Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead continued her strong start to the 2015 road season with second place at the inaugural women’s Strade Bianche in Tuscany on Saturday, the highlight of a packed weekend of international action for British riders.
Following her third place at the preceding weekend’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the Boels Dolmans rider went one better on the white roads of Tuscany, getting the better of Elisa Longo Borghini in the sprint for second place, as teammate Megan Gaurnier took a fine solo win.
It was the first running of the women’s event, with the men’s race in its ninth edition. But the men’s event saw disappointment for Ian Stannard, the Team Sky man targeting a second classics win in a week following his heroic effort at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
A crash saw Stannard’s hopes dashed, the Essex man forced to abandon with a knee injury, while cyclo-cross and road star Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick Step) took the win in Siena ahead of Greg van Avermaet and Alejandro Valverde.
After the race, Stannard’s sport director Dario Cioni told Team Sky: "Ian had a crash so couldn't be up there which is a shame as we know he's in good form. He has a bruised knee but he is okay.”
Adam Yates (Orica GreenEdge) was another British non-finisher, while Stannard’s teammate Andy Fenn was 84th.
British interest continued on Sunday with the Paris Nice and Le Tour de Langkawi both getting underway.
The 6.7 kilometre Paris-Nice prologue in Maurepas saw Geraint Thomas post the best British performance, finishing 10th, 14 seconds behind stage winner and road race world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx Quick-Step).
Sir Bradley Wiggins was next home in 12th. 100th for Swift, 119th for Yates, 155th for McLay and 158th for Rowe rounded out the British challenge.
Could have gone better, could have been worse... One of those days. Big week ahead!— Geraint Thomas (@GeraintThomas86) March 8, 2015
Thomas and Wiggins’ strong start leaves the Team Sky men ideally placed to challenge for general classification honours as the race progresses over a further seven stages.
At the same time, the Le Tour de Langkawi stage race got underway in Malaysia and Britain’s sole representative Adam Blythe (Orica GreenEdge) took 20th place as Andrea Guardini (Astana Pro Team) extended his race record with a 15th Langkawi stage win.
The Asia Tour race continues for a further seven stages, finishing on Sunday in Kuala Lumpur.