The Women’s World Tour is underway and competition is hotting up. A stellar edition of Strade Bianche kicked things off earlier this month and following the cancellation of the Ronde van Drenthe, Trofeo Alfredo Binda will be the second race of the WWT in 2021, taking place on Sunday 21st March.
A staple in the women’s cycling calendar, this year’s event will be the 46th edition of the race. Named after the great Italian champion Alfredo Binda, it has a rich history and a uniquely unpredictable nature. We’ve seen sprinters, puncheurs and climbers win in previous years: the hilly – but not mountainous – route caters to a variety of rider types.
The main feature of the race will be the Orino climb. Similar to the Mur du Huy in Fleche Wallonne or the Muur van Geraardsbergen in De Ronde, it is a trademark of the race and will likely be a springboard for attacks. The riders will make the first ascent of the 3.5km Orino climb after only 18km of racing, soon after the first intermediate sprint of the day.
Although the riders will still have over 120km to contend with after this point, it might be that we see some early splits, especially if strong teams such as SD Worx or Trek Segafredo want to whittle the group down, or if the intermediate sprint is fiercely contested.
After the first ascent of Orino, the riders will tackle a longer loop, including one 4km climb, before heading back towards the town of Cittiglio for four final laps. In each of these finishing loops, the riders will climb the steeper part of Orino – around 3km at 6% average gradient.
The final climb comes with 10km to the finish and then we see a downhill and flat run in, perhaps making the race most suitable for puncheurs who will be able to make it over the top of Orino and finish strongly in a reduced sprint.
The main story of the Women’s World Tour so far has been the dominance of SD Worx. With four riders in the top 12 at Strade Bianche, their collective strength has posed a real challenge to their competitors.
World Champion Anna van der Breggen is their option for a long-range attack. In Omloop het Nieuwsblad earlier this year, she gave a masterclass on how to ride to a perfect solo win. Winner of Strade Bianche, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak will be a good back-up for SD Worx on a course like this, after displaying her climbing abilities when she rode away from Elisa Longo Borghini on the steep ramps to Siena two weeks ago.
Chantal van den Broek-Blaak on the way to winning Strade Bianche
Demi Vollering has also proved herself as an excellent teammate following her move to SD Worx this season, playing a crucial role in allowing Van der Breggen to launch her attack in Omloop. Vollering’s results last year – third in both La Course and Fleche Wallonne – also indicate that she can compete for the win if she is given the opportunity.
Perhaps we can expect to see other riders working together to try and rattle SD Worx. Four-time winner and defending champion Jumbo Visma’s Marianne Vos, might be up for these tactics.
Vos can excel on the punchy climbs and also finish very strongly from a small group, as she proved in the 2019 edition of Trofeo Binda. Other climbing talents such as Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Amanda Spratt and Kasia Niewiadoma (winner in 2018) will be looking to make their moves on the Orino climb, hoping to reach the finish line solo or in a small group.
Of course, there is the matter of European Champion Annemiek van Vleuten that these riders will need to contend with. By her high standards, she may have been disappointed with her result in Het Nieuwsblad, her first race of the season. However, she showed she is coming into form in Strade Bianche, with a strong fourth place following an attacking race, and will be out with a vengeance this Sunday.
Annemiek van Vleuten (Photo credit: Corvos/SWPix.com)
Despite the challenging climb each lap, the race could – and has in previous years – finish in a bunch sprint. Trek Segafredo’s Lizzie Deignan can produce a fast kick after a difficult race, as can Team DSM’s Coryn Rivera. Both former winners of this Trofeo Binda, they can take confidence going into this year’s race.
Elisa Balsamo of Valcar Travel and Service has just taken her first win of 2021 in GP Oetingen. Despite the different parcours of Trofeo Binda and the climbing challenges it presents, Balsamo has proved she is on fine form and will pose a challenge should she make it to the finish in the front group. On home roads and well supported by her teammates, Balsamo is one to watch.
Canyon-Sram’s Mikayla Harvey showed great potential last season, winning the youth classification in the Giro Rosa and coming 7th in Fleche Wallonne. These results landed her a two-year contract with the German team. She is a strong climber and will be a great support to Niewiadoma each time they approach Orino.
The young Australian superstar Sarah Gigante of Team TIBCO-SVB will make her 2021 debut on the European stage and it will be exciting to see what she can do among a stacked World Tour field. Her climbing skills are exceptional and she is outstanding in the Individual Time Trial, winning the Australian Championships two years in a row, despite being only 20 years old. Her ITT ability means she is not a rider you would want to allow any distance in a solo breakaway.
Should she pick her moment right, she may be able to utilize her relatively unknown presence on the European scene to sneak away from a bunch who have their eyes fixed on the bigger names.
How to watch it
Trofeo Alfredo Binda will be shown on Eurosport and on GCN+ in the UK and United States (amongst other territories), and Rai Sport in Italy.
Cover image: Alex Broadway/SWPix