World champion Lizzie Armitstead wins women’s Strada Bianche

British ace makes it two wins from two in the rainbow jersey

World champion Lizzie Armitstead continued her winning start to the 2016 season by kicking off the inaugural UCI Women’s WorldTour with Strada Bianche victory.

Armitstead, who won her first race in the rainbow jersey last week at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, followed it up with victory on the white gravel roads of Tuscany.

Lizzie Armitstead shows off her world champion’s jersey ahead of Strada Bianche – the Brit has won both her races in the rainbow jersey (pic: Sirotti)

The British superstar accelerated away from the three-strong leading group on the final climb to Piazza del Campo to win the 121km by three seconds from Rabo Liv’s Katarzyna Niewiadoma.

It means Armitstead – who has won the last two UCI Women’s World Cups, which the WorldTour replaces – leads the rankings after the first race.

It also means the Yorkshirewoman has won her last four road races – sealing the 2015 World Cup at the GP Plouay de Bretagne, winning world championship gold, opening the 2016 season with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad success and now emerging victorious at Strade Bianche.

While male counterpart Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) is still searching for his first victory in the rainbow jersey – the Slovakian was fourth in the men’s race, won for a third time by Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) – Armitstead proved she will not be affected by any ‘curse of the rainbow jersey’.

The Boels-Dolmans rider had been well placed throughout the race, staying near the front when the peloton shattered on the white gravel roads.

And it was Armitstead who initiated what proved to be the race-winning attack, escaping the bunch with 25km to go long for the second consecutive race.

This time, she had Emma Johansson (Wiggle-High5) and Niewiadoma for company but – whereas a week ago it was the Brit forced to do all the work up the road – this time the trio worked well to stretch out their advantage.

Lizzie Armitstead powered clear on the final climb to win the first race of the inaugural women’s WorldTour (pic: RCS Sport)

When it came to the final climb, though, Armitstead was strongest – kicking hard to power her way up the final paved climb to better her second place finish in the same race 12 months earlier.

Johansson held on for third place, while the Swede’s British team-mate Dani King finished 14th – 1’29” behind her compatriot Armitstead.

The other Brit to finish, Armitstead’s Boels-Dolmans team-mate and national cyclo-cross champion Nikki Harris, came in 23rd.

Strade Bianche (women’s) 2016 – result

1) Lizzie Armitstead (GBR) – Boels-Domans – 3.30.13hrs
2) Katarzyna Niewiadoma (POL) – Rabo Liv Women +3”
3) Emma Johansson (SWE) – Wiggle-High5 +13”
4) Elisa Longo Borghini (ITA) – Wiggle-High5 +1.04
5) Anna van der Breggen (NED) – Rabo Liv Women +1.07
6) Megan Guarnier (USA) – Boels-Dolmans – ST
7) Annemiek Van Vleuten (NED) – Orica-AIS +1.13
8) Claudia Lichtenberg (GER) – Lotto-Soudal Ladies +1.17
9) Lauren Kitchen (AUS) – Hitec Products +1.21
10) Leah Kirchmann (CAN) – Team Liv-Plantur – ST

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