught third-place finisher Kristen Faulkner (Team Jayco ALula) on the final, iconic climb up to the Piazza del Campo in Siena. 

Full results are available below.

How it happened

The women’s peloton took on 136km of winding roads through Tuscany, crossing eight sectors of white gravel on their way to the iconic finish line in the Piazza del Campo in Siena. Rolling out from the Fortezza Medicea, the yellow jerseys of Team Jumbo Visma were visible on the front through the early stages of the race, controlling the pace and staying safe. Ricarda Bauenfeind (Canyon//Sram Racing) pushed the pace on the early uphill gravel sectors, but the peloton, while strung out, remained largely intact through the first half of the race.  

Once a breakaway was finally established, the quartet of Silvia Zanardi (Bepink), Morgane Coston (Cofidis Women Team), Yurani Blanco Calbet (Laboral Kutxa-Fundacion Euskadi) and Alessia Vigilia (Top Girls Fasso Bortolo) weren’t allowed more than a minute, and their time up the road was short-lived. On sector 5, the longest gravel sector of the day climbing up to San Martino in Grania, the peloton was whittled down to around 40 riders, with all the favourites still present in the front group.

As they turned back onto the tarmac, Karlijn Swinkels (Team Jumbo-Visma) launched an attack, quickly establishing a gap on the smooth roads. With around 43km remaining to race, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio had a quick bike-change following a puncture, but as she was coming back accelerations on the front split the group. Chasing down Swinkels, a group of around 12 riders including Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo), Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ), Coryn Labecki (Team Jumbo Visma) and Kristen Faulkner (Team Jayco ALula) established itself. Sensing an opportunity, Faulker launched out of this group, riding strongly to bridge the gap to Swinkels solo. The pair rode together to solidify their gap while the others behind were reabsorbed into the peloton.

As the road pitched up, Paula Patino (Movistar) attacked and strung things out. Persico followed up with an attack as the roads wound through a small town, bringing a small group with her, but once again they weren’t allowed to get away. The next attempt was launched by Olivia Baril (UAE Team ADQ), drawing out Mischa Bredewold (SD Worx), Agnieszka Skulniak-Sojka (Canyon//Sram Racing), Paula Patino, Sabrina Stultiens, Amber Kraak (Jumbo Visma), Marie Le Net (FDJ-Suez) and Christina Schweinberger (Fenix-Deceuninck). Missing the move, AG Insurance Lotto Quickstep took up their place pulling on the front of the peloton.

Up the road, Faulkner powered away from Swinkels over a small rise, going solo with just over 30km left to race. Approaching 20km to go, the gap inched out towards 2 minutes, a dangerous gap for such a powerful rider. 

On what would be the decisive gravel sector, a strong ride from Puck Pieterse (Fenix-Deceuninck) saw a small group of six riders pull clear of the chasing peloton. With two riders a-piece, both Team SD Worx and Movistar were in a good position – but Faulkner still held a significant gap and the finish line was only drawing closer. Demi Vollering attacked from this small group, setting off solo in pursuit of Faulkner. In a completely unexpected turn of events, a horse was loose on the road in front of her, slowing Vollering slightly as she grappled with the crazy situation. The horse fell on a tight corner, and Vollering could continue her pursuit alone.

On the next gravel sector, Kopecky flew out of a corner and launched a huge attack, quickly gaining on her teammate Vollering. Cecile Uttrup-Ludwig, who was further back in the group, was hot on her heels, but once Kopecky and Vollering connected and started riding together, Uttrup-Ludwig couldn’t quite make the junction, hanging tantalisingly close behind before her legs just couldn’t make the effort any longer. With 10km left to race, Faulkner still had a minute gap over the SD Worx pair, but their work together against her tiring legs quickly halved the gap.

Keeping everyone on the edges of their seats, Kopecky and Vollering only caught Faulkner within the final kilometer, at the base of the cobbled climb up to the Piazza del Campo. Kopecky and Vollering rode the climb together, quickly leaving Faulkner behind them. Coming over the crest and into the square, Kopecky and Vollering both accelerated towards the line, a bike throw eventually separating them for first and second place on the day. Behind them, Faulkner completed her strong smooth ride for third.

Full Results

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