In March, the team travelled to Siena, Italy, ready for Strade Bianche, but COVID 19 began to take hold and the race was postponed at the last minute. The team returned to its base in Belgium hoping to race the Spring Classics, but when the U.S President announced an impending Europe/U.S travel ban, team Founder Linda Jackson had the team return home immediately, just before quarantine set in
"A few months ago, I made a joke that it's like time froze," said Lauren Stephens, who is quarantining in the UK for two weeks with team director Rachel Hedderman. "I flew to Italy in February to prepare for Strade Bianche, only to have the race canceled a few days before it was supposed to take place. Four months and almost 100 Zwift races later, I'm returning to Italy to restart the season right where I left off!"
Now, we're back in Italy and ready for round 2. The Strade Bianche, the second Women's WorldTour race of the season, starts August 1. Strict COVID-19 measures are in place. Two tests are given to each rider six and three days before the start of the race, and every test must be negative.
"The last time we went to Strade, Covid-19 was just beginning," Kessler said. "When other teams were not sure about traveling and going to Italy, it was the first time that I noticed things were getting serious. When we arrived, we hoped the races wouldn't be canceled. The disappointment was huge when returning home.
"To restart 'real' racing with Strade again feels kind of weird, but also good, to restart where we left off."
Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank will start Saturday's race with a roster of four. It's taken a considerable coordination effort by staff members to get the team to Europe and meet the race's COVID-19 requirements. Diana Peñuela even flew on a private plane, chartered by Colombia for its athletes, to arrive safely in Europe.
"It's been a real challenge to get everything in place," Hedderman said. "But I'm happy we've pulled it off and i'm looking forward to directing from the road again."
Strade Bianche starts at noon CET. Fans can watch via Fubo.tv or Sky starting at 13:40 CET. More details on how to watch can be found here.
Those not racing Strade Bianche, will be taking part in Zwift's Colorado Classic ride, starting at 6 p.m. MDT on Wednesday, July 29. The ride will be an easy pace, led by former pro Mari Holden. For each rider who joins, Zwift will donate five dollars to the teams who would have been racing Colorado Classic. Check out coloradoclassic.com/zwift for details. Can't ride but still want to help? You can still donate by texting "WERIDE" to 797979.