Existence of the event, in its first year, is a victory for the women’s peloton and it’s hoped the interest generated will encourage organisers to host more women’s races.
The Tuscan race is famous for its long gravel stretches and has been a men’s classic since 2009.
Shared start and finish lines guaranteed huge crowds and excited spectators viewed Guarnier’s 30 second lead and the battle that followed for second place.
The win was the sixth victory for Boels-Dolmans this season – and the Team DS said: “It was very impressive how she [Guarnier] managed to hold on and win this great race. The team is riding very strong at the moment, we kicked of this year in a great way.”
The race split at the half-way point, with 14 women breaking away before a long gravel stretch, and at the next section of rough surface, the breakaway become just five.
The select group included Guarnier, and Armitstead, as well as Longo Borghini, alongside Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Hitec Products) and Anna Van Der Breggen (Rabo Liv). The Beols-Dolmans girls worked together to combine attacks, with Guarnier escaping with about 20km to go.
American Guarnier, 29, said after the race: “The attacks from the other riders were relentless and Lizzie had to cover all of them. It gives you a lot of stength knowing that your teammates have your back.”
It’s hoped the organisers, RCS Sport, will be encouraged to host more women’s races, thanks to the attention the race generated.
Longo Borghini said: “It was really amazing to have a women’s Strade Bianche I think. This is a special race, because it’s not common for us to race on gravel. Different skills from the athletes come out in different parts, and this is nice because it gives other riders the chance to perform well. It’s a fascinating race.”
The Italian was recruited by Wiggle Honda to boost their Classics squad, and she added: “It would be really nice to have a women’s race alongside all the other Classics!”
The women’s peloton is growing and moving forward at an incredible rate – read our interview with Rochelle Gilmore to find out what she believes will help take it to the next level.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Wiggle Honda.