The third round of the Women’s World Tour returns this weekend with the Trofeo Alfredo Binda. It’s the oldest race in the WWT and normally provides some very exciting racing. Last year’s edition saw Lizzie Deignan (then Armitstead) attacking on the final descent along with Jolanda Neff, before out-sprinting the Swiss rider in the uphill drag to the line.
Neff was actually beaten to the line for second place by Armitstead’s team-mate, Megan Guarnier, who won the sprint out of the chasing group behind.
I expect we’ll see some more attacking and exciting racing this year so let’s take a look at what’s in store for the riders.
A tough parcours, with the road either going up or down for most of the day. There is no real respite!
The first half of the day will act as a leg softener but this race is all about the final circuit around Cittiglio itself.
The official profile of the circuit is a bit rubbish if I’m honest, so I’ve made a Strava profile of the circuit that you can view here.
Even it has its limitations though and the dramatic wall before the Orino climb should be taken with a pinch of salt!
Isolating the climbs themselves, the Casalzuigno climb is 1.9km long, averaging 4.1% in gradient. However, that does include a reasonably long false-flat drag at the start.
As you can see, it kicks up at around 6.5% for the final 900m. Gaps can certainly be made here with some early attacks!
We then have a quick descent followed by a few kilometres of flat before the main test of the closing circuit, the Orino Climb.
At 2.7km long and averaging 4.8%, like the Casalzuigno climb, that does not tell the whole story. There are a few hundred metre stretches, especially around the hairpin turns, that average over 9%! No doubt the pure climbers will be trying something here to distance the all-rounders.
There’s then a fast 4km descent before the final run to the finish line, with the closing 500m averaging 3.6%. Will we get a tough sprint like last year?
Back to back champion Deignan returns this year and will be hoping for a hat-trick of wins tomorrow. She’s only had one race day this year so far, a very respectable 3rd in Strade, so I’m intrigued to see if she’ll be up to full race speed as of yet! I remember reading an interview (can’t remember where – apologies!) in which she wanted a more gradual start to the season compared to 2016 where she burned herself out by the end of the Spring Classics. A good climber with a strong sprint after a tough day, if she is on form already then she will be tough to beat!
However, as per usual, Boels send an incredibly strong team to not only support her but with plenty of other options for the race victory. Their best alternative to Deignan looks like Anna van der Breggen! After missing Strade through illness the Dutchwoman returned to racing last weekend, doing a lot of the hard work chasing for her team-mates. The parcours here suits her better than those races and being one of the best riders in the world, on one of the best teams, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her cross the line first!
The main danger for Boels will more than likely be the current leader of the Women’s World Tour: Elisa Longo Borghini. The Italian is local to this area and has won here before, back in 2013. Already in scintillating form this year with a win in Strade and a 4th place in Ronde van Drenthe, you wouldn’t put it past her winning again tomorrow. She’ll be brimming with confidence and I’d be willing to put my metaphorically owned house that she will finish in the top 5, barring any misfortune caused by a crash or mechanical! Borghini will be ably supported by new team-mate Claudia Lichtenberg who could well feature herself at the pointy end of the race. More of a climber though, she would need to come to the finish solo.
Team Sunweb have arguably been the best performing squad of the season so far and the once again arrive at a race with a solid team. I imagine Ellen Van Dijk will be their leader as she has looked excellent this year so far. Unfortunate in Van Drenthe that Boels had their whole team pretty much to chase her down, she’ll be hoping to get a bit more leeway this race and solo to the line. Something that is certainly not a distant possibility! Leah Kirchmann has had a quiet start to the year in comparison to her breakthrough 2016 season. However, as a good all-rounder, she can’t be discounted if the proper climbers don’t make inroads on the hills. Packing a fast kick, the Canadian will fancy her chances in a 15 rider bunch gallop.
Marianne Vos is the most successful rider in this race’s history, with three wins in total. She arrives here with a very strong team and in fact, she probably won’t be the teams outright leader. I imagine she’ll almost play a sandbagging type role, covering attacks and waiting for the sprint. Instead, I think it will be Katarzyna Niewiadoma who has the best chance for the WM3 team! The Pole was unlucky in Strade but was just beaten by the better rider on the day, although she still managed to finish a great second place. I’m sure she’ll want to exact some revenge over Longo Borghini in her home race!
Canyon SRAM arrive with Alena Amialiusik as their leader. The Belarusian has finished 3rd/5th/5th in the past 3 editions so she certainly seems to go well at this race! She doesn’t have a great sprint so will need to arrive at the finish alone if she wants to win. One of her team-mates does have a good sprint after a tough day – Elena Cecchini. The Italian champion has finished in or around the top 10 in her last three appearances at this race but she has never made the front group. Although she’s climbing better than ever just now, I think like Kirchmann, she might want a group of 15 to arrive together.
You can never discount Orica pairing Garfoot and Van Vleuten, or FDJ’s Aussie Shara Gillow.
One curveball of a rider I would like to highlight is Cervelo Bigla’s young Danish talent; Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig.
She started the season off OK, but a breakthrough 9th place in Strade confirmed her talents. I mean, she was 9th at the European Champs and 10th at the Boels Rental Hills Classics last year so I guess it you could say it was coming! Following up from her great ride in Strade, she went on to take the overall title at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. She admits her main strength is climbing so it will be hard to win in a sprint but I will certainly be keeping an eye on her development this year.
A tough race to call and having numbers in the final lap will be of a big advantage. I’ll go for a rider who is going to take some big wins this year, and having the most decorated female cyclist of her generation sandbagging behind certainly will help her here. Katarzyna Niewiadoma to win! She is fast enough to win a small sprint but also strong enough to ride away on the climbs.
We are expected to get a live stream of the final 68km from 14:50 CET, that you can view here.
However, do be warned if last year’s stream is anything to go by then we might just get a studio show followed by a zoom-lens camera shot of the final straight. I hope that they’ve stepped their game up though!
Thanks for reading as always and as usual, any feedback/likes/shares is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? And will we see a solo winner or a small group sprint? I’ll have a lot of men’s previews on the site over the next few days but the next women’s preview will be Gent Wevelgem next Saturday. Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.