Elisa Longo Borghini and Michał Kwiatkowski put on a show this weekend at the Strade Bianche, getting the European season well and truly underway with two exciting wins at what is undoubtedly one of the calendar’s great races. And true to form, the inGamba crew were there in the thick of it, cheering on the world’s best riders after spending a week in Chianti sampling the best – and the worst – that Tuscany’s infamous gravel backroads have to offer.
Kwiatkowski returned to the top of the podium in Siena, following his dramatic win in 2014 over Peter Sagan, with another typically gutsy move in the final kilometers of the race. The former World Champion broke with 15 kilometers to go, leaving a group full of pre-race favorites like Ždenek Štybar and Greg Van Avermaet in his dust.
Borghini, meanwhile, played a perfect tactical game, after recovering from a crash that caused her to switch bikes with a teammate, in a dramatic edition of the women’s race, battling with a star-studded breakaway that included last year’s winner Lizzie Deignan, to come out on top after a grueling 127-kilometers that were raced at a frightening pace in unforgiving conditions.
InGamba’s current roster will have had plenty of sympathy for both stars – and everyone else in the peloton – having spent the week testing themselves on the most challenging terrain in Tuscany, including the notorious climb to Monte Sante Marie.
Speaking after the race, Kwiatkowski said: “I had a very difficult season last year but I’m happy with my current situation – I can have some fun riding my bike again. I knew from the past editions that the Sante Marie sector is far from the finish. I had difficulties there when Van Avermaet, [Tim] Wellens and Štybar pushed hard but they actually got rid of their own team-mates, not me. I think I went solo at the right moment. It’s great to have won this race twice. It’s also a great idea from the organizers to name a gravelled sector after triple winners. I haven’t thought of which sector I’d like to have but I’m jealous of Fabian Cancellara who chose the Sante Marie. I don’t know if I’ll win three but I’m already looking forward to coming back.”
Borghini echoed the Polish rider’s sentiments, telling the press-conference: “It’s been a spectacular race for the public to watch but also for us to contest it. I watched a lot of videos from the past editions of the Strade Bianche for men and women so I was convinced of being able to win, providing that I’d take the last curve in first position. This race is particularly fascinating, due to the cultural and artistic level of the surroundings. I thank RCS for giving us the media exposure we don’t always enjoy.”
And our thoughts? Shanna Sauer, a first-timer to Lecchi, had this to say: “I enjoy riding in the rain, but it was really nice to not have to be out in my kit, watching the race. I didn’t want to be that fan in their chamois on the side of the road all day! I got to enjoy the atmosphere of the race comfortably. Seeing the different sectors of the course, where we’d already ridden this week, watching the racing after riding it, gave me a better perspective and more respect for the riders.”
“Going to the Strade Bianche race was an unforgettable experience,” said Nathan Codding, a repeat offender with inGamba. “From behind-the-scenes access at the start, to being in the perfect place at the perfect time to see the key move on Monte Sante Marie, to the electric atmosphere at the Piazza del Campo – inGamba delivered an amazing day.”
For more details on our upcoming Tuscany trips – and the rest of our 2017 calendar – click here.