World champion Annemiek van Vleuten made it five wins from five starts in 2020, as she defended her Strade Bianche title in stunning style in Siena. The 37-year-old looked to be out of the running before bridging across to a group of chasers with 16 kilometres remaining and then hunting down a lone leader to take another memorable victory on the white roads of Tuscany.
After getting underway in hot conditions, the third off-road section created the first split in the pack, leaving just 40 riders at the head of the race. But the tempo soon eased as the feed zone approached, and it was quickly all back together.
The fifth and longest gravel section saw the race come alive as the peloton was whittled down to a leading group of just 20 riders over the hilly sector. However, the following road section allowed a group of chasers to make it back on, taking the leading group up to around 40 riders with 50 kilometres to go.
It wasn’t long before the next set of attacks were launched as a group of 11 riders from 11 different teams went clear, including Australian champion Amanda Spratt. Mavi Garcia (Alé BTC Ljubljana) then went solo, taking advantage of the lack of cooperation in the group to open up a gap of over three-minutes.
The chase group struggled to get organised and several attacks reduced the numbers down to six riders. Spratt managed to go with the moves and was then joined by Van Vleuten who seemed to appear out of nowhere from the peloton to join her Mitchelton-SCOTT teammate.
The world champion quickly went to the front and drove the pace following a strong turn from Spratt. The rest of the chasers couldn’t live with the injection of pace and Van Vleuten went in pursuit of Garcia alone. The gap quickly began to fall, and the catch was eventually made on the outskirts of Siena.
Garcia held on doggedly with Van Vleuten unable to shake the Spaniard off her wheel despite a number of attacks, and it looked like it would come down to the final climb to the finish. As the duo rolled under the flamme rouge Van Vleuten moved to the front and launched her final assault, dropping Garcia to solo to another famous victory.
Annemiek van Vleuten: “Everything hard is good for me and is bad for my opponents, so I just think ‘I love the heat’. I’ve got so many emotions today, at first, I thought I came here for nothing. I couldn’t make my attack as my teammate Amanda was in front, and then suddenly a girl is away, Mavi Garcia, a really strong rider then I had to go full on the attack, so there were a lot of emotions.
“The speed was out of the group and then suddenly my team director said ‘Annemiek time for action’ just before the second to last gravel section, that was really uphill. That was actually the moment I had in my head to attack from the group in front hopefully, but now I had to attack there to close the gap.
“The Piazza del Campo is the most beautiful finish for me to win. I didn’t think I would catch Mavi Garcia and I believe the whole scenario made it a very spectacular race.”
Strade Bianche 2020 Results:
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 4:03:54
2. Mavi Garcia (Alé BTC Ljubljana) +0:22
3. Leah Thomas (Équipe Paule Ka) +1:53