As Lauretta Hanson crossed the Giro Donne finish line after stage two the Australian could be heard shouting almost desperately to no one in particular, “Did she get it? Did she get it?”
Hanson had done much of the work to control the day’s six woman breakaway, and, her work done finished 128th of the 138 finishers, so when someone said her Trek-Segafredo team mate Elisa Balsamo had won it was good news. A huge smile cracked her face and she rode off into the throng of riders, photographers and journalists to find the team and celebrate.
After an excellent stage one time trial Balsamo began the second of the 10 day Giro Donne within six seconds of overall leader Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco). With a maximum of 13 seconds available from an intermediate sprint and on the line, meant a career first Giro stage win would have the added benefit of earning the world champion the overall lead. And a coveted pink jersey to replace the rainbow stripes.
Though Balsamo has proved she can cope with a good deal of climbing, the day’s only serious climb came immediately after the start of the 106.5km stage between Villasimius and Tortolì making the world road champion one of the favourites for the stage.
In the end she only needed the finish line bonus seconds, and after her stage victory the 24 year-old could not stop smiling. Even while being interviewed in the sweltering heat of a black tent beside the podium her teeth were still on show through a huge grin.
“It was a really hard sprint,” she told a TV interviewer. “My team gave me a great lead out, they worked the whole day from the first k to the last one.” Podium celebrations done she returned, this time for press interviews, that smile still intact.
“It's a dream becoming true and I'm very happy today,” she said when CW asked how it felt to wear the maglia rosa. “Of course when I was a child I always went to see the Giro, the Women's Giro and men's Giro, and of course for every Italian rider it is a dream to wear the pink jersey. I'm very, very happy.”
And as world champion she has a choice of jersey for stage three; “Of course I will wear the pink one. But yes, I'm very happy we will try to keep this jersey, but we really wanted it today.”
From the outside it was a fairly regulation day, a break getting a gap before the sprinters teams came to control and bring it back. And it was Trek-Segafredo who were first to take responsibility, putting in place a plan made possible by Balsamo’s excellent prologue.
“She had a very impressive prologue and really demonstrated she has great legs and a lot of confidence, so it made great sense for today,” explained American team mate Leah Thomas of Balsamo’s day one performance.
“Our goal for today was to take the stage and try to get Elisa in pink and it feels pretty special because we accomplished that. Originally our plan was to get some seconds at the intermediate sprint but a break went up the road with non GC contenders, so we took control of the race. Lauretta and Amalie [Dideriksen] did a ton of work on the front to keep that break in check and they were able to finish it off so it was a really good day.”
And what of tomorrow? “She’s demonstrated that she can do some pretty hard courses and still have a sprint, but tomorrow’s another day to race for her and defend the jersey.”
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Owen Rogers is an experienced journalist, covering professional cycling and specialising in women's road racing. He has followed races such as the Women's Tour and Giro d'Italia Donne, live-tweeting from Women's WorldTour events as well as providing race reports, interviews, analysis and news stories. He has also worked for race teams, to provide post race reports and communications.
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