The white gravel roads of Tuscany will play host to the first race of the new Women’s World Tour tomorrow as the pro peloton attacks the second edition of the Women’s Strade Bianche.
The races in the World Tour include classics, stage races and short snappy crits – there’s a full outline of what to watch and when here. The introduction of the new format means a total of 35 UCI World Tour Race days for the women and it’s geared towards increasing exposure and excitement around women’s pro racing.
The winner of the Tuscan classic, Strade Bianche, will be the first to wear the leader’s jersey, so it’ll be a hard fought battle that many are keen to win. The race, now in its second year, covers 121 kilometres, 22 of which are over dirt roads, and there’s a total of 1,800 metres of elevation gain.
The event was won by Megan Guarnier of Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team last year, with her team mate Lizzie Armitstead in second. The squad are certainly hoping for an equally successful outing in 2016, and considering their Armistead-Blaak 1-2 at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last weekend, they’re clearly in good form.
— Boels-Dolmans (@boelsdolmansct) March 4, 2016
Canyon//SRAM will be sending a team of five riders: Trixi Worrack, who recently won the Tour of Qatar, plus Tiffany Cromwell, Alena Amialiusik, Alexis Ryan and Lisa Brennauer. Sports director Ronny Lauke told us he expects to see the action take place in the latter half of the race, saying: “The first half of the race is rather good conditions, not so demanding with just one climb and two dirt road sections. While the second half is the most challenging with more climbs and longer dirt roads.
“There will be a pre-selection or elimination style in the first half but the final result for certain will be made in the second half of the race, closer towards Sienna. The profile makes the race so hard and I don’t think there will be a surprise with who wins tomorrow.”
Racing for Cervelo Bigla, Carmen Small checked out the course on a recent recce – she said: “It’s not as easy as it looks on paper. It’s always nice to see a course before you race it and this is one of the hardest courses. It’s up there with any of the old World Cup courses. There will be a selection at a certain point and from 60km on, there is no rest. You’re going up and down. In three of the sections it’s 13% for 400 metres, it’s really hard.”
Rain is on the cards for the day – and Wiggle High5 have been sharing pictures of the course which certainly show that the conditions are tough enough without the addition of yet more water works.
— Wiggle High5 (@WiggleHigh5) March 3, 2016
This is the first of the UCI Women’s World Tour events and though it won’t be shown live on TV, it’s so important we show the world that pro women’s cycling is something we want to see more of. Keep up with the action via the Strade Bianche Twitter feed here, and through the UCI Women’s Cycling feed here.