Last year, Strade Bianche was the kick-off for the World Tour season. Now, the elite women have several WorldTour races in their legs, ready to battle the white gravel roads and pitches in Siena. Once again, the route for the 9th Strade Bianche Women Elite Crédit Agricole will follow tradition, starting from Fortezza Medicea and finish in the iconic setting of Piazza del Campo in Siena to complete the 136km. The new title sponsor Crédie Agricole Italia was announced in late January, starting this year and running through 2025.
24 teams will take to the line, with the defending champion Lotte Kopecky leading Team SD Worx, and the 2X Winner Annemiek Van Vleuten of Movistar hoping to fight for a third title. SD Worx had put on a master class in tactics last year, forcing Van Vleuten to go on the defensive, giving Kopecky the backup she needed to secure her first victory. The Belgian would later describe it as the most beautiful victory of her career.
A simple mention of Strade Bianche and both racing fans and riders alike think of the peloton fighting their way over the white gravel roads, amidst a cloud of dust chasing down their rivals. The ninth edition is no different. The peloton will be facing more than 30km of gravel, appearing in eight sectors (all of which are shared with the men’s course). There are no true climbs featured but rather an undulating course full of twists and punchy hills.
The first gravel sector takes place at km 18, at 2.1km long. After the second 5.8km sector, the riders will face the first true challenge of the day, a long climb with peaks at 10% gradient. The peloton will then rider through Radi, hitting sector 3 (4.4km) and soon after, sector 4 named “La Piana” (5.5km), both featured in the first editions of the race. After a quick feed, the peloton will reach Monteroni d’Arbia and the beginning of sector 5 of San Martino in Grania, the longest sector of the course at 9.5km ending with a twisty climb before returning to the tarmac.
Sector 5 is followed soon after by the shortest sector at only 800m, but with a steep, double digit gradient ramp. The penultimate sector 7 (2.4km long) takes place on a climb up towards Colle Pinzuto with peaks at 15%. A few kilometers later, what’s left of the peloton will see the last sector (81.km long) that includes a descent before facing another climb peaking at 18%, ending at Tolfe.
From there, only 12km remain to the finish in Piazza del Campo, Siena. This is where the real battle began last year between Van Vleuten and Kopecky. The finale is the same as the men’s course, with gradients reaching up to 16%. After a short maze of twists and undulating turns, the battle for the finish will likely come down again to that final right-hand turn leading into Via Rinaldini, where Kopecky made her winning move, before entering the famed Piazza del Campo and racing down to the finish to crown the 2023 champion.
Riders to Watch
All the top rivals are expected on the starting line in Siena. Both Annemiek Van Vleuten (Movistar) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek Segafredo) will be racing their 8th edition and are the obvious picks should Kopecky miss the winning move. Van Vleuten will be battling for win number three, while Borghini is hot off her win at the inaugural UAE Tour. The Trek Segafredo rider won Strade Bianche in 2017.
Kopecky will begin her season as in the past, with the first Classic Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday before hitting the gravel roads in defense of her title. One rival that will be fighting to keep her from doing so will be Kasia Niewiadoma. The Canyon/SRAM rider has come painfully close too many times, finishing second three times consecutively. In 2022, she finished fourth just off the podium after losing steam in the final climb.
Racing begins on Saturday, March 4 at 9:25 AM local time.
‘Watch the Femmes’ TV Coverage: Eurosport 2, FloBikes, GCN+, ESPN+
When: Saturday, 04 March
What: 1-day Spring Classic
Riders to Watch:
Annemiek van Vleuten *****
Lotte Kopecky ****
Demi Vollering ***
Elisa Longo Borghini ***
Katarzyna Niewiadoma **
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By Rebecca Reza