There is no better way to start our tale of the seventh edition of the women’s Strade Bianche than with this photograph of an outstanding athlete.
This is Chantal Blaak. Look at her, smiling cheerfully as she soloed over the finish line in Piazza del Campo first, ahead of all the others.
Five hundred metres before, however, the result was all but settled, as Elisa Longo Borghini was still fighting for victory as well.
But at the very end, along the steep Via Santa Caterina climb, the Dutch rider gathered her strength and pulled away, beating the Italian champion to victory, and taking her first Strade Bianche.
Let’s have another look at the photo. Can you see the rainbow stripes on the edge of her sleeve, if you zoom in?
Do you know what they stand for?