Strade Bianche brings blistering temperatures, gravel, and fantastic racing
It's been almost five months since Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank has stepped foot on to European soil, but, today, the Strade Bianche played host the return of the Women's WorldTour, and marked the official restart to the racing.
Temperatures soared over 100 degrees during the 136km race, which featured eight dry and dusty gravel sectors before finishing in Siena. And despite the visibly salty jerseys and the heat took taking its toll on most of the peloton, Diana Penuela steadily picked off tired riders to ride to a solid top 30 finish. Annemiek van Vleuten took the win. Team director Rachel Hedderman said the plan going into the race was to work for Lauren Stephens. "With only four riders, we decided not to focus on getting a rider into an early break," Hedderman said. "Diana and Leah (Dixon) would look for a potential break later in the race, and Nina (Kessler) would focus on making sure Lauren was in a good position in the gravel sections, especially the key section 5."
The heat played a huge factor in today's racing. Despite Stephens making the first group of 20 when the race blew up on sector five, she suffered from cramps in the extreme weather, which Hedderman said is to be expected given all the indoor racing the team has done lately. "Overall, I'm really happy with how well the team has gelled, they work together well, and I think it bodes well for future races," Hedderman said.