Marta Bastianelli calls time on her pro career on final day of 2023 Giro Donne

Marta Bastianelli

Marta Bastianelli’s cycling career can be separated into three distinct phases. Her initial phase highlighted her promising talents as a youth, followed by a struggling middle phase post a two-year suspension. Since 2016, she has staged a solid comeback and become a significant force in one-day races in particular.

Young Prodigy Steps onto Pro Stage

Following her silver medal win in the Juniors race at her home World Championships in 2004, Bastianelli’s transition to the professional peloton was anticipated. The podium that day will go down forever as one of the most illustrious. Marianne Vos the winner, flanked by Marta Bastianelli and Ellen van Dijk. By 2007, she was a part of the Safi–Pasta Zara–Manhattan team, and she secured second place at the U23 European Championships in July, trailing the famed Marianne Vos. In August, Bastianelli earned her first significant result with a third-place finish at the GP de Plouay.

Marta Bastianelli 2007 World Champion

Achievements and Early Controversies

Her career took off when she secured the World Championship road race by attacking the final lap and maintaining a sufficient lead to fend off a small chasing group. She aimed to dodge a sprint against Vos, which gave rise to a thrilling contest for dominance between the two young World Champions that would go on to be successful for the best part of 20 years racing against each other.

Her successful streak continued in 2008 with top-10 finishes at Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Tour of Flanders, and Flèche Wallonne, among others. However, her journey took a bitter turn when she tested positive twice in a short space of time for fenfluramine, a prohibited appetite suppressant, leading to a two-year ban and stripping off her Giro Rosa result. She maintained that it was down to a herbal diet pill that ultimately would contain the banned substance.

Struggles and Comeback

Between 2010 and 2016, Marta Bastianelli experienced a period of both struggle and resurgence. Upon returning to the cycling circuit after her two-year suspension at the tail end of 2010, she secured a respectable 7th Overall at Thüringen Rundfahrt, though her performance otherwise was marked by difficulty. Her form saw little improvement over the next few years, with some minor successes including 3rd and 5th places in the National Championships, a stage victory and the points jersey at Languedoc, and a 6th Overall at Chongming Island. After taking a year out in 2014 to have a child, she came back to the peloton in 2015 with a set of more consistent results and a stage win at the Giro Toscana.

Marta Bastianelli Gent Wevelgem 2018

2016 though marked a significant turning point in her career. During this year, she made an emphatic return to form, securing victories at Omloop van het Hageland, GP della Liberazione, and Giro della Campania. In addition, she won the points jersey at the Trophée d’Or Féminin. Moreover, she showed a consistent performance by securing 2nd at GP de Dottignies, 3rd at the Madrid Challenge, and 5th at both Ronde van Drenthe and the Tour de Yorkshire. The year concluded on a high note with a gratifying 5th place in the World Championships.

The Rise to Prominence

Since 2017, Marta Bastianelli has been enjoying a renaissance in her career, showcasing her exceptional talent in numerous competitions. In 2017, she had a remarkable Classics season, which included a 4th place finish at Gent Wevelgem, and secured wins in a stage each of Giro Rosa and Emakumeen Bira. Her performance in the Women’s Tour also stood out, where she consistently ranked in the top 10. The year concluded with a win at the Gran Premio Beghelli. 2018 saw Bastianelli rise to new heights as she finally lived up to her early promise by clinching the European Championships, Gent Wevelgem, Brabantse Pijl, GP de Dottignies, Trofee Maarten Wynants, as well as stages of the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana and BeNe Ladies Tour.

She began the 2019 season on a high note, maintaining a top-10 streak until May across 16 races and earning victories in prestigious races such as Omloop van het Hageland, Ronde van Drenthe, and the Tour of Flanders. Additionally, she claimed the Italian national champion title for the first time and secured 7th place at the World Championships in Yorkshire. In the 2020 season, she hit the ground running with a win at the Vuelta Ciclista Valenciana and finished second in both Omloop het Nieuwsblad and Omloop van het Hageland.

2021 saw Bastianelli’s final WWT victory on the Women’s Tour into Banbury, the one-day race La Périgord Ladies and stages of the Tour de Suisse and Tour de l’Ardeche. There were also many many top 10s throughout the year including at Paris Roubaix Femmes and Gent Wevelgem. Not able to beat the sprint threat of Lorena Wiebes, Bastianelli’s ability to win hilly one-day races saw her continue to notch up victories in this period. 7 wins in 2022, including the GC at Festival Elsy Jacobs and Omloop van het Hageland.

Bastianelli was originally going to retire at the end of the 2022 season but went back on that to take part in the first half of the 2023 season and finish at home on the Giro Donne. That meant there was time to win Le Samyn des Dames at the beginning of this year and a stage of the Festival Elsy Jacobs. She just missed out on retaining the GC there by a single second from Ally Wollaston. One of those signs the new generation is ready to take over.

Defining Race Victory: 2019 Tour of Flanders

After the breakaway pack was reeled in with 46km remaining in the race, the competition intensified with Tiffany Cromwell’s acceleration on the Kanarieberg. This split the pack, leaving only 30 riders on the field.

Bastianelli seized the opportunity and attacked when the cobbles began. Despite an initial pullback, she launched another attack, managing to pull ahead with Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Annemiek van Vleuten, Kasia Niewiadoma, and Marianne Vos. After Vos fell back due to a puncture, the leading trio found themselves with a 28 seconds advantage over the chasers.

As the race neared its end, van Vleuten attempted a breakaway on the flat run to Oudenaarde, but Bastianelli managed to bridge the gap. In the final sprint, Bastianelli outperformed her competitors, clinching her first victory at the Tour of Flanders.