Sky’s Michal Kwiatkowski made a case for assuming the mantle of Fabian Cancellara today at the Strade BIanche by rolling off the front of an elite group and soloing home to his second-career victory in the suddenly iconic Tuscan classic. Wiggle Honda’s Elisa Longo Borghini fought a closer match against her own elite rivals but slipped away for the women’s race win by mere seconds.
In the men’s race, the Pole brought a bag of tricks to this challenging event, held in slippery conditions for the first time in memory, but among his skills nothing served Kwiatkowski better than his confidence. Most riders sitting in with Greg Van Avermaet of BMC, Zdenek Stybar of Quick Step and Tim Wellens of Lotto-Soudal might assume they were in a winning selection and take their chaces close to the finish. But the former World Champion decided to go it alone on the final stretch of white gravel, including some steep ramps, where he gained at first a small gap but one he pushed out on the smooth tarmac, out-performing an elite trio of riders seemingly working together.
By the time the race returned to Siena, Kwiatkowski held more than half a minute, and while the chasing trio duked it out behind him, the Pole rode gingerly through the final slippery turns, ensuring his safe arrival alone. Van Avermaet outmaneuvered Wellens for second with Stybar falling off on the final climb and gaining fourth.
In the women’s race, seven riders came into town within hailing distance of each other, with Lucinda Brand and Shara Gillow off the front as the road pitched up to the Piazza del Campo. But they were swamped by Longo Borghini, Kasia Niewiadoma and Lizzie Deignan as they began the twisting, turning final few hundred meters. Longo Borghini simply held the front position, moved through the wet corners more confidently, and denied Niewiadoma a chance at what would have been a double win for Polish cycling.
For Kwiatkowski, his second win is not terribly different statistically from his first, in 2014, when he came in alone 19 seconds ahead of the competition. However, then he came into town with Peter Sagan and left the future world champ by the side of the road as they climbed into town. Today’s win, from nearly 18km out, was a dominating affair, up there with Fabian Cancellara’s win in 2012 from a similar distance and strategic approach.
Kudos to FDJ’s Thibault Pinot, who rode off with the early break and survived for a top ten finish. Other notable rides include fellow breakaway artist Jose Goncalves of Katusha, who was a strong 11th. Scott Thwaites patiently moved up from behind for a top ten, as did Luke Durbridge — earlier and more convincingly — and Christopher Juul Jensen. Tom Dumoulin was a protagonist in the final phase of the race, though when Kwiatkowski got away from the lead group, the six chasers were split into two sets of three, with Dumoulin leading the latter as they vainly tried to rejoin Van Avermaet, Stybar and Wellens. Tiesj Benoot looked good as well, and served the purposes of an obviously strong Wellens. Astana’s Truls Korsaeth also hung around a long time from the early break, and eventually found himself paired with countryman Edvald Boasson Hagen, who darted up to the front inside the final 25km, though the Norwegian pair faded in the final kms.
- Michal Kwiatkowski, Sky
- Greg Van Avermaet, BMC, at 0.15
- Tim Wellens, Lotto-Soudal, at 0.17
- Zdenek Stybar, Quick Step, at 0.23
- Tom Dumoulin, Sunweb, at 1.26
- Luke Durbridge, Orica-Scott, s.t.
- Christopher Juul Jensen, Orica-Scott, at 1.29
- Tiesj Benoot, Lotto-Soudal, at 2.20
- Thibault Pinot, FDJ, at 2.23
- Scott Thwaites, Dimension Data, at 2.52
- Elisa Longo Borghini, Wiggle
- Kasia Niewiadoma, WM3, at 0.02
- Lizzie Deignan, Boels-Dolmans, at 0.05
- Lucinda Brand, Sunweb, at 0.08
- Annemiek van Vleuten, Orica-Scott, at 0.09
- Shara Gillow, FDJ, at 0.12
- Katrin Garfoot, Orica-Scott, at 0.18
- Amanda Spratt, Orica-Scott, at 0.36
- Cecile Ludwig, Cervelo-Bigla, at 1.06
- Elena Cecchini, Canyon-SRAM, s.t.
Relive the men’s finale here!
And the women’s race here: