Annemiek van Vleuten rode the third-fastest final 25km of Strade Bianche 2020 out of both the men’s and women’s peloton at the weekend.
The world champion said at one point she thought her race was over, as she found herself behind the main chase group of favourites, hunting down Mavi Garcia (Alé-BTC Ljubljana) who had escaped up the road.
However, with around 25km to go, her sports director told her to attack at the point where she had planned a move had she been at the pointy end of racing, instead accelerating to claw back the chase group in front of her.
With 6km to go, she had managed to bridge the five-minute gap to Garcia, eventually dispensing with her on the narrow streets of Siena to successfully defend her title.
The effort required to make it five wins out of five since racing returned from the coronavirus break meant Van Vleuten rode the third-fastest final 25km of both the men’s and women’s races.
Her time of 46-35 required an average speed of 33.3km/h over both gravel sectors and tough inclines, reaching a maximum of 82.8km/h.
Only the winner of the men’s race, Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), and seventh-placed Brent Bookwalter (Mitchelton-Scott) managed quicker times of the 2020 participants, of which only 87 across both races finished.
Bookwalter was just a minute quicker as he recorded one of the best results of his career, while Van Aert’s effort gave him the fourth-best overall time on the segment.
The Belgian rode the final 25km in 42-10 at an average speed of 36.8km/h as he responded to attacks from his rivals before launching his own move to take a great solo victory.
Van Aert’s time was only 39 seconds slower than Petr Vakoc, who’s 41-41 effort tops the leaderboard, followed closely by Greg Van Avermaet and Tiesj Benoot, only seconds slower in the same 2016 edition, with all three finishing in the top 10 as Fabian Cancellara took his third and final Strade Bianche win.
Former professional rider turned GCN host Daniel Lloyd also saw his numerous KoMs taken by Wout van Aert, which he had set back in the 2009 edition, finishing ninth while riding for the Cervelo Test Team, 19 seconds behind winner Thomas Löfkvist (Columbia-HTC).
At the post-race press conference, Annemiek van Vleuten gave some insight into her training methods, having previously completed eight-hour “empty the tank” training rides and joined her male Mitchelton-Scott counterparts on training rides.
“I think my approach, maybe before, was that because we have four-hour races we train for four-hour races. But me and my coach took another approach and were like, no, we want to challenge you and stress your body, and we want to get get you as fit as possible,” she said. “So I don’t train for the length of the races, I train to be as fit as possible. And I think that’s maybe a different mindset in training.”