In the first WorldTour race since the season recommenced, Leah Thomas, backed up by an incredible team performance, took a podium position at Strade Bianche.
123 riders took on the 136km-long race on the famed dusty roads of Tuscany. The first few breakaway attempts were quickly thwarted as the race progressed under sweltering conditions. As the pace ramped up, the field fractured and several unsuccessful attacks subsequently ensued. On the famous 9.5 km-long uphill fifth gravel sector in Grania, the peloton fell apart as riders battled the heat, dust and challenging terrain. At this point several riders began to feel the strain in their legs and had to fall back as again attacks began to fly off the front.
Équipe Paule Ka’s Leah Thomas made it into a leading group of ten with 47 km remaining, while the main field lagged behind by two minutes. As the race made its way to the final ascent in Siena, Garcia escaped from the front group, yet Leah took up the chase behind her, and was looking incredibly strong, until she suffered a mechanical. However, despite this setback, she pushed on and continued the chase.
Van Vleuten was able to catch up to Garcia with around 6km remaining, and Leah set her sights on the chase of the two riders. The World Champion eventually took the win ahead of Garcia, with Leah taking the final podium place, an outstanding result for her and for her teammates.
Speaking after the race, she remarks: “We’re really excited to return to racing after the hiatus, and we are incredibly grateful to Paule Ka for backing us through this time. It’s support like this that makes us even more motivated to strive for good results. Today’s result was a team effort. My teammates were fantastic and supported me perfectly throughout the race. With the peloton dwindling, we were still there in numbers, and that gave us a lot of confidence that we could pull off a good result. To finish on the podium means a lot to me, and I’m so happy to be able to finish off the fantastic job of my team. Today’s race shows the incredible depth of our squad, and we can definitely expect several more good results to follow. The motivation in the group is high, and I can’t wait for the upcoming races, where we’ll maintain the fighting spirit that we’ve shown today. There’s definitely going to be yet more exciting racing coming up from us.“
Analysing today’s performance, Team Owner Thomas Campana reflects: “It was quite a difficult race for us, as we had three crashes in the course recon. We had to start with only five riders as Clara Koppenburg went home this morning, which was a disadvantage, but nevertheless the team’s motivation was high and we were looking for the victory. We were trying to find a way around the big riders and they opened up the door for us. Leah managed to get into the break and was able to benefit from the race situation. I think we played it very smart. All the riders are in exceptional form, they are mentally very strong and they are ready to give it everything. Today is the result of a great team performance and reading the race well. We can look forward to the upcoming races with confidence.“