Strade Bianche legend goes if you take the final corner first you'll win. Longo Borghini did just that over last year's runner-up Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Energie) while defending champion Lizzie Deignan rolled over for third.
But it was Lucinda Brand (Team Sunbweb) fresh from her Omloop Het Nieuwsblad win last weekend and a rejuvenated Shara Gillow riding for new team FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope who lit the fireworks, very nearly stealing the show in the final kilometres from the race favourites.
“This is amazing," Longo Borghini said “I had a very bad crash in the longest gravel section and I thought I couldn’t make it, but I have super teammates. Audrey Cordon gave me her bike, and then eventually – after some kilometres – I could have my spare bike from the car.
— Rochelle Gilmore (@RochelleGilmore) March 4, 2017
“The team just rode amazingly, and this victory is for my team, because today the girls and the staff worked so well.
“For me this is such a prestigious victory, and I think I will remember this for all my life!"
The peloton easily caught an earlier break on the penultimate gravel sector with around 19 kilometres to race. Longo Borghini appeared as if to to float over the gravel to the top of the first climb on the sector, pulling clear with Niewiadoma and Deignan in her wake. Orica-Scott's Annemiek Van Vleuten and Katrin Garfoot soon joined the trio and the group quickly built a 30 second lead.
The five leaders were almost caught on the final sector but the ramp at the top melted away the peloton's comeback with the driving rain.
Gillow broke clear from the bunch back on the tarmac with 7.2 kilometres left to race, using the slight climb to build an advantage.
As the five leaders watched each other in the final three kilometres, their lead to the Australian and now Brand dwindled. Gillow caught and then passed the race favourites with 2.2 kilometres to go, Brand following closely.
But the finish up the Piazza del Campo brutally punished both Gillow and Brand, Longo Borghini, Niewiadoma, Deignan and Van Vleuten eventually making the catch to battle for line honours. Garfoot and amazingly teammate Amanda Spratt brought up the rear resulting in three Aussies in the top eight.
Earlier, 2016 Women's WorldTour champion Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) abandoned on sector four displaying signs of concussion from her Omloop Het Nieuwsblad crash.
“I was getting such a migraine. And I was nauseous. I couldn’t continue," she said after the race.