Watching the tri-colour jersey of the Italian Champion racing into the Piazzo del Campo in Siena with the victory at Strade Bianche would have been a special sight. Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) was in that position as part of a two-up breakaway in the closing kilometres of the Women's WorldTour event on Saturday. She said that she believed she could win right up until the very end when her rival Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (SD Worx) attacked and stormed across the finish line first, forcing her to settle for second place.
"When I saw Chantal not doing a turn with me I knew that she would probably win the race, but I still believed in it until the end," said Longo Borghini, who won the 2017 edition of Strade Bianche.
"In the final, she had better legs than me and chapeau to her for such a victory because it is such an important one and a special one. Coming here in Piazzo del Campo in Siena is just beautiful, and I guess it’s a really enjoyable victory."
Van den Broek-Blaak formed part of a powerful SD Worx team that finished with four riders in the top 11 on the day. The former world champion attacked with six kilometres to go, as part of a team strategy in numbers, but wound up in a two-up move with Longo Borghini.
Longo Borghini, one of the pre-race favourites, was then forced to do all the work to pull the pair closer to the finish line back in Siena, as Van den Broek-Blaak was in the fortunate position of having strong teammates in the next group close behind, which included the double world champion Anna van der Breggen.
Van den Broek-Blaak admitted that Longo Borghini was still a threat, but said that when she saw the Italian begin to fatigue in the final kilometre, she made her winning move on the steep Via Santa Caterina climb, to finish off an excellent team effort by SD Worx.
Longo Borghini was one of the main protagonists of the day and made several searing attacks in the closing of the race to help reduce the front group down to only the strongest riders in the field.
She came into the race as a contender for the win and would normally have had the support of Lizzie Deignan, but the 2020 Women's WorldTour winner fell ill with a cold just before the race and did not start.
Trek-Segafredo lined up with a strong team, nonetheless, with Lucinda Brand along with Ellen van Dijk, Chloe Hosking, Audrey Cordon-Ragot and Tayler Wiles in support of Longo Borghini.
Longo Borghini and Van Dijk played two cards for their team in the final, and both were very active in pursuit of the day's win, but in the end, it was not enough to thwart the powerful SD Worx team in Siena.
🇮🇹 #StradeBianche reaction from @ElisaLongoB 👇All Class. pic.twitter.com/UG6rpOGMMSMarch 6, 2021
Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
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