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Elisa Longo Borghini: I will always choose to attack

CITTIGLIO ITALY MARCH 21 Elisa Longo Borghini of Italy and Team Trek Segafredo during the 45th Trofeo Alfredo BindaComune di Cittiglio 2021 Womens Elite a 1418km stage from Cocquio Trevisago to Cittiglio 257m Snow Attack Breakaway TrBinda UCIWWT on March 21 2021 in Cittiglio Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Elisa Longo Borghini used a solo attack to win 2021 Trofeo Alfredo Binda (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Eight years ago at Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Elisa Longo Borghini rode solo across the finish with a 1:44 advantage on a select group of chasers, and the peloton more than two minutes back. Fast forward to 2021 and the Italian road race champion dominated in the final circuit around Cittiglio with a winning margin of 1:42 on a handful of chasers and close to three minutes on the peloton.

Trek-Segafredo's Longo Borghini wasn’t really looking back at 2013 when she took to the front on Sunday, but drew inspiration from just one day earlier, when Jasper Stuyven of the men’s Trek-Segafredo team scored a dramatic victory at Milan-San Remo.

“It’s all or nothing. Jasper inspired me yesterday with that, so I also thought about ‘it’s all or nothing’. Sometimes you have to play poker. If there’s an option to attack, I will always choose to attack,” Longo Borghini said on the team website.

“It was planned that I would attack the second last lap and spare Lizzie (Deignan) for the finale because she’s the fastest. As soon as I got a little gap I was thinking about Jasper and what he said, sometimes it’s all, often nothing, and today was all.”

Back in 2013 it had been one of the biggest wins of Longo Borghini’s career, then 21 years old, who had escaped from an early attack. This year, she launched her move during the Orino climb on the penultimate lap with 25 kilometres to go.

Before the aggressive kick, Trek-Segafredo teammates Ruth Winder and Tayler Wiles worked at the front to soften the peloton and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) made the first move. Then Longo Borghini counterattacked and opened a gap.

“My legs felt good from the beginning and I could actually feel that I was strong on the climb which I did in my big ring. I expected someone to follow me when I attacked, and then when I saw I opened a little gap I just went again. I knew this would be a good move for Lizzie if I could make the others suffer if it would be a sprint finish,” the Italian said.

“If they would have caught me I would have just gone again. I really like aggressive racing. Every time there is a chance to attack, I do it because I like it.

“Honestly, for me arriving solo is the only chance to win Binda, but honestly, it didn’t matter if it was me, or Lizzie or someone else because we are a united team, and whoever wins, it’s fine. In the end, my victory was just the cherry on the cake, it was really a team victory because my teammates did a really, really good job.”

The all-star cast trying to reel her back included four-time Trofeo Alfredo Binda winner Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) – twice a third-place finisher in the race – and 2018 winner Niewiadoma. All were looking for their first wins of the season.

Longo Borghini was looking for her first trip to the top step this season as well, having placed second at Strade Bianche just two weeks ago and taken a top 10 at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. She enjoys the hills in her home country, but even more so when they deliver a Women's WorldTour victory.

“At the beginning, I thought they would catch me, and I am someone who doesn’t believe it until the end because normally I am always caught. I realized just in the last 200 meters that I had won Binda. I turned my head and didn’t see anyone and then could cherish the win.”