Van Vleuten soloes to victory to claim Strade Bianche
Annemiek van Vleuten won the 2019 Strade Bianche with a magnificent ride for Mitchelton-Scott.
The Dutch rider was contesting only her second race after returning from injury but soloed to victory on the picturesque streets of Siena.
Van Vleuten could not be caught at the end of a very quick 136km race, which signalled the start of the Women's WorldTour season. Denmark's Annika Langvad was second, 37 seconds off the pace. Poland's Katarzyna Niewiadoma was third, a further three seconds off the pace.
It is Van Vleuten's first victory at Strade Bianche, adding to her 2018 Giro Rosa title, two La Course by Le Tour de France titles and two World Championship time trial titles.
Van Vleuten crashed during the World Championships in September and took six weeks off to help her recovery from a nasty knee injury. Her return to racing saw her claim fourth place at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last weekend.
But her magnificent ride across the white gravel of Tuscany on Saturday signals she is already back to her best.
'I thought it was maybe too early'
Annemiek van Vleuten of The Netherlands and Team Mitchelton - ScottGetty Images
Van Vleuten said after her triumph: "I thought it was maybe a bit too early because I’ve just had 10 weeks of training after I broke my knee at the World Championships. But I worked very, very hard because the race was on my wish list to win one time. It’s one of my favourite races.
"I just waited for a good moment (to attack), there was only one team-mate with me, only Lucy Kennedy, and it was really good for us to be there together but we were a bit outnumbered. We were only two in a big group so we had to poker a bit, then I thought I had to put the hammer down on the uphill!
" It’s one of my best victories, to win here, I said yesterday when we had a picture here in the Piazza del Campo, I think it’s the best way to finish a race here."