In Women’s World Tour opener, Strade Bianche in Italy, it was painfully close for Kasia Niewiadoma as she finished just off the podium, in fourth place. While teammate Elise Chabbey showed her continual progression has no limits when she raced to sixth across the scenic finish line in Piazza del Campo. The race was won by Lotte Kopecky (SDW).
A clearly disappointed Kasia said, “After the finish line, I immediately felt sad that I just couldn’t go more on the final climb. My legs were empty and though I tried to push I had nothing to generate. It’s a normal feeling you face after not winning a race, especially a race where you’re always so close to that win. I was and I am still gutted that I missed the podium.”
Kasia continued, “We came as a team with big ambitions. Everyone was committed and believed we could achieve something special. Actually, we had an amazing race and we improved a lot since the first two races of the year. Our work is going in the right direction. We fought until we dropped and I have a lot of optimism for the next races. Seeing Elise finish sixth made me really happy and it shows how much she has improved. Having someone else in the final who can change the race situation is something we’ve been missing but now we’re in a much stronger position.”
After an early breakaway was caught after 60km, and with a strong headwind on the long 9.5km gravel sector, the lead group became smaller as it ticked off each remaining gravel sector. Pauliena, Soraya, Alena and Elise were all present in moves in the last 40 kilometres of racing. Kasia was in a select group that swelled and then again dwindled to just six riders in the closing parts of the race. The chase group containing Elise rejoined the leaders and the CANYON//SRAM Racing rider immediately went on the attack with less than 4 kilometres to go. In the final Via Santa Caterina slopes, it was Kopecky and Annemiek van Vleuten (MOV) who drew away to fight for the victory.
Elise said, “At the end, when our group came back to the leaders, I really wanted to help Kasia. I had nothing to lose with my final attack and so I went for it. I love this race and I am sure we’ll win it one day! I’m happy I still had some legs to fight up the final climb and take sixth. We raced well as a team, everybody contributed and that gave me a lot of motivation to get the best out of myself. Looking back, I spent too much energy in the middle part of the race. But I showed I can be amongst the best and this really gives me motivation for the next races.”