The Women's WorldTour resumed in Italy at the 2021 Trofeo Alfredo Binda held in Cittiglio on Sunday.
Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (SD Worx) started the race as the series leader after winning Strade Bianche, but it was Italian Champion Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) who stole the show with a powerful solo victory on home soil that saw her move into the series lead.
Cyclingnews looks at five of the biggest takeaways from the 2021 Trofeo Alfredo Binda.
Longo Borghini reaps rewards for aggressive, smart racing in Cittiglio
It was a celebration for Elisa Longo Borghini who took a powerful solo victory and moved into the Women's WorldTour lead at Trofeo Alfredo Binda, and it all happened in front of home crowds in Cittiglio.
Longo Borghini made her winning move with 25 kilometres to go, and although it didn't look promising at first, it soon flourished into an eventual 1:42-minute lead over an unorganised chase group that included Marianne Vos (Team Jumbo-Visma), who secured the chase-group sprint for second place and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) in third.
Longo Borghini is one of the most powerful riders in the peloton and her victory proved as much, particularly after a successful 2020 season that saw her and teammate Lizzie Deignan secure 1-2 in the Women's WorldTour individual ranking with Deignan winning the series.
It was Longo Borghini's strength along with her aggressive and smart racing style that netted her the victory and series lead in Cittiglio.
"Sometimes you have to play poker. If there’s an option to attack, I will always choose to attack,” Longo Borghini said.
Winning a top-tier home race while wearing the tricolour jersey of the Italian national champion was the cherry on the cake, and a great end to the weekend, too, for Trek-Segafredo that also saw Jasper Stuyven win Milan-San Remo.
No excuses for SD Worx
While the SD Worx pair of Christine Majerus and Amy Pieters were securing a 1-2 punch at UCI 1.1 Omloop van de Westhoek on Sunday, the team were almost nowhere to be seen at the Women's WorldTour Trofeo Alfredo Binda.
Ashleigh Moolman Pasio and Elena Cecchini were the best placed riders at 14th and 20th, respectively, in Cittiglio, and the team admitted that this was a disappointing result, particularly after their early-season dominance.
The winning move was made by Elisa Longo Borghini with 25km to go and SD Worx were not among the six-rider chase group that formed.
"The last few weeks it seemed like it was always easy to win, but you know in top sport you also need to deal with these kinds of races. We were not in the race at all," said team director Danny Stam.
"There are no excuses. The moment when Elisa attacked was not surprising. However, we just couldn't keep up with the first ones. I think the form of the day was missing. The condition can't be bad after the good training camps and all those strong races in recent weeks. That's why we shouldn't remember this race too long."
All eyes on Vos
All eyes were on Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) as the defending champion of Trofeo Alfredo Binda, including from her chase-group companions. They were perhaps concerned about Vos' strength and so couldn't bring back solo winner Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) in Cittiglio.
A well-played race for Trek-Segafredo saw their riders soften the field before their leader Longo Borghini blew the race apart with 25km to go. The gap was so small at first it almost seemed non-existent but then it bloomed out over the last lap of the race.
A high-profile chase group immediately formed which included Vos, Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope), Soraya Paladin (Liv Racing), and Mavi García (Alé BTC Ljubljana Cipollini).
Vos admitted that the five riders, even together, were not strong enough to bring back Longo Borghini, and ended up racing for second place.
“You always want to win, but Longo Borghini was the strongest today,” said the Dutchwoman.
“When Elisa attacked, I tried to follow her, but I could not close the gap. After that we chased her with five [riders], full on, but we did not get any closer. Then you know that it will be a fight for the second place.”
Gigante proves youth talent
Sarah Gigante has proven herself a future contender on the Women's WorldTour after securing the series youth classification lead at Trofeo Alfredo Binda. The Australian, who races for the American outfit TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank, finished 23rd in her first European race of the season.
"It was so awesome to be back racing with my teammates in Europe," Gigante said.
"Kicking things off with Trofeo Alfredo Binda turned out to be a great plan because it was a super fun race, and we all came together as a unit really well."
Longo Borghini went on to take a solo win, followed by a chase group of five riders that sprinted for second place. Gigante and Stephens formed part of the third group on the road where Stephens finished 16th and Gigante 23rd.
Gigante will wear the youth classification leader's jersey into the next round of the Women's WorldTour at Brugge-De Panne on Thursday.
"It's a special feeling to be in the lead of the Women's WorldTour Young Rider Classification too, which came as a complete surprise after the race," Gigante said. "Bring on the next one!"
Anniina Ahtosalo the future of Trofeo Alfredo Binda
The organisers of Trofeo Alfredo Binda are building the future of women's cycling by annually offering a prestigious junior women's event: the Piccolo Trofeo Alfredo Binda - Valli del Verbano, that forms part of the junior women's Nations’ Cup 2021.
This year, for the eighth edition of the race, the junior women's field raced 73.5km on the in the morning on the same day as their Women's WorldTour counterpart. Anniina Ahtosalo (Finland), who launched a breakaway move 10km to go, won the junior women's event ahead of second placed Noëlle Ruetschi (Switzerland) and Eglantine Rayer (France). Francesca Barale (Italy) was fourth.
The junior women's event has been held since 2000 and former winners include Anna Gusmini (Italy), Giorgia Bronzini (Italy), Marta Bastianelli (Italy), Amalie Dideriksen (Denmark), and more recently Sofia Bertizzolo (Italy), Clara Capponi (France), Lorena Wiebes (Netherlands), Pfeiffer Georgi (Great Britain) and Megan Jastrab (USA).
Trofeo Alfredo Binda 2021 highlights - Video
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