In her Giro d’Italia Donne debut, World Champion Elisa Balsamo not only won the first road stage but moved into the maglia rosa on home soil.
The Trek-Segafredo rider was well supported throughout stage 2 by her teammates, who were the most active in chasing down a breakaway of five riders, who at one stage had a gap of over three minutes.
Balsamo placed third in Thursday’s prologue just six seconds behind the winner Kristen Faulkner (Team BikeExchange-Jayco). On Friday she was led out by Elisa Longo Boghini into the finish in Tortolì and came around Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) to take the win.
Balsamo won her road world title in a sprint against Vos last September in Leuven in similar fashion and was full of praise for the experienced Dutchwoman after the finish.
“It was a really hard sprint, my teammates made a great lead out. They were all there from the first km to the last one,” she said. “I know that Marianne is such a superstar rider. For me, she is like an example in the peloton and sprinting against her is always a pleasure.
“We did a great stage and we were here in Sardinia for this pink jersey and I am very happy.”
Italy has seen an abundance of home talent in the women’s peloton in recent years and this year’s Giro Donne looks set to be the nation’s best chance since 2008 at an Italian winning the maglia rosa. With Balsamo pulling on the pink jersey so early on, home hopes will be high.
“It’s a dream coming true. I’m very happy today,” Balsamo said of wearing the jersey. “For tomorrow I really want to enjoy the pink jersey and of course it is a dream.
“Of course when I was a child, I always went to see the Giro, women’s and men's, and of course for Italian riders it’s a dream to wear the pink jersey and I’m very happy.”
It was thanks in part to Balsamo’s strong time trial on the previous stage that she was able to wear the iconic jersey. “It was so important yesterday,” she said. “I really tried to go full gas and I was very happy about my race yesterday and I was only six seconds behind Faulkner and so we really believe in this pink jersey today.”
With some tough, mountainous stages towards the end of the race, Balsamo is unlikely to take the maglia rosa home to Cuneo but she may well hold onto it beyond Sunday’s rest day as the race moves from the island to the mainland.
“We will try to keep this jersey but we really wanted it today and then we will see,” Balsamo said of her chances.
The Giro d’Italia Donne continues Saturday with a final stage on the island of Sardinia, a 113.4km stage between Cala Gonone and Olbia.
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