Strade Bianche: The Reactions

Written by: ProCycling Women
Posted 2 months ago

Since medieval times, the Piazza del Campo has echoed the rhythm of racing. Initially on horses, then against bulls, and when that was no longer allowed, on donkeys, on oxen, and on horses again. Saturday, in contrast to last year, all the horses stayed neatly in the pasture, making room on the famous Siena-square for the gallopers on two wheels. There, in one of the most beautiful folk theaters the cycling world is blessed to visit annually, the rainbow displayed its full spectrum of colours.

In the aftermath of the 10th edition of Strade Bianche Donne Pro Cycling Women caught up with winner Lotte Kopecky, her main rival Elisa Longo Borghini, and other key players: Demi Vollering, Kasia Niewiadoma, Shirin van Anrooij, and Niamh Fisher-Black.

Lotte Kopecky

As pilgrims do, Lotte Kopecky returned to a sacred place in her career in Siena: “This was very special because it was for me kind of where everything started,” she nods to her first victory in Strade Bianche Donne in 2022, her first classic victory in the Women’s World Tour. Just like in 2022, the Belgian World Champion had to settle with one main rival in the final kilometers. “There were two Lidl-Trek riders and two SD Worx – Protime riders together with Kasia Niewiadoma in the front and from that moment you could feel that it was going to be a jumping game.” Lotte Kopecky was on the right move and found with Elisa Longo Borghini another former winner in her company. The two gained an advantage on the chasing group, where Niewiadoma was left burdened with the labour of pursuit. Kopecky herself, in a confident position together with Longo Borghini in the lead and Vollering behind played the game. “I tried to keep it a bit rolling but it wasn’t up to me to do all the work. Last week I did all the work and I finished second…”

Elisa Longo Borghini

Just like last weekend at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Lidl-Trek showed to be a competent challenger to the dominant force of SD Worx – Protime. Just like last weekend, it was Elisa Longo Borghini and Shirin van Anrooij who found themselves at the forefront in the final of a classic. “We can be satisfied. Shirin was also fifth and we raced really, really well,” emphasizing the word ‘really’ to praise the teams strength.

You always have to go for the victory, otherwise you better stay in bed.

In the end it was up to the Italian champion to finish it of as good as possible. The Strade Bianche Donne winner of 2017 committed fully to win the race when she was in the lead together with Lotte Kopecky, but in the end found her superior in the Belgian this time. “You always have to go for the victory, otherwise you don’t start the race and you better stay in bed. Second was the best that I could do today.”

Demi Vollering

No dramatic sprint with a teammate for the victory like last year, but yet again a tight sprint, this time for third place. Demi Vollering completed the podium on the Piazza del Campo and is very satisfied. “It was the goal to win the race again with the team. We made that happen again.” The Dutch champion played a key role in Kopecky’s victory. “It was a bit of a strange race. The final was different and you felt that everybody was a little bit scared of what was coming. At one point I just started to attack. I hoped to get out. That didn’t work and then I said in the communication: ‘O.K. Lotte now it’s your turn.’ Then we attacked one by one hoping to get out and Lotte made it,” tells Vollering about the ideal scenario they created for themselves.

Kasia Niewiadoma

Arguably the strongest in the race, finishing off being the first one to fall off the podium hurts badly, that’s what Kasia Niewiadoma felt on the tiles of Piazza del Campo, crying after the finish of the race. “At some point it hurts being fourth again,” sniffs the Polish star. A result she’s more familiair with than she likes, finishing fourth in last years Amstel, 2022’s Strade Bianche, the European Championships, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Alfredo Binda in 2021 and La Course the year before. “I just feel sad to be honest. … I hate the fourth and fifth place. I’ll almost say I wish I was 60th, you know?”

The situation with Demi Vollering on her wheel when Lotte Kopecky and ELisa Longo Borghini made matters worse for Kasia Niewiadoma, who otherwise was the strongest on the La Tolfe sterratti section where she almost dropped everybody. “If there was somebody else on my wheel, not Demi (Vollering), than we could cooperate, but in a situation like this it is up to me to do all the work. I was hoping on somebody from behind to help us…”

Then in the end it was Demi Vollering sprinting past the Canyon//SRAM-rider in the final inches of the race to grab the final spot on the podium. “There I was like f*ck!”


Shirin van Anrooij

As said, Lidl-Trek proved a clear contender and took matters in their hands completely during the race. “Yeah, we just had a clear plan and we were really committed to it just like in the Opening Weekend.” Shirin van Anrooij made it into the elite group of five in the final together with her co-teamleader Elisa Longo Borghini. “I was happy that we both survived the final gravel sector. After that my legs exploded on the next climb, but Elisa could keep up with Lotte (Kopecky),” the new leader in the Women’s World Tour Youth Classification proudly said. In the final kilometers the Dutchwomen cheered her Italian teammate on through the radio as she realised she wouldn’t return to the front.

Niamh Fisher-Black

A face that spectators at home will remember after today if they did not know it already is that of Niamh Fisher-Black. The New-Zealander from SD Work – Protime drove the bunch for kilometers and kilometers behind a strong breakaway. “It may look like we have a lot of strong riders and it is easy to win, but we put a lot of work in today, that for sure. I worked for it!”

Fisher-Black also sees a change in the peloton, where other teams aren’t as keen to work together with or for SD Worx – Protime anymore. “It’s starting to catch up to us. Last year we were lucky a few times that we could play the game a little bit and make other teams work. I think they are starting to get a bit smart. Now we have to pull through and have to close it (the gaps) sometimes, we don’t want to take any risks.”

The next race Pro Cycling Women will cover with live updated in our app is the Miron Ronde van Drenthe next week.

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