2022 Strade Bianche Donne Preview

Siena > Siena 135.9km

The women’s peloton rolls into Italy, and we’re all set for the first world tour race of 2022. The organisers have stuck with the same route that’s been used in previous years, there’s no need to change it. As usual, we’ll see lots of attacking riding and exciting racing.

Weather

Sunny and cold. There’s quite a lot of wind around, and it will mainly be tailwind in the final 10km.

Key Points

Sector 6 is Monteaperti, it’s a steep one.

Then we have Colle Pinzutto, the longest of the sectors in the finale.

Sector 8 – Le Tolfe. Don’t underestimate the downhill section.

Finale

The finish in Piazza del Campo is one of the most beautiful in the sport. The wicked gradients on the hill up to it are punishing and perfect for puncheurs to make a difference. If two riders are together at the end, the first into the final corner takes the win.

Tactics

Movistar have started the season on fire, taking wins in Valenciana, Omloop and Le Samyn, but this is a different kettle of fish. Having numbers in the finale is incredibly important for Van Vleuten, which of her teammates can go the distance? The short answer is none of them, which gives the other teams a big advantage over her. The team will hope Katrine Aalerud is on a good day.

Van Vleuten’s performance in Omloop was out of this world. She rode without help from the Muur to the finish and still had enough to beat Vollering in the sprint, it really was something special. Everyone knows her current form is exceptional, so how do they beat her?

The answer is numbers. As usual SD Worx arrives with the strongest team, this is how they won the race last year. They have their young guns, Shackley and Fisher-Black, to help blow the race apart, which leaves Van Der Broek-Blaak, Kopecky, Moolman and Vollering for the finale. As the winning move can go at any point, you don’t always need to be the strongest climber to escape the bunch. They’ll rotate the attacks until the right group gets away, all four of their captains are good enough to take the win.

Trek – Segafredo and FDJ will also hope to have a couple of riders in the front group, which gives them a chance of winning the race. If this happens, they should be able to escape with a SD Worx rider, it would be unlikely for someone to solo away if other teams have domestiques to chase. Here’s what will happen:

  1. SD Worx will blow the race apart.
  2. They will attack Van Vleuten and get a small group away off the front with whoever has multiple riders in the front group.
  3. Everyone will look at Van Vleuten to chase.
  4. She might! 
  5. We’ll have to see if strength in depth beats pure strength.

Contenders

Annemiek Van Vleuten – current form is off the chart, but she needs teammates after sector 5 if she’s going to win this race. We have a long section of tarmac road between sector 5 and 6, this is where she’s vulnerable. If she has help in this section, I think she’ll win the race, it really is that important to have teammates in the front group. If isolated, it’s very complicated for her to win, even though she’s currently flying. 

SD Worx – I would think that Demi Vollering is their best option. She didn’t have the legs to win the sprint in Omloop, but she was able to follow Van Vleuten up the Muur and Bosberg, which was impressive in itself. The hills are a little steep for Kopecky, but as I’ve mentioned, the winning move doesn’t have to go on the climbs. I think the team will try and manufacture a situation where Vollering is in the small front group, then it’s over to her.

Cecilie Ludwig – always up there challenging, she’s a very consistent rider. Second in Valenciana was a great start to the season, she’ll hope that SD Worx have an off day and she can seize the opportunity.

Eliza Longo Borghini – current form isn’t quite there, but she’ll be better than she was in Omloop. Winning will be very difficult, just look at what happened last year.

Katarzyna Niewiadoma – another quality performer who’s always there or there abouts. She rarely wins the big races, but she’ll continue to knock on the door. Most would be delighted to see it eventually open.

Marianne Vos – given her CX record, you’d think this race was perfect for her, but it’s not. I think the climbs are so steep it favours the climbers more than her, that’s why she’s never even finished on the podium here. I don’t see it changing this year.

Prediction Time

Given her current form, I’ll take a win for Annemiek Van Vleuten, even though it’s going to be hard against SD Worx.

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