The opening race of the UCI Women’s WorldTour new season will start with Strade Bianche in Siena, Italy on Saturday 9 March. The fifth edition of the race has quickly become a favourite due to the stunning landscape, gravel roads, sheer difficulty and a magical finish atmosphere. After riders endured epic weather in last year’s race, fine conditions are predictions for the 136km battle on Saturday.
CANYON//SRAM Racing will take on the race with a roster of Alena Amialiusik, Hannah Barnes, Elena Cecchini, Tiffany Cromwell, first-timer Hannah Ludwig, and Kasia Niewiadoma.
“I will never forget that day. I could not speak for two hours after the race because my throat was frozen. In the camper afterwards, my teammates and I communicated just with eyes. No words could, or needed to be spoken by anyone. We raced aggressive and our efforts and pain were rewarded with a podium (Niewiadoma finished second),” recalls Elena Cecchini after battling in conditions that will be remembered for a long time to come.
The 2019 parcours has eight gravel sections for a total of over 31km of the infamous white roads of Tuscany. With the finale climbing Via Santa Caterina, with its 16% steep pitches, before entering into Piazza del Campo, the race has one of the most fairytale finishes imaginable.
“It’s one of the most beautiful races on the calendar. It really is special. Unique and different to those of the northern classics. And the finish into the piazza in Siena has got to be one of the most special and picturesque finishes we have,” said Cromwell.
“In a short time, its already reached a super prestigious status. It’s a hard race, very different from any other during the season and that’s why it’s so special. It requires not only strength but also a lot of bike handling skills,” added Cecchini.
No rider has won the women’s edition more than once, and although it has proven elusive for Niewiadoma, finishing second for the last three consecutive years, the Polish rider dispels any always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride pressure that comes from media.
“To be honest it doesn’t bother me. I really love this race! It gives me good feelings even though I suffer so much on every ‘little’ hill. I have learned a lot each year but yes, I’ve never won this epic battle. I have another chance in just few days and I’m so excited to give it another try!”
Niewiadoma says she never approaches races calling herself the leader. “Whenever I’m given the leader role I try to stay calm and show a lot of energy so I can affect my teammates only with good and positive vibes! But honestly, I don’t really call myself a’ leader’ even when the race course suits me. I think that each of us has equal chance to do something during the race. I can say though, that whenever I see our well-oiled team working hard to achieve one goal, I get super inspired and it makes me ready to make the final and suffer to the fullest!” declared Niewiadoma.
When: Saturday 9 March at 09:05CET
Where: 136km from Siena to Siena
How: on Twitter with #UCIWWT #StradeBianche or livestream from 12:25CET to 13:25CET, check here for broadcast details.