Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) loves the Giro d’Italia Donne, and the Italian Champion targets her home country’s biggest race every year, only missing the race in 2013 due to a crash. Although she is always near the top of the general classification, the overall win has eluded Longo Borghini so far.
This year, she started the race under auspicious signs. Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) and Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), among others, skipped the race to prepare for the Olympic Games later in July, and Trek-Segafredo won the stage 1 team time trial, putting eight seconds into Anna van der Breggen and her SD Worx team.
Stage 2, has so far, thwarted Longo Borghini’s GC plans. On the 15-kilometre mountaintop finish at Prato Nevoso, she lost 8:30 minutes to Van der Breggen and will have to abandon any ambitions of the overall win.
“Unfortunately, it was a bad day for me. I was not hoping or expecting this, but it came, and I have to accept it," said Longo Borghini, who was understandably downcast after the stage.
"Let us now focus on the rest of the Giro – we can still have few chances to do well.”
Despite the significant time loss, not all is lost for Longo Borghini and her team. Lizzie Deignan finished 11th on the stage and is now fourth overall, albeit also 3:31 minutes down on Van der Breggen. But there are eight stages still to go in the 2021 Giro Donne, and several of those suit Longo Borghini’s characteristics well.
It was only last year that she won her first stage in the Giro Donne - first the opening team time trial, and then an individual win on stage 8 finishing with a hard climb to San Marco la Catola.
Longo Borghini’s first opportunity to add to the tally this year comes on Sunday as the second half of stage 3 to Ovada is a continuous up-and-down that invites attacks – and as Longo Borghini is no longer an immediate danger in the general classification, she may well get more freedom from the other teams who would normally watch her closely.
A mountain time trial and two flat stages are then followed by a hilly circuit race on stage 7 around Puegnago del Garda that also plays to the Italian champion’s strengths.
Last but not least, she can try an early attack on the only remaining mountaintop finish of the race, stage 9 to the Monte Matajur – or go for the final stage that has a small climb in the final ten kilometres before a flat finish.
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