Strade Bianche: Women's World Tour Opener
The first World Tour race of 2018 was the 136km Italian Classic, Strade Bianche based on and around the old white gravel roads that traverse the Tuscan countryside near Siena. The 2018 edition included eight gravel sectors totalling 31.6km of these classic white roads which has been turned into a mixture of gravel, slush and water by torrential overnight rain that had washed away the earlier heavy snow.
With temperatures only just creeping over zero degrees it was certainly going to be an epic challenge for our reduced team of five riders. With Hannah Payton marooned in the UK our team was made up of Eva Buurman, Lizzie Holden, Abbey-Mae Parkinsdon, Abigail Van Twisk and Tayler Wiles. Our goal for this race was to build on our successes of last year and push our young team to a top twenty finish and a podium spot in the U23 competition.
Good positioning and teamwork were going to be key to achieve these objectives and despite the loss of Abi Van Twisk to an untimely puncture the remaining riders rode into the important fifth gravel section in good position. As the splitting peloton exited this section we had Abby-Mae Parkinson and Tayler Wiles in the front group and heading back into Siena with the very best bike riders in the world.
As the front group chased the breakaway riders to the outskirts of the city we had Abby-Mae well positioned in a top twenty slot and Tayler in the following group. In the uphill finale Abby-Mae rode to 22nd place and 3rd rider in the U23 competition that bodes well for the season ahead. Tayler continues to get stronger as her late spring targets become ever near; and with youngsters Eva and Lizzie both posting strong performances; our aspirations for 2018 look in good hands.
DS, Bob Varney reflected.
“As an ambitious development team with aspirations to become a true world tour team; one of our biggest challenges is to balance the continued progress of our homegrown talent with the signing of established riders to provide the necessary experience.
To have a young 20 year old British rider like Abby-May, being supported by an world class international like Tayler, in the closing stages of a race like Strade, really epitomises what our programme wants to continue to achieve.
It just shows the progress we have made over the winter to have Abby-Mae coming to the finish in a group sprinting for 11th in one of the toughest one day races on the world tour calendar. And with four riders finishing in the top 30% of the field it shows we have good strength in depth for the season ahead.
The conditions during and leading up to the race were challenging to say the least, and I’m extremely proud of all of the riders and staff who contributed to such a successful weekend.”