Van Vleuten seventh in the second edition of the Women's Strade BiancheSat 5 Mar 2016
Today's Strade Bianche marked the opening of the 2016 Women's WorldTour series with ORICA-AIS rider Annemiek Van Vleuten finishing in a respectable seventh place after a demanding day in the saddle around Siena.
World champion Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) took the race honours after an impressive ride escaping with two other riders around the 20km to go mark.
Sport director Gene Bates applauded the team's efforts today after a bit of bad luck at the start of the race with punctures and crashes.
"Annemiek was in a big pile up early on, luckily she got up and back into the peloton, then we had all six riders in the front 35 which was perfect," Bates said. "Unfortunately she then punctured just as we started the next gravel section, so it was a bit of a mess there but the rest of the race the girls were excellent."
"They all rode aggressively especially Gracie Elvin, Amanda Spratt and Annemiek and, they all made good decisions on the road."
After another top ten performance from the team Bates is confident the girls are riding well and a deserving result is soon to come.
"There's a really positive feeling at the moment within the team," he said. "The girls are making the most of the good form at the moment, we are really knocking on the door for a big result."
How it happened:
It was a cold, grey day as the peloton rolled out from the start line in Siena ready for a battle on the 'white roads'.
During the first part of the race the peloton began to break up with a number of riders moving off the front, but never successfully establishing a breakaway in these early stages.
As the pace lifted heading into the third gravel section - the longest of the day a 9.5km stretch through San Martino in Grania - the bunch had split into two groups with the latter rapidly losing ground on the leaders. The rain threatened to pour and the time gap between the two groups increased to over five minutes as the terrain gradually became harder and harder.
Two riders (Boels-Dolmans and Rabobank-Liv) broke free with 50km left to race and worked to increase their advantage between the gravel sections. After their stint out front gaining a maximum gap of 50seconds the duo were eventually caught. Tmmediately after Elvin found herself in a breakaway with nine other riders but their attempt was also short lived.
As the riders edged towards the toughest part of the race, the penultimate gravel section at 101km provided a spring board for further attacks. Three riders in Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans), Kasia Niewiadoma (Rabobank-Liv) and Emma Johansson (Wiggle-High5) jumped clear and quickly behind a chase group, including ORICA-AIS' Van Vleuten and six others, formed.
Through the final gravel section of the day the trio opened up their lead and within the final 10km of the race the gap grew to a one minute 45second ahead of the six chasers.
The three riders successfully stayed away to take the top three spots of the podium with Van Vleuten crossing the line in seventh.
ORICA-AIS will race again in the second round of the women's WorldTour - Drenthe on Saturday 12th March.
Strade Bianche Results:
1. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) 3:30:13
2. Kasia Niewiadoma (Rabobank-Liv) +03
3. Emma Johansson (Wiggle-High5) +13
7. Annemiek Van Vleuten (ORICA-AIS) +1:13