Elisa Balsamo took her first home win in the rainbow jersey at Trofeo Binda on Sunday, winning the sprint from a group of around 20 women.
It was an imperious finish from the Italian who was hidden by her team for the entire race. After her Trek-Segafredo team-mates had brought her back to the front group in the closing eight kilometres, she was around 10th wheel in the final bend, about 250m from the line.
After the tactical masterclass from her team, the 24-year-old put on a sprinting masterclass, staying hidden until she started her sprint about 100 meters later, powering over the top with apparent ease.
It was an all-Italian podium, with Sofia Bertizzolo (UAE Team ADQ) finishing around two bike lengths down in second, and Soraya Paladin (Canyon-SRAM) third.
Balsamo only reached the front group on the descent of the final climb, escorted to the front on the wheels of three Trek-Segafredo team-mates. A late move from SD Worx’s Swiss champion Marlen Reusser seriously depleted their resources though, and it was the European time trial champion who led into the final corner.
It was another entertaining Women’s WorldTour race. Not only was the early breakaway thwarted when the race was briefly stopped and neutralised, it was punctuated by almost perpetual attacking.
While the race followed a pattern, with the first climb on the closing circuit bringing short-lived attacks, and the longer second climb bringing more sustained moves, the race was wonderfully unpredictable.
How it happened
With this year its 46th edition, Trofeo Binda is the oldest race on the Women’s WorldTour calendar, and while it has been portrayed as one for the climber, it is more traditionally won by aggressive opportunists, or punchy sprinters.
Of the two previous winners present on Sunday Coryn Labecki’s (Jumbo-Visma) is from the latter group, while double victor Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), the defending champion, is among the former, and just a short ferry ride across Lake Maggiore from home.
Based around the village of Cittiglio, birthplace of four time Giro winner, Alfredo Binda, the 2022 edition set off from the nearby town of Cocquio Trevisago for the 141.8km race. The race opened with a winding route to cross the finish line in Cittiglio, before one long loop which was followed by four smaller ones.
Each of these shorter loops tackled the race’s signature climb to Orino, the top of the final ascent coming only eight kilometres from the finish.
After less than 10km Gulnaz Khatuntseva, riding under a neutral flag for the new Roland Cogeas Edelweiss squad, escaped and built a gap in excess of one minute. However, soon after the climb to Caldana she was joined by Michaela Drummond (BePink) and Giorgia Vettorello (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo), the trio passing the line in Cittiglio after 27km with a lead of 1-30.
At the far eastern end of the the long circuit the gap began to come down, but before the breakaway was caught the race was neutralised, a crash between two vehicles outside the race’s rolling bubble blocking the road. With the closure set to remain in place, organisers were forced to re-route, though the final four laps remained unaffected. On resumption the breakaway’s lead, which had been reduced to just 30 seconds once again expanded, the trio taking a lead of 1-45 onto the closing four laps and the final 70km.
However, on the first ascent of Orino Khatuntseva and Vettorello were caught, leaving Drummond alone, and though she was briefly pursued by her New Zealand compatriot, Mikayla Harvey (Canyon-SRAM) the bunch returned to Cittiglio as one.
Early on the second short circuit Brodie Chapman (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) attacked, leading a group of eight onto Orino. With Erica Magnaldi (UAE Team ADQ), Soraya Paladin (Canyon-SRAM), Shirin van Anrooij (Trek-Segafredo), Amanda Spratt (BikeExchange-Jayco), Karlijn Swinkels (Jumbo-Visma), Paula Patiño (Movistar) and Brit, Anna Shackley (SDWorx) many of the strongest WorldTour teams were represented, leaving only Team DSM to chase.
They did not hesitate though, as the gradient kicked up, former German champion Liane Lippert made her move, and lead which had approached 30 seconds was almost instantly closed. What emerged though was a group of only about 40 women, the race becoming increasingly aggressive.
Having been part of break last time round, Magnaldi went again on the penultimate lap, the 29-year-old doctor allowed to take a small lead onto the Orino ascent. She was unable to resist though, and after Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) shredded the peloton on the climb, Swiss champion Marlen Reusser (SDWorx), another doctor, took a slim lead onto the descent.
Last year’s winner, Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM), yet another doctor, and Uttrup Ludwig caught Reusser as they crossed the line at the start of the final 17.6km lap. But the group would not collaborate, Longo Borghini apparently riding for Balsamo, and they were soon caught.
As with every previous ascent the final climb to Orino brought more action, and a group of seven headed over the top for the final eight kilometres. However, with Trek-Segafredo absent from the front and set on setting the race for Balsamo, the US team brought the race back together from a sprint finish.
Grace Lister was the top British rider in the junior race, the opening round of the UCI Nations Cup. Representing the national team she was fifth behind Francesca Pellegrini (Valcar Travel and Service U19).
Trofeo Alfredo Binda Commune de Cittiglio 2022: Cocquio Trevisago - Cittiglio (141.8km)
1. Elisa Balsamo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, in 3-36-29
2. Sofia Bertizzolo (Ita) UAE Team ADQ
3. Soraya Paladin (Ita) Canyon-SRAM
4. Chantal van den Broek Blaak (Ned) SD Worx
5. Elena Cecchini (Ita) SD Worx
6. Coryn Labecki (USA) Jumbo-Visma
7. Elise Chabbey (Sui) SD Worx
8. Silvia Persico (Ita) Valcar Travel and Service
9. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
10. Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (RSA) SD Worx, all at same time
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