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  New on the women's calendar for 2015 is one of the most exciting races Strade Bianche. Perfectly situated between the opening Belgium classics and the weekend of the trio of races in the Netherlands situated around the Ronde van Drenthe.

The Route


At 103km the race is relatively short but it will be one of the hardest races on the calendar. The main feature is the gravel sections, of which there is five for a total of 17km but the route is also full of short steep climbs that will put a lot of riders under pressure.

The race starts climbing almost immediately and is likely to put some riders out the back from the start and the majority of the race is up and down. The first gravel section Pian del Lago comes after 32.9km and is 2.2km. Likely to be the first real test and is likely to break the peloton in to several groups. The second and longest of the gravel sections starts at 58.8km just after Monteroni d'Arbia and lasts 9.5km. Making the section worse is the fact the majority of it is uphill. If you lose contact here your race is very likely over as the strongest riders move ahead.

After approximately 10km downhill section what remains face the 2.2km Bv. per Pieve a Bozzone section after 80.3km. If the first 80km wasn't hard enough then the final 20km gets harder. There is two more gravel sections and three very short and steep climbs.

Final 20km

The penultimate section through Bv. per San Giorgio with 19.3km remaining is 2.4km long and starts off with a very steep uphill ramp reaching 15%. As riders move off the gravel section they will have a brief respite before the road again starts to climb ahead of the final section. At 1.1km it is the shortest of the race but inside the final 500m the road kicks up to 18%. Over the top there is 12km remaining. There is another rise with eight kilometres remaining that could be used as a launching point for any last attacks.

With just over three kilometres remaining there is a brief downhill section before the road starts to climb with 2km to go with a gradient of around 9% as riders reach 900m to go. The next 400m are over 10% before hitting 16% as the road kicks up one final time with 500m remaining at Via Santa Caterina.

After the steep section the road continues to climb before a quick descent over the final few hundred meters ahead of a flat finish in Siena's Piazza del Campo. If a rider gets a gap over the top of Via Santa Caterina they will be hard to catch with the quick run in to the finish.

The Contenders

Start list available here

Lizzie Armitstead and Boels Dolmans

After a big recruitment drive over the past two seasons Boels Dolmans have been the team to beat in 2015. Three stages and first and third overall from Lizzie Armitstead and Ellen Van Dijk in Qatar. 2nd, 3rd and 4th and 8th at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad after having the numbers in every move before winning Le Samyn des Dames on the weekend with Chantal Blaak. The team again has the strength and multiple cards to play.

Lizzie Armitstead comes in with good form having won two stages in Qatar and the bunch sprint at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last weekend. Very quick from a select group and is back to winning bunch sprints but also climbs very well as we saw when she finished second at La Fleche Wallonne last year. The race is a big target for her and the short steep climbs are where she is at her best.

Megan Guarnier is another rider with form second overall at the Women's Tour of New Zealand ad ninth at Le Samyn earlier this week. One of the strongest and smartest climbers in the field and never goes beyond what she knows she can do. The undulating course suits her. Don't be surprised to see her go on the attack knowing Lizzie Armitstead is another card for the team.

Emma Johansson and Orica-AIS

Fifth in Qatar, 14th at Het Nieuwsblad before rounding out the podium at Le Samyn. Whatever the race you can be sure that Johansson will be in contention. Another rider who excels on the short sharp climbs and from a small group is dangerous. Has a strong team to support her including Gracie Elvin who comes from a mountain bike background and has had her best start to a European season to date.

Katrin Garfoot won the time trial and finished third in the road race at the Oceania Championships last month in a sign that she has recovered from injury that saw her miss the Australian summer. Still new to racing in Europe having joined Orica-AIS mid way through 2014. A puncheur who is likely to be key support for Johansson in the closing stages. Former Australian Champion Amanda Spratt looks to be re-finding her form from several years that saw her finished fourth at Trofeo Alfredo Binda. Likes to attack so expect to see her off the front at some stage. Italian Valentina Scandolara is climbing and sprinting better than ever and on home roads look for her to put in a strong ride.

Anna Van der Breggan and Rabo

The race was all but made for former road and cyclocross World Champion Marianne Vos but an injury is keeping her sidelined here. Newly crowned cyclocros and road World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot is also absent but the team brings the in form Anna Van der Breggan.

Van der Breggan might only have two race days in her legs but when you have won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and finished second at Le Samyn her form speaks for itself. Had a strong 2014 winning Festival Luxembourgeois Elsy Jacobs and Ladies Tour of Norway plus podium finishes at Emakumeen Euskal Bira, Giro Rosa and Lotto Belisol Belgium Tour. The rider with the best form in the race and with a course that suits her there is a good chance she will again find herself on the podium.

16th at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and 15th Le Samyn des Dames sees Katarzyna Niewiadoma claim a strong start to the year. With Van der Breggan flying it is hard to see the team work for someone else here but as a backup plan the 20 year old is a strong one. Consistent across 2014 including picking up her first professional win at Frauen Grand Prix Gippingen and just missing the top 10 at the Giro Rosa.

After a difficult 2014 Shara Gillow has a new team and has already tasted success reclaiming her Australian time trial title. When on form Gillow climbs with the best in the world and regardless of it she is supporting Van der Breggan or has an opportunity for herself is not a name to ignore.


Wasn't at her best in Australia in January but since starting her international season Tiffany Cromwell has been building form. Seventh in Qatar and fifth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is a sign Cromwell is close to the mark of picking up another win. Was close on more times one can count in 2014 and an early win this year will be important for her confidence. The undulating course and short climbs is perfect for Cromwell and her sprint is better than ever.

Champion of Belarus Alena Amialiusik is a name to watch closely. Might not be a name many immediately think of but Amialiusik often surprises. Rounded out the podium at Trofeo Alfredo Binda before finishing 14th at the Giro Rosa and top five at La Route de France and Tour de l'Ardeche. Strong on the short steep climbs and has a decent finish. Watch out for Lisa Brennauer as well.


South African and African Continental Champion Ashleigh Moolman has had a solid start to her European season, finishing 11th at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and a further improvement of sixth at Le Samyn des Dames. Moolman is at her best when the race has been difficult and that is what we are likely to see here. The constant undulating and short steep climbs is likely to see Moolman in a select group of favourites.

2011 World Cup overall winner Annemiek Van Vleuten will be looking to step up another level this year. The second half of 2014 saw Van Vleuten return to her best winning two stages of the Giro Rosa and three stages and the overall at Lotto Belisol Belgium Tour. A potent sprint from a smaller group and with Moolman the duo could pose a real threat to some of the favourites.

Wiggle Honda

Wiggle bring a strong team including two time World Champion Giorgia Bronzini, two time Giro Rosa winner Mara Abbott and hilly classics specialist Elisa Longo Borghini. Giorgia Bronzini is a name to beat in any bunch sprint throughout the season and will give everything she has but the course is likely to be too hard for Wiggle to control for a bunch sprint. When the roads start to climb Mara Abbott is always a name to watch but it is the longer climbs where she excels.

Elisa Longo Borghini has been threatening to take another big win after her success at Trofeo Alfredo Binda in 2013. The race suits her, the short steep climbs and being on Italian roads her motivation will be even higher. Was the best young rider at the Giro Rosa in 2012 and fifth overall last year so there is no doubting her talent. The closing stages give her a perfect opportunity to attack and take a solo victory.

Lotto Soudal

Italian Champion Elena Cecchini will be looking forward to showing off her tricolour jersey on Italian roads. Climbs well and was frequently on the attack at Emakumeen Euskal Bira last year but this will be another test and the frequency on the climbs might just prove too much for Cecchini.

In Jessie Daams and Carlee Taylor the team has two of the most underrated riders in the peloton. Daams is under the radar but is often around the mark, finishing top 20-30 even when the races are not overly suited to her. 20th at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and 25th Le Samyn des Dames in a sign of decent form. Doesn't have a super quick finish but climbs well, has finished in the top 20 of the Giro Rosa. Without a standout favourite Daams could continue to fly under the radar and post a strong result. Taylor is often seen working on the front for others but when she gets an opportunity for herself can be relied on to get a result.

Other names to watch: Eugenia Bujak and Rosella Ratto.
 © 2016