Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) won the inaugural edition of the Elite Women’s Strade Bianche, finishing 37 seconds ahead of team mate, Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead.
The 29-year-old attacked a group of nine other escapees just over 17km before the finish line in the magnificent Piazza il Campo in Siena. Second at last year’s US Time Trial Championships, Guarnier quickly built a lead in excess of 20 seconds over the group, which, in turn, was soon whittled down to eight riders.
With the group failing to cooperate, the American’s lead grew to 45 seconds; a gap she managed to maintain up the final climb into the Tuscan City’s historic centre.
The peloton stayed together for the first 50 kilometres, before hitting the San Martinno in Grania gravel sector. The longest of the five sectors, at 9.5km the race split into three groups, before the remaining 14 riders split on the remaining sectors.
“I’m so happy,” Gauarnier told Cycling Weekly at the finish. “This is a dream come true. I saw this race last year for the men and I thought I want to win that race.”
For Armitstead, it was the climbs, rather than the white gravel roads that give the race it’s name, which made the race difficult. “I found the climbs the hardest part,” she told us, “It was the steepness of them towards the end, rather than the gravel,” she told us.
The 103 kilometre race tackled five gravel sectors totalling 17.4km. The longest, coming just over half way through the race, was 9.5 kilometres is length with a climb of 20%.