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Women's Strade Bianche 2022 Race History
Strade Bianche will once again be the first Women’s WorldTour race of the season. Last year’s race saw SD Worx take control of an elite group. With Chantal van den Broek-Blaak matching an attack by Elisa Longo Borghini, she was able to just sit on until the ascent into Siena. Naturally, that tired out Longo Borghini and Van den Broek-Blaak was able to put more power down and take the victory.
After 2020’s rescheduled race was held in the scorching heat, the 2021 race was a return to normal March conditions. This year, there is rain forecast for the day before but the race itself should be dry. We have had a wet Strade Bianche not too long ago, back in 2018 where Anna van der Breggen was the victor. If the gravel doesn’t dry by Saturday it will be a wet crunchy sludge. That could swing the race advantage to the strongest riders and potentially split the race up even more.
The relentless nature of the gravel sectors takes its toll on the energy of the riders. In 2022, there are 11 gravel sectors which make up a big chunk of the race distance. The last sector is around 12km from the finish and could see a late attack as in 2019’s race. Mixed in with the energy-sapping gravel is a constant series of short but very steep climbs. This tends to give climbers or puncheurs more of an advantage over some of the more traditional classics specialists. The final climb into Siena is perfect for a last-ditch effort with the first to reach the top of the road into the city often the first to swoop down to the finishing line in the Piazza del Campo.
Chantal van den Broek-Blaak
Annemiek van Vleuten
Annemiek van Vleuten
Saturday 6th March 2022
Live on Eurosport/GCN
Time: 10:30-12:30 GMT
Women's Strade Bianche 2022 Contenders
Strade Bianche is one of Annemiek van Vleuten‘s strongest races. The two-time winner has never finished lower than 9th in 6 editions of the race. Her 2020 win was particularly epic but as we saw last season, she can’t cover every move when other teams are in control. Her win at Omloop het Nieuwsblad will fill her with confidence and she’ll always be a contender.
FDJ has got off to a great start in 2022.
Marta Cavalli was 3rd in GC at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig was one place ahead in 2nd. Both riders are clearly climbing well and weren’t too far away from being able to match Van Vleuten on the queen stage. Marta Cavalli finally broke a run of bad results here last year, finishing 8th after a series of non-finishes and a previous best of 40th. With that in mind, Uttrup Ludwig probably has the better shout. She’s missing the wins of Van Vleuten but has never finished outside the top-10 in the 5 editions of Strade Bianche that she’s raced.
It’s been an up and down start to the season for Elisa Longo Borghini. The 2017 winner has a best result of 5th whilst setting up Elisa Balsamo for a sprint win at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. Then she was surprisingly quiet at Omloop het Nieuwsblad. She clearly has goals later in the season and isn’t at peak form yet. Teammate Elisa Balsamo is in good form though, with a stage win and 4th place at Omloop het Nieuwsblad already. She’s not had the best results at Strade Bianche though, with a best of 33rd. It doesn’t feel like a race she’ll win but a top-10 will be a solid result.
Lucinda Brand is down to do her first road race of the season. Expectations should be tempered though, she’s said that she will be supporting teammates rather than racing for the win herself. With no Lucinda Brand, Shirin van Anrooij is Trek’s cyclocross rider to watch out for. She’s had an impressive start to the season with 5th at Omloop van het Hageland and 7th at Le Samyn. Those races are rather different to this one but that’s certainly a sign of good form for a rider who won’t be phased by the loose sections.
Mavi Garcia‘s first Strade Bianche was in 2020 and she left a lasting impact with her racing that day. She was on a solo break and had a big distance to the chasing pack. Only some incredible riding by Annemiek van Vleuten prevented Garcia from winning that day. She couldn’t match that in 2021, not quite being able to go with the main group when it attacked and Garcia finished 13th. She was 9th at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana and she can use that form to make the top-10 here. Marta Bastianelli has got off to a great start in 2022, taking 3 victories already. She’s been 4th at Strade Bianche in the past whilst in form but it feels like Garcia will be the team’s first option.
The newly-crowned cyclocross world champion, Marianne Vos, will open her 2022 season at Strade Bianche. This is one of the few races that she hasn’t really excelled in, with a best result of only 6th in 2020. After making sure she was in speak form for the CX Worlds almost 6 weeks ago, it’ll be interesting to see what form she has here. A first podium in this race would be a good start to the year.
The finishing climb into Siena feels absolutely tailor-made for the skills of Kasia Niewiadoma, yet somehow she’s never won Strade Bianche. It’s not through want of trying though, she was on the podium in 4 consecutive editions between 2016 and 2019 before a DNF in 2020 halted the streak. She didn’t have a spectacular start to the year at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana but still managed to finish 6th there. Teammate Soraya Paladin had the more impressive stage result with 2nd on Stage 2. Despite being a puncheur type rider and Italian, Strade Bianche has never really been a happy hunting ground. She’s twice been 14th and that’s her best result. Expect to see her fully supporting Niewiadoma.
SD Worx will have a strong line-up. Last year’s winner Chantal van den Broek-Blaak returns. She will have to win in a similar fashion, attacking well before the final climb as other major names will have more punch than her. It feels like rivals won’t let that happen again. Demi Vollering feels like the team’s best shout. She was 6th last year with her teammate up the road and Anna van der Breggen around too. Her opening weekend saw a 2nd place at Omloop het Nieuwsblad that felt like a loss. After riding behind Van Vleuten for 15km, she was odds-on to win the final sprint but didn’t have it.
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio is a regular in the top-10 in Tuscany, with a best of 4th place in 2015. In last year’s race, Moolman-Pasio was 11th but with 3 teammates finishing ahead of her, it was a case of job well done still. She hasn’t raced yet in 2022, so her form isn’t clear aside from Zwift racing. Lotte Kopecky also has a chance after looking impressive last year until a puncture took her out of the running. Her opening weekend felt a little underwhelming after the hype built with her riding for SD Worx now. It feels like others on the team will get the nod ahead of her.
Team BikeExchange-Jayco will probably be behind
Kristen Faulkner this year. Amanda Spratt is down on the start list and despite a long list of consistent high finishes probably still isn’t 100% after her surgery. She raced in Australia and did fine but the recovery is still ongoing. Faulkner was 16th in last year’s race but her opening weekend doesn’t show too much encouragement she’ll match that this year after finishing 60th and DNF in the two races.
Faulkner crashed in the recon and won’t be racing
Women's Strade Bianche 2022 Outsiders
Human Powered Health’s Barbara Malcotti is a good punchy climber. We’ve not seen much from her on her new team in 2022 so far but she ended 2021 super strongly. Top-10s at the lumpy Giro dell’Emilia and Tre Valli Varesine shows that she may be able to live with the main group here. The team are down on numbers and will only have 4 riders, so Malcotti will be a leader.
As always, cyclocross riders always get a bit of a nod at Strade Bianche. Plantur-Pura’s Yara Kastelijn has decided to commit to the road a little bit more and she’s always shown that she’s a solid climber. You have to think that with the ability to ride well on loose surfaces and climbs she could sneak into the top-10 here. Kastelijn hasn’t raced Strade Bianche before so this year’s race could be a learning experience.
Picking another Italian in Letizia Borghesi who had a great opening weekend for her new team, EF Education-TIBCO-SVB. 21st at Omloop het Nieuwsblad was good but the more natural sprinters naturally stormed past at the end. Her 16th at Omloop van het Hageland was arguably much more impressive given how intense the racing was there. Her current best Strade Bianche result is 31st in 2020 but in her current form, she should beat that comfortably this year.