A host of the world’s best elite female riders are preparing to battle it out tomorrow at the first ever Strade Bianche Women’s Elite.
The Italian race has been a feature of the men’s pro cycling calendar since 2007 and is known for its long stretches of Tuscan gravel roads.
Lizzie Armitstead has already made known her plans to target the race, but the Boels Dolmans rider will be joined on the start line strong Italian rider, Elisa Longo Borghini, from Wiggle Honda along with team mate Giorgia Bronzini.
Marianne Vos was due to race, but will no longer be starting, so Rabo Liv will be headed up by Anna van der Breggen for Rabo Liv Women. Fresh from victory at Beligian Classic Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the 24-year-old is another contender.
The women’s race takes place on the same day as the men’s, setting off 90 minutes earlier, and shares the same start and finish points, with a shorter distance of 103km to the men’s 200.
The defining feature of the early classic has always been short, punchy climbs, and the inclusion of long dirt and gravel sections. The women’s route will cover 17km of gravel road, called ‘sterrati’ in Italy.
Not far from the finale in historic Sienna, the route will hit Le Tolfe, which boasts a gradient of 18 per cent, before 12km of rolling terrain that culminates in a sprint.
The race is organised by RCS Sport, and this is their first step into hosting a women’s race.
It is hoped it will lead to the addition of further opportunities, and race director Mauro Vegni said during the official presentation in Siena: “We are very proud to be able to announce the birth of Strade Bianche Women, which is going to enrich a movement in continuous development and show how RCS Sport continues to invest in the cycling world.”
You can watch the event on Eurosport, with coverage beginning at 1.15pm, though it isn’t clear how much of the live footage will be from the women’s race.