Wiggle Honda made it back-to-back stage wins at the Route de France as Elisa Longo Borghini soloed to stage 3 victory and moved into the overall race lead a day after Giorgia Bronzini won in Bourges. The win was the second of the season for the 23-year-old after her women's Tour of Flanders victory in April.
"I'm really happy to have won," Longo Borghini said. "I still need to re-find my shape, and to heal from my back problems, but of course a victory gives me motivation."
With Eugenia Bujak 13 seconds in arrears at the finish line, Longo Borghini had enough time to celebrate victory, pointing to sky in memory of compatriot Chiara Pierobon who died en route to the Sparkassen Giro last month. "I wanted to remember Chiara," Longo Borghini said of salute.
After two sprint friendly stages, the 113km sojourn proved to be a more selective affair with the 4.6km finishing circuit in Avallon ensuring it was a day for the strong riders. Longo Borghini explained that along with teammate Mayuko Hagiwara, who finished fourth, the duo were given the green light to force the pace and try for the stage win.
"Mayuko and me were free to attack on the local laps," she said of the tactics.. "Giorgia [Bronzini] was feeling good too, but she unluckily crashed on the downhill of the second last lap. I tried at the second last lap, after the finish, but I found that I had two Liv-Plantur riders with me [race leader Amy Pieters and Claudia Lichtenberg] so I couldn't work."
Longo Borghini added that her decisive move to drop Lichtenberg was made on the pave.
"I did the same attack on the cobbles just after the finish at the last lap and I went really fast downhill because I knew it was technical," she said. "I was with Lichtenberg, and at the last kick uphill before the finish I attacked again and soloed to the finish."
After her win, Longo Borghini now leads Pieters by two seconds ahead of the 103km stage from Autun to Louhans-Chateaurenaud and is harbouring ambitions to keep the lead until Saturday's conclusion of the race in Guebwiller.
"I want to live day by day without pressure," she said. "This stage is really good preparation for the upcoming World Cups, but of course I want to defend this jersey."