Lotte Kopecky holds off van Vleuten to win Strade Bianche

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It was Lotte Kopecky who won at Strade Bianche after SD Worx peppered the final kilometres with attacks, beating Annemiek van Vleuten at the line after clinging to her wheel throughout a vicious attack on the Via Santa Caterina. Ashleigh Moolman Pasio rounded off the podium, making it first and third for SD Worx. 

Starting off the day with an early attack was Rebecca Koerner (Uno-X); she was swiftly joined by Emily Newsom (EF Education-Tibco-SVB). They gained over three minutes on the rest of the peloton, coming through the first three gravel sections together.  By the fourth gravel section, however, Koerner was dropped and caught by the bunch. With just under 75km to go, Newsom was the sole leader, keeping a lead of over three minutes as she approached the fifth gravel section, the San Martino in Grania. 

At this point, the peloton started to draw closer, though it had split into echelons with the wind. Across 9.5km of gravel, Newsom’s advantage collapsed, down to just over thirty seconds, and with 50km to go, she was caught. On the long road leading into the sixth gravel section at Monteaperti, attacks kept coming, but no-one was allowed to get free. 

With 27km to go, Marta Bastianelli (UAE Team ADQ) attacked. A small group followed, but with Annemiek van Vleuten left out of it, Movistar chased them down, and they lead out van Vleuten onto the sixth gravel section. A thinned-down group came out of the climb, setting the stage for the final kilometres of the race. 

SD Worx, with four riders in the final group, just kept attacking. At 22km, it was Lotte Kopecky who went, getting a gap of nearly twenty seconds as she came into the climb at Colle Pinzuto, 2.4km of gravel. She was caught on the ascent, creating a front group of six, including van Vleuten and Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma). This elite group didn’t stay away long, however, and the chasers joined them, 

Despite an attack from Chantal van der Broek Blaak, last year’s winner, the group came into the final gravel section at Le Tolfe together. Van Vleuten pushed on hard at the front, and, foreshadowing things to come, it was only Kopecky who could keep her wheel. They were chased down by a group including Vos,  Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) and Cecile Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope). As soon as Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (SD Worx) joined, she attacked, forcing van Vleuten to cover it. 

The group came into the final climb together. With 900m to go, van Vleuten tried to make the decisive move, attacking on the steep ascent of the Via Santa Caterina. Kopecky and Moolman-Pasio kept her wheel, but it was only Lotte Kopecky who could stay with van Vleuten the whole way. As they came to the final run-in to the Piazza del Campo, they were side by side, but Kopecky edged ahead of van Vleuten in the final moments to take the victory. 

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