Lotte Kopecky wins Strade Bianche

Kopecky beats Longo Borghini to win Strade Bianche

Written by: Felix Mattis
Posted 2 months ago

Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx – Protime) has won Strade Bianche for a second time in her career and became only the second rider to do so after Annemiek van Vleuten in 2019 and 2020. The World Champion from Belgium was stronger than Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl – Trek) on the steep final climb up the Via Santa Caterina in Siena to beat the Italian Champion by four seconds on Piazza del Campo after 137 hard kilometres over twelve gravel sectors with a total of 39.8 kilometres on lose ground.

“We were a bit more in control today. We played it really good as a team”, Kopecky said in a first reaction after the finish and added: “I could have attacked Elisa Longo Borghini earlier but I did it at the right moment I think. I didn’t have my best legs today but it’s amazing to win Strade Bianche for the second time, especially with the rainbow jersey.”

Demi Vollering (SD Worx – Protime) then sprinted to third place, when she overtook Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM Racing) on the final meters down to the finish line on the picturesque square in the old town of Siena. The two of them finished 26 seconds behind Kopecky, who launched the pre-decisive attack for victory with roughly 10 kilometers to go. Only Longo Borghini could follow the World Champion, as Niewiadoma and Vollering had gone All-In with an attack just half a kilometer before, but then sat up.

Shirin van Anrooij (Lidl – Trek) finished fifth ahead of Kristen Faulkner (EF Education – Cannondale) and Riejanne Markus (Visma – Lease a Bike).

With her victory, Kopecky also extended her lead in the Women’s WorldTour overall rankings, whilst van Anrooij took over the blue Santini jersey as new leader in the young rider classification of the Women’s WorldTour.

How the race unfolded:

Before Kopecky attacked, it was a tough 10th edition of Strade Bianche Donne: On a re-newed parcours with more gravel sectors and more concentrated gravel action in the final hour the peloton stayed together for a long time. No breakaway managed to go clear in the first two hours of the race, but then a group of eleven riders got a gap after the sixth gravel sector at Monteaperti. Part of that very strong group were former World Champion Lizzie Deignan (Lidl – Trek) and the European Champion Mischa Bredewold (SD Worx – Protime).

The leaders quickly got a gap of 1’15, but then with a bit more than 40 kilometers to go SD Worx – Protime took the responsibility to chase the leaders with Elena Cecchini and Niamh Fisher-Black. That became even more necessary, when inside the new loop in the north of Siena, Bredewold crashed out of the front group. She could race on, but had pain in her ribs, taking her out of contention for a top result.

Shortly after that the leading group exploded on one of the many paved climbs of the day with 33 kilometers to go: Only Alena Amialiusik (UAE Team ADQ), Amber Kraak (FDJ – Suez) and Riejanne Markus (Visma – Lease a Bike) remained at the front with an advantage of roughly half a minute. But with Deignan back in the bunch also Lidl – Trek committed to the chase now and with 22 kilometers the breakaway was finally caught. 28 riders then made the peloton to fight for glory on the final two gravel sectors: Colle Pinzuto and Le Tolfe.

Vollering then opened up the finale with 18 kilometers to go, when she attacked out of the Colle Pinzuto gravel. The leading group was melting down more and more, but Vollering could not break clear. 16 riders reached the 1.1 gravel kilometers of Le Tolfe with it’s steep 18% kicker then, and there Niewiadoma put the hammer down: The Gravel World Champion went fullgas for the whole climb, Vollering, Kopecky, Longo Borghini and van Anrooij could keep up and that was the pre-decisive selection.

On a short rise back on paved roads after Le Tolfe, Vollering attacked and Niewiadoma followed. The two had a small gap, but did not collaborate, so Longo Borghini and Kopecky came back – and immediately Kopecky started her counter-attack, in which only the Italian Champion could follow.  Longo Borghini committed to work together with the hot favourite from Belgium and even did longer turns than the SD Worx – Protime rider as they stretched their lead to 20 seconds quickly, whilst Niewiadoma had to do all the chasing.

The polish rider and Vollering were later joined by van Anrooij and Kristen Faulkner (EF Education – Cannondale), but also with the help of the American they could not come closer to the two leaders anymore. Kopecky then launched the final and decisive attack on the steepest parts of Via Santa Caterina in Siena with 500 meters to go and from there rode solo to the finish line.

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