Lizzie Deignan third as Elisa Longo Borghini wins women's Strade Bianche - Road Cycling UK

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Lizzie Deignan third as Elisa Longo Borghini wins women’s Strade Bianche

Brit bags surprise podium after team-mate's illness forces changes of tactics

Lizzie Deignan kicked off her 2017 season with an unexpected podium finish at Strade Bianche, admitting the result came as a surprise after a late change of the team’s tactics.

The British former world champion, 28, won the race last year, in the rainbow jersey, but was expecting to play a supporting role for Megan Guarnier this time out.

But when Guarnier abandoned early through illness, and with Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen also missing the race ill, Deignan stepped up to the plate to get in the race-winning move and claim third place behind Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) and Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Energie).

Lizzie Deignan finished third in her first race of the 2017 season (pic – RCS Sport)

“I couldn’t have expected a podium,” Deignan said post-race. “I was coming here to work for the team, but we had so much bad luck that it ended up being me that needed to do the work.

“I’m not in top shape yet, nowhere near, so I’m delighted, really pleased. I didn’t expect to be in the breakaway and contribute to it.

“I thought if I made a breakaway, I’d be surviving it. I’m really pleased with my form.”

Racing on the white gravel roads, it took until the penultimate gravel section for the race-winning selection to be formed.

From a 40-strong group, Deignan and team-mate Christine Majerus accelerated into the sector and the Yorkshirewoman took over to lead a five-rider move clear with 18km to race.

Orica-Scott’s Annemiek van Vleuten and Katrin Garfoot were also present, but with little co-operation between the quintet the move was nearly foiled.

Indeed, a counter-attack of Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) and Shara Gillow (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) caught and passed the leaders on the Via Santa Caterina climb.

Elisa Longo Borghini claimed victory, escaping the attentions of Katarzyna Niewiadoma around the final bend (pic – RCS Sport)

Longo Borghini responded first, followed by Niewiadoma with Deignan on her wheel, but the Brit says a parked motorbike and ‘one big traffic mess’ hampered her progress.

It left the 25-year-old Italian to claim victory – her first of the season – while 22-year-old Niewiadoma finished two second back in second.

Deignan was a further three seconds back – her best individual result on the Women’s WorldTour since winning the Aviva Women’s Tour in June last year.

But she admitted a tinge of regret that she lost the tactical battle at the end, despite the surprise result.

“Today felt different than usual,” she concluded. “Normally I feel very strong and dominant.

“Today it was much more down to tactics because I didn’t have the legs to animate it the way I’d normally like to. I had to play the tactic game, and I got it wrong.”

UCI Women’s WorldTour – Stade Bianche 2017: result

1) Elisa Longo Borgini (ITA) – Wiggle-High5 – 3.44.45hrs
2) Katarzuna Niewiadoma (POL) – WM3 Energie +2”
3) Lizzie Deignan (GBR) – Boels-Dolmans +5”
4) Lucinda Brand (NED) – Team Sunweb +8”
5) Annemiek van Vleuten (NED) – Orica-Scott +9”
6) Shara Gillow (AUS) – FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope +12”
7) Katrin Garfoot (AUS) – Orica-Scott +18”
8) Amanda Spratt (AUS) – Orica-Scott +36”
9) Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (DEN) – Cervelo-Bigla +1.06
10) Elena Cecchini (ITA) – Canyon-SRAM – ST

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