Balsamo keeps speed and finds strength to open door to Flanders

World Champion Elisa Balsamo gets congratulated by Trek-Segafredo teammate Shirin van Anrooij for the victory at Brugge-De Panne Women 2022
World Champion Elisa Balsamo gets congratulated by Trek-Segafredo teammate Shirin van Anrooij for the victory at Brugge-De Panne Women 2022 (Image credit: Sprint Cycling Agency)

Elisa Balsamo played a wide range of sports growing up and she’s aiming to keep a bit of that variety in her cycling career, improving her endurance but still training on the track so as not to neglect her sprint.

The World Champion’s finishing speed was clear to see as she out-sprinted Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) – winner of three races in a row and the pre-race favourite – at the Classic Brugge-De Panne on Wednesday.

However, she has also been continuing her development as a road racer more generally, having come from a track background and taken medals aplenty across international competitions at junior, U23 and elite level.

Balsamo raced on the road for the past five years at the Valcar team but the track was always the priority. Now racing at WorldTour level with Trek-Segafredo it’s the other way around.

“I think I grew up a little bit more this winter,” Balsamo said in her press conference as the winner of Brugge-De Panne. 

“I was focused on long training and last year I was totally focused on track training, and that’s maybe why I’ve improved a bit on the climbs.”

That said, Balsamo revealed she is still regularly on the boards back home with the Italian national team.

“I’m still training once a week on the track, because it’s very important for my sprint,” she said. “I think it’s a very important way to fight for my role in the races, because we work on strength and sprints.

Having been a keen swimmer and skier before committing to cycling, Balsamo was keen to underline the importance of all-round ability.

“I think it’s very important that children do a lot of sports, because they can improve a lot of skills. So when I was child I did a lot of sports and I’m very happy about that.”

With the improvements in endurance and climbing, combined with that persisting finishing speed, the door is open to a wide range of races, as she has already shown this season by placing fourth at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and winning the hilly Trofeo Alfredo Binda.

The win in De Panne kicked off an important period of her season as she takes aim at the cobbled Classics, with Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders two major goals on the next two Sundays.

“I really like racing in Belgium,” said Balsamo, who collected her rainbow jersey in Leuven last September. “I really like the people and the crowds on the roads. 

"I really like the two races that are coming. I really want to fight for a podium there.”

Balsamo was keen to align her own ambitions with those of her new team. She might be the world champion but she was all set to lead out her teammate Chloe Hosking before a late crash forced a dramatic but successful change of plan. 

With the likes of Elisa Longo Borghini and Ellen Van Dijk in the team too, even having the rainbow jersey on her shoulders doesn’t mean that there is extra pressure.

“In this team we can choose how we want the race to go. It’s not so easy but we can try to do our race and not follow the other teams. 

“It’s also a good point that we have a lot of good solutions – not only in the sprint but also the breakaway or attack. This is our strength.”

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