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Elisa Longo Borghini Takes Third Place In First Ever Women’s Strade Bianche

Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Elisa Longo Borghini took an excellent third place in the first ever edition of the Women’s Strade Bianche, across the unmade white roads of Tuscany. The 23-year-old Italian was just beaten to the line, in Siena’s historic Piazza del Campo, by Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) as they raced for second place, 37 seconds behind Armitstead’s teammate Megan Guarnier’s solo victory.

“I’m really happy with this race,” Logo Borghini said. “The team worked really well until the longest section of gravel. They managed to put me in the best position, and from there we were 15 riders – I think – with the majority of Boels, Rabo and Bigla. All I had to do was basically to follow them, and to stay with them.”

A group of 14 riders broke clear at the front of the race as it crossed the longest section of Strade Bianche, at San Martino in Grania, just after the halfway point of the 103km course. Longo Borghini was present, while Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling teammate Audrey Cordon-Ragot was in a group of three riders just behind.

On the next gravel section the lead group was cut to just five, with Longo Borghini, Guarnier, Armitstead, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Hitec Products) and Anna Van Der Breggen (Rabo Liv). The two Boels-Dolmans riders then combined attacks on the next section, which saw Guarnier escape with around 20km to go, and the American rider was able to build her decisive lead.

“In the end Guarnier went away,” Longo Borghini explained. “They were playing with the numbers. They were too many for me; I couldn’t follow them. But I’m satisfied. I’m really happy.”

With Guarnier almost a minute ahead and approaching the final climb to the finish, the battle for second place began behind her. On the steep slopes of the final kilometre, with gradients of up to 16%, Longo Borghini, Armitstead and Moolman-Pasio fought for the remaining podium positions.

“First Moolman attacked, and Lizzie countered and I followed,” Longo Borghini explained. “I managed to pass Moolman and took second in the sprint. I didn’t really know my level at the moment, I didn’t know my condition, but after this race I feel a bit more confident about my shape. I think I’m there, and I think I can perform well in the next races.”

The Strade Bianche is organised by RCS Sport, which also runs the Giro d’Italia, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-Sanremo and il Lombardia.  After the success of this first women’s edition of what – despite only having been run since 2007 – is one of the biggest one-day races on the Italian calendar, Longo Borghini hopes that there may be more to come.

“It was really amazing to have a women’s Strade Bianche I think,” she said. “It’s really important for women’s cycling – and for Italian cycling. 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.

“It would be really nice to have a women’s race alongside all the other Classics!”

1. Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans)
2. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans)
3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)

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