Strade Bianche Women History
2023 sees the 9th edition of the Strade Bianche Women and each year has seen a big name in women’s cycling take the victory. Created in 2015 as a 1.1 race, the opening year was won by the American Megan Guarnier who was at the peak of her powers in 2015-2016. It joined the Women’s WorldTour in 2016 when races started to be grouped together as the WWT and was won by Lizzie Deignan. The Brit had been 2nd the year before and would go on to finish 3rd the year afterwards and she became the first rider to finish on each step of the podium.
Elisa Longo Borghini won in 2017 and Anna van der Breggen in 2018. Throughout this period, Kasia Niewiadoma repeatedly knocked on the door of winning Strade Bianche Women but finished 2nd 3 times in a row and then also finished 3rd in 2019. That run of podiums was broken in 2020 and the Pole hasn’t returned to the podium in Siena yet. There is only one multiple-winner of Strade Bianche Women and it’s Annemiek van Vleuten who won both the 2019 and 2020 races. Most of the recent history surrounds the Dutch star, with finishes of 1st-1st-4th-2nd in the last 4 years.
This year’s Strade Bianche Women route contains 8 sectors of white gravel roads, totalling just over 30km of the full 136km route. These should see the peloton split up, with the last few years seeing a smallish group of favourites coming to the last part of the race together. The climb up the Via Santa Caterina is crucial as always, with no hiding place for tired legs, it’s one last uphill sprint to the top corner, followed by some twisty turns and the drop into the square in Siena. Last year Lotte Kopecky was able to reach the top corner in second but put on a masterclass to overtake and keep Van Vleuten behind her to the finish line.
Strade Bianche Women 2023 Profile
Strade Bianche Women 2023 Contenders
We’re going to have to start with last year’s winner and the winner of Omloop het Nieuwsblad – Lotte Kopecky. Few probably gave the Belgian much of a chance as she raced up the Via Santa Caterina head to head against Annemiek van Vleuten but not only did she match the Dutch great, Kopecky was able to come around her and keep the position heading into the very final corner. Much has been made of the off-season changes by the Belgian, clearly in form, she is a favourite once more. You’d almost think this could and should be a Demi Vollering type finish but her best finish is 6th from 2 years ago. With Kopecky off the front on the Muur, Vollering had a quiet Omloop het Nieuwsblad finishing 17th after nearly winning it the year before. It could pan out to be similar here but the upside potential will always be high.
Movistar will rely upon Annemiek van Vleuten again. She’s only been off the Strade Bianche podium once since 2018. She herself says she has lost some of the explosiveness she had but obviously still a strong climber it’s hard to point to any other weakness. This year she will have great team support as well from the likes of Liane Lippert and Floortje Mackaij. Neither has a particularly strong record at Strade Bianche Women, which for Lippert especially is quite the surprise. You’d expect a steep uphill finish like the one here to be right up her street. A best finish of 13th last season was pretty much matched by Floortje Mackaij’s 14th place in 2022. I can see Mackaij being sent on an attack and Lippert helping out Van Vleuten going into the final kilometres.
The last chance for South African Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio to win Strade Bianche is this year. She has finished in the top-10 4 times since 2015, including on the podium last season. Freed from the SD Worx shackles and able to do her own race this year, she will be itching to see high she can finish. Compared to some rivals, she may find herself isolated which has the potential to work against her chances. 2nd in GC at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana with a stage win though is a sign of strong form.
There aren’t too many riders with a better start to 2023 than Trek Segafredo’s Amanda Spratt. The Aussie hasn’t won a race but has repeatedly knocked on the door with 7 podiums. Strade Bianche Women has been a hit-and-miss hunting ground for her, with a pair of top-10s in 2017 & 2018 and a couple of results since just outside that mark. I would love to see a win but returning to the top-10 is more likely.
Elisa Longo Borghini is another with a great history at Strade Bianche Women. In 7 races, her 8th place from last year is the Italian’s worst result in Siena. She was guided to the UAE Tour GC victory by teammate Realini and 10th at Omloop het Nieuwsblad is solid given it came down to a sprint behind Kopecky. Always one to watch.
The rider with the best results yet no victory in Strade Bianche is Kasia Niewiadoma. If you take away 2020’s DNF, influenced by a training crash in the days leading up to the race, Kasia has a worst finish of 9th in 7 editions and 4 podium appearances. Her win drought runs on but the Pole is always a threat on a steep uphill finish like the one in Siena. Teammate Elise Chabbey is coming off 5th in GC at the UAE Tour and finished 6th in last year’s Strade Bianche. She will be a great support and alternative to Niewiadoma in this year’s race. Soraya Paladin has top 10s at the UAE Tour and Omloop het Nieuwsblad but is normally surprisingly quiet at Strade Bianche. A best finish of 14th in 7 editions is lower than you’d think for a rider of her quality.
Team DSM will be bringing Juliette Labous and Pfeiffer Georgi as their leaders but neither has a strong result in the Italian classic. Pfeiffer Georgi has a good excuse, she’s never raced it before, but scored a 5th place at Omloop het Nieuwsblad so has the form to impress this year. Labous is another who surprisingly hasn’t done better at Strade Bianche before. For such a strong climber, a best finish of 25th in 2021’s race isn’t expected.
Ane Santesteban will race for the first time this season at Strade Bianche, which always makes it hard to know for sure what her form is like. The Spanish rider was 15th in the 2020 edition though and is always a strong enough climber to be in contention on lumpy Tuscany terrain. Her teammate Ruby Roseman-Gannon was 18th in last year’s race but had a quiet Le Samyn des Dames on Tuesday, finishing only 66th. She had a strong Australia-based campaign though but it leaves both Jayco-AlUla threats as somewhat of a wildcard.
Mikayla Harvey is in some strong form at the moment and 12th at the 2020 edition of Strade Bianche, the first major race after the lockdown part of the pandemic season, was one of the first real times we saw Harvey show her potential. 6th at the UAE Tour, with a strong climb up Jebel Hafeet supporting her team leader Silvia Persico. Silvia Persico was 10th in last year’s race and you’d expect a rider who does well at cyclocross to do well on the gravel too. Along with Harvey, Persico finished well at the UAE Tour Women in 3rd place overall. Between the pair, there should be a top-10 finish in the offing.
Another strong climber is Yara Kastelijn who is also no stranger to non-road conditions. The Dutch rider was 15th in last year’s Strade Bianche and showed her current form with 8th at Setmana Cicilista Valenciana recently. All of the cyclocross riders will get tipped for Strade Bianche and Kastelijn is no exception.
Strade Bianche Women 2023 Outsiders
Honestly, I have no idea what to expect from Puck Pieterse at this year’s Strade Bianche Women. The Dutch cyclocross star has barely raced any road in her career but turned up to Omloop van het Hageland last weekend. She ended up finishing 36th but impressed with an attack on Kerkstraat to start a move that did ultimately end up being caught again by the bunch. It was a glimpse of what Pieterse might be able to do in Siena this weekend and you suspect that she will be more comfortable on the gravel than most.
It’s hard to ignore Justine Ghekiere after her stunning Setmana Ciclista Valenciana GC victory by only 1 second a couple of weeks ago. She will probably just support team leader Moolman-Pasio here but the break that saw the Belgian take the GC win is encouraging if she goes for another long-ranger at this year’s Strade Bianche Women.
It’s similar with Canyon SRAM’s Ricarda Bauernfeind really. In theory she will be working for Kasia Niewiadoma but we’ve already seen, again at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, that Bauernfeind is in some good form on rolling terrain. It’s where she took her best results last season as well and you suspect it’s just a case of the German getting used to the speed of the Women’s WorldTour peloton before we see a really big result from her.
Another rider with strong finishes in 2023 is Claire Steels. The Brit hasn’t taken part in Strade Bianche before but the steep rolling terrain should suit her. Repeatedly knocking on the door of the top-10 this season, it feels like she’s not far away and might’ve managed one if not for a mechanical at the bottom of Jebel Hafeet in the UAE Tour Women.