Lotte Kopecky sticks her tongue out in celebration on winning the 2024 women's Strade Bianche.

Weather, rising level, and new finale: Strade Bianche finds recipe for success

The world champion's victory surprised no one, but it was still a thrilling day out at Strade Bianche.

Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime) wins 2024 Strade Bianche women. Photo: © Cor Vos

Abby Mickey
by Abby Mickey 02.03.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
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For years the winning move of Strade Bianche has gone before the final gravel sector, but on Saturday, a group of around 19 riders went into that final stretch of dirt road together. With the weather, the additional four gravel sectors, and the strength of SD Worx-Protime’s Lotte Kopecky, in another world, the race would have been over already before the final 15 km. But multiple factors came together in Italy to make the race one to remember.

This year’s finale of Strade Bianche included an additional loop near the finish in Siena that doubled up two of the harder dirt sectors, making it a more attritional showdown than any the race has seen before. Organizers added another two sectors, so the women raced a little over ten extra kilometres of dirt this year.

Before the race, it was already expected to be a tough addition, but that was before the weather came into play.

Even if it wasn’t as horrendous as the men’s, the women still had some rain to deal with. The last time rain fell on Strade Bianche was in 2018 when Anna van der Breggen claimed victory after a 20 km solo move. On that occasion, two of Saturday’s top riders graced the podium alongside Van der Breggen – Kasia Niewiadoma and Elisa Longo Borghini.

In 2018, the wet dirt broke the race into pieces. The dirt itself changes, it’s harder to ride through, it’s leaden. Mentally, racing in the rain is harder. Even when the conditions are perfect there is so much about a bike race the rider can’t control, that is amplified ten-fold when the weather kicks in.

Tactically, very little changes with the weather, but the minor adjustments from all angles add up to make for a whirlwind of hardship.

So, when the clouds opened up on the women’s peloton on Saturday, it was just another factor in play to make the race that much harder.

The breakaway climbs a cobbled sector through crowds during the 2024 women's Strade Bianche.
The strong breakaway takes on a moist gravel sector before the worst of the day’s rain hit.

The large group going into the final dirt sector is an answer to the top question asked over the off-season – who can rise to the level of SD Worx-Protime?

The answer, it seems, is everyone. Not only did Lidl-Trek equal the number of SD Worx-Protime riders in the “winning” move, but they were also able to match the efforts of Kopecky with Longo Borghini.

It wasn’t only Lidl-Trek who kept the pace: Canyon-SRAM had both Niewiadoma and Elisa Chabbey there; Visma-Lease a Bike was also active with Riejanne Markus and Marianne Vos up there as well. They may not be fully able to take on SD Worx-Protime yet, but the peloton is catching up. The fact that it’s not only one or two riders rising to their level is all the better for the viewers at home.

At the end of the day, it was the woman everyone expected who won Strade Bianche. Lotte Kopecky was one step above the rest, dealing a final killer blow to her last rival with a stinging uphill acceleration 500 metres from the finish line. But the race itself highlighted a lot about the peloton as a whole. Even with the weather, and the new finale, the peloton is close to making the top team’s dominance a thing of the past.

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