Elisa Longo Borghini will lead the Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling team at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda Comune di Cittiglio, the second round of the 2015 UCI Women’s Road World Cup, this Sunday, the 29th of March. The 23-year-old Italian won the 2013 edition of what is arguably her country’s most prestigious one-day race under torrential rain and, while conditions are expected to be fine this weekend – as it was last year, when she finished sixth as part of the leading group of eight riders – she remains one of the riders to watch.
With the start town of Laveno-Mombello just a short ferry ride across Lake Maggiore from her home in Verbania, she knows that she will have plenty of local support.
“It’s almost on my home soil and it’s always really nice to race there because all my family and friends are there cheering for me,” she said. “Winning it in 2013 was a dream.”
Longo Borghini has already shown some incredible form this season, despite trying to keep her expectations low. The 23-year-old took a battling third place in the Strade Bianche on the 7th of March, and was instrumental in the lead out of Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling teammate Jolien D’hoore in the Ronde van Drenthe World Cup the following week.
Unfortunately, Longo Borghini has suffered from illness shortly after the Ronde van Drenthe, but still hopes to be in the right condition for Sunday’s race.
“I was pretty disappointed to have fallen sick a few days before the World Cup,” she said. “I will try to train as best as I can this upcoming week for being in my best shape in Cittiglio.
“I’m finally feeling better though,” Longo Borghini added. “I still don’t know how I will be on Sunday, but I’m sure we can put on a good show Saturday! The team is strong and I’m sure our performance as a squad will be good!”
Longo Borghini’s Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling teammates will be supporting her in her bid to win her local World Cup race for a second time, but all are capable of taking a result themselves should the opportunity arise. Former two-time Road World Champion Giorgia Bronzini finished second in the 2007 Trofeo Binda, the year before the race became part of the World Cup, and her eighth place last year confirms that the 31-year-old is more than capable of getting over the hills to use her devastating sprint at the finish.
French rider Audrey Cordon-Ragot proved in last weekend’s Cholet Pays de Loire that she is more than capable of sprinting for victory at the end of a hilly race, while Mara Abbott’s two Giro d’Italia titles attest to the fact that the former US Champion’s climbing skills are virtually unrivalled in the women’s peloton.
The black and orange team will be completed by Japanese Champion Mayuko Hagiwara and former Spanish Champion Anna Sanchis, both of whom were instrumental in Cordon-Ragot’s victory last week.
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling line up for Trofeo Alfredo Binda Comune di Cittiglio (29th March)
Mara Abbott (United States), Giorgia Bronzini (Italy), Audrey Cordon-Ragot (France), Mayuko Hagiwara(Japan), Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy), Anna Sanchis (Spain)
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling will line up at the start of the women’s Gent-Wevelgem for the first time this coming Sunday, the 29th of March, with Belgian Champion Jolien D’hoore hoping to continue her outstanding run of form. The 25-year-old celebrated her birthday with victory in the Ronde van Drenthe World Cup last week, which came hot on the heels of her first road victory for the black and orange team at the Omloop van Het Hageland the previous Sunday.
Since then D’hoore has worked hard in the service of her teammates, but hopes to be able to show her black, yellow and red jersey off again on her home roads this week.
“Gent-Wevelgem is a race close to my heart,” she said. “It’s a typical Belgian spring classic so it should suit my abilities. This year it’s ‘only’ a 1.2 but the organisation of Gent-Wevelgem has bigger plans for the future. They really support women’s cycling and want to help in the growth of it.”
Although the 2015 Gent-Wevelgem will be only the fourth edition for women – and although it only ranks as 1.2 on the UCI calendar – the event carries considerable prestige thanks to the history of the men’s WorldTour Classic that it is run alongside. The 115km course will start in the historic city of Ieper (Ypres) – famous for the battles that were fought around it in World War I – and include five climbs, including two ascents of the infamous Kemmelberg, before the familiar flat run in to the finish in Wevelgem.
“There will also be some media coverage from [Belgian TV station] Sporza,” D’hoore added. “Enough reasons to show my Belgian champion jersey! The team is really strong at the moment so we can rely on each other in the race, and that makes it a lot easier and relaxed for every one of us.
“We are all motivated and ready for another beautiful race in Belgium!”
D’hoore will be joined in the Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling line up by Australian Chloe Hosking, who provided the Belgian champion with a textbook lead out in Drenthe before sprinting to second place herself in the Novilon Eurocup the next day. The powerful team will be completed by the British trio of Anna Christian, Amy Roberts and National Criterium Champion Eileen Roe.
Unfortunately, the team will be without the strength of Emilia Fahlin, with the former Swedish Champion suffering from illness, as well as the effects of her crash in the Ronde van Drenthe last week.
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling line up for Gent-Wevelgem (29th March)
Anna Christian (Great Britain), Jolien D’hoore (Belgium), Chloe Hosking (Australia), Amy Roberts (Great Britain), Eileen Roe (Great Britain)
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Audrey Cordon-Ragot won the Cholet Pays de Loire, in the Maine-et-Loire town of Cholet, in western France, in a three-up sprint. The French rider, who lives just 60km from the race finish, outpaced former teammates Amélie Rivat (Poitou-Charentes-Futuroscope) and Miriam Bjornsrud (Hitec Products) at the end of a 116km race whose latter stages were dominated by Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling riders.
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Belgian Champion Jolien D’hoore took the sprint for fourth place, at the head of the next group on the road, 22 seconds later.
“That was so good!” Cordon-Ragot smiled. “I’ve done this race since 2006. I won it in 2012, and I was also on the podium. I really wanted to win because I wanted to thank my teammates for all their hard work today. Also, because I worked a lot for the team in the past weeks, and they wanted to thank me as well.
“Today they were protecting me, so I had to win. I didn’t have any choice!” she laughed. “This race is close to my home, and my family was there, and it’s not every race that your family can come. It’s in France too, so it’s good.”
The race was made up of four laps of a 29km circuit around Cholet, which featured the climbs of La Tessoualle and La Séguinière. Despite several attempted breakaways, the peloton was all together as it entered the third lap but, very soon afterwards, a group of 19 riders got away. Most of the strong teams in the race were represented, with Cordon-Ragot, D’hoore and Japanese Champion Mayuko Hagiwara there for Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling, and so the group’s advantage was able to build beyond three and a half minutes.
Late pressure from Cordon-Ragot saw the group reduced to 12 riders, before a final attack saw the French rider escape with Rivat and Bjornsrud.
“We were really good,” Cordon-Ragot said. “We were three at the front, but some other teams had four – like Futuroscope and Lointek – but I think we were the three that were the strongest. Mayuko was so strong, she just did the perfect job. She was pulling on every climb, before the last lap; finally I pulled on the last lap, but that didn’t work, but after that I tried again and that was a good one!
“I wasn’t worried about Amélie, because I was a teammate of hers, and I know that she isn’t faster than me,” Cordon-Ragot continued. “I was more worried about Miriam; I know that she can be fast, but she couldn’t really pass me when were turning before the last finish line, so I knew that she was full gas.
“If I didn’t think I could win the sprint I would have waited for Jolien, and she could win, but I was quite sure of myself.”
Having worked so hard for her teammates since the very beginning of the season, it was Cordon-Ragot’s turn to be the protected rider in what is her local race. After guiding D’hoore to her maiden World Cup victory in Drenthe last weekend, the Belgian champion was determined to return the compliment this time.
“Jolien really wanted for me to win today,” said Cordon-Ragot. “The plan was to protect me, so we did that. I tried, and tried, and tried, and finally it worked. We really wanted for me to win, but if it was a bunch sprint then Jolien would be the fastest.”
Cordon-Ragot’s victory makes her the fourth different winner for Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling in 2015. Having won in Cholet three years ago, in a solo breakaway, the 25-year-old Bretonne recognises the difference with her first victory in the colours of Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling.
“Maybe the difference is that I’m stronger,” she explained. “I feel I’m a different woman now. I’m part of one of the biggest teams in the World now, so it’s different. You have the feeling that you’re there because you’re strong, and you’re winning because you’re strong. It’s not a poker game, it’s really a team race – a team game – it’s the most important part of winning, to know that you’re not alone; you know that there are five other girls there next to you, to help you, so it’s a different feeling.”
1. Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
2. Amélie Rivat (Poitou-Charentes-Futuroscope)
3. Miriam Bjornsrud (Hitec Products)
4. Jolien D’hoore (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Chloe Hosking closed a near-perfect weekend in the Drenthe region of the Netherlands with a close second place in the Novilon Eurocup behind Dutch super-sprinter Kirsten Wild (Hitec Products). The 24-year-old Australian has spent the last eight days working tirelessly for her teammates – providing Belgian Champion Jolien D’hoore with a perfect lead out in yesterday’s Ronde van Drenthe – but this time was to be the protected rider herself. She finished less than a wheel behind Wild at the end of the 134km race, with Luxembourg Champion Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) just behind them in third.
“The girls said they were seeing black and couldn’t ride in a straight line anymore,” Hosking joked about the work done by teammates D’hoore, Audrey Cordon-Ragot and Elisa Longo Borghini. “Jolien dropped me onto Wild’s wheel with about one kilometre to go and I only just missed getting her on the line.”
The race, like the other Drenthe races – the Drentse 8 and Ronde van Drenthe – was characterised by the sharp bumpy cobbles that are typical of the region, and the wind that had been missing for the first two races made its presence felt.
“The race split to pieces within a few kilometres,” Hosking explained. “Rabobank started hitting it in the crosswinds and it was just a scrambling act to try and get in the echelon. Jolien and I managed to slot in and we were rolling with the group of about fifteen for the next 80km.
“Unfortunately Audrey got caught in a crash and Elisa was waiting so those girls missed the front split. But it all came back together with 40km to go anyway.”
Several attacks followed and, with 20km to go, Dutch Champion Iris Slappendel (Bigla) and Tayler Wiles (Velocio-SRAM) managed to escape. They were later joined by Lucinda Brand (Rabobank) and the three riders looked to have the race sewn up between them. A powerful chase from Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling saw them caught before the finish, however.
“Yeah three girls escaped on the finish and it was sort of a ‘do we or don’t we’ situation,” Hosking explained. “It was clear the other teams were waiting for us, so with 10km to go the girls all jumped on the front and did an incredible job to close the gap. We only caught the lead three with about one kilometre to go.”
The Novilon Eurocup was Hosking’s fifth race in just eight days, with the Australian’s tireless teamwork contributing to Longo Borghini’s third place in the Strade Bianche, and the victories of Giorgia Bronzini in the Drentse 8, and D’hoore in the Omloop van Het Hageland and the Ronde van Drenthe.
This time Hosking’s teammates would be working for her, and the Australian only narrowly missed out on Wiggle Honda’s fourth victory in a week.
“It was so awesome for the girls to back me one hundred percent today,” she said. “In the other races we’ve gone in and said we’ll talk in the race to see who feels the best but in the camper today they said: ‘we go for Chloe.’
“It’s disappointing not to have finished off their hard work, but second isn’t terrible at the end of the day.”
1. Kirsten Wild (Hitec Products)
2. Chloe Hosking (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
3. Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans)
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Jolien D’hoore celebrated the occasion of her 25th birthday with victory in the Boels Rentals Ronde van Drenthe, the opening round of the 2015 UCI Women’s Road World Cup, in Hoogeveen, Netherlands. The Belgian Champion was expertly delivered to the finishing straight by a lead out from teammates Chloe Hosking, Audrey Cordon-Ragot and Elisa Longo Borghini at the end of a fascinating 138km race that saw several breakaway groups get away. Amy Pieters (Liv-Plantur) finished second, with Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) third; such was the pace of Hosking’s lead out that the Australian crossed the line in fifth.
“Today was pretty good so far, I had an amazing birthday!” D’hoore laughed. “We rode as a team again, it was super-great. We were there at the important moments. We haven’t rehearsed the lead out or anything, it just came naturally! Audrey did the first part, then Elisa took over, and Chloe did the lead out. It was great!
“It was not easy! It is never easy!” D’hoore added. “But still I felt good today, I had good legs, and I was confident about my sprint, and that’s what I told the team. I’m very thankful for the trust in me.”
The 138km course is characterised by the sharp, bumpy cobbles of the Drenthe region, the narrow winding roads, and three climbs of the the short, but steep VAM-berg; a reclaimed landfill site, which is virtually the only hill in the area.
The early kilometres were attritional, as the peloton crossed the several cobbled sectors, but unfortunately Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Swedish powerhouse Emilia Fahlin was taken down by a crash in the bunch and forced to abandon. After the final climb of the VAM-berg, with 28.6km to go, however, a group of 16 riders were clear of the rest, with four Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling riders present.
Although Giorgia Bronzini had not made the split, the former two-time road World Champion was working hard in the chase group to disrupt its progress as best she could.
On the flat approach to the race’s 7.9km finishing circuit Longo Borghini got clear in a breakaway group, with Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans), Roxane Knetemann (Rabo-Liv) and Tiffany Cromwell (Velocio-SRAM). The four riders gained almost 30 seconds, which might have been a race-winning lead under normal circumstances. Longo Borghini was in the break to protect D’hoore, however, with Cromwell also riding for her own teammate Barbara Guarischi, so only the two Dutch riders were working.
“The race was very close because there was not much wind,” D’hoore explained. “And then the second time on the VAM-berg the race kind of exploded and we got away with a group. I don’t know how many were there – maybe 15 – and I was there, Chloe was there, and Elisa and Audrey.
“Eventually Giorgia also came to the group, so it was perfect for us, we could play team tactics.
“Elisa got away in a group of four, and she didn’t have to do anything, and we could stay in the back and say ‘we have Elisa in front,’” D’hoore added. “Then the group behind came back to us, and so it was a bunch sprint, and the team did an amazing lead out. The last two-k was amazing.”
Just after the bell the 16-strong group came back together and, thanks to the dropping of pace, the bulk of the peloton also managed to rejoin with five kilometres to go, which meant that the race was heading for a certain bunch sprint.
As the finish approached Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling seized control, with all four riders lining up at the front of the peloton behind Cordon-Ragot. The French rider pulled the bunch to just short of the final kilometre, where Longo Borghini took over, and the Italian continued to set a pace so fierce that no other team was able to challenge.
Longo Borghini handed over to Hosking, whose burst of speed initially pulled D’hoore clear of the rest of the field. Although Pieters was able to regain contact with the Belgian Champion’s back wheel, D’hoore was in the clear as she launched her sprint with 150 metres to go and crossed the line several lengths ahead of the Dutch rider.
D’hoore’s victory was her second in the space of a week, following her win in Sunday’s Omloop van Het Nieuwsblad, and the third for Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling after Giorgia Bronzini’s in the Drentse 8 on Thursday. It is a first ever victory in the World Cup for both the rider and the black and orange team, however, and earns the 25-year-old the leader’s jersey in the season-long series.
“I couldn’t believe it!” D’hoore exclaimed. “I have the leader’s jersey; I just won a World Cup; on my birthday! What else is there? I’m happy!
“We have three cakes and a bottle of wine,” she added. “I think we have enough!”
1. Jolien D’hoore (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
2. Amy Pieters (Liv-Plantur)
3. Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans)
4. Lucinda Brand (Rabo-Liv)
5. Chloe Hosking (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
Giorgia Bronzini took Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s second victory in five days as she won the Molecaten Drentse 8 van Westerveld in Dwingeloo, Netherlands, in a sprint from a group of seven riders. The former two-time road World Champion was by far the fastest of the breakaway that arrived at the finish at the end of the 138km race, beating Valentina Scandolara (Orica-AIS) and Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla) into second and third.
“I told the girls that I wasn’t feeling so good today, because of my wrist and I have a cold, so I would work for them,” Bronzini said. “We came into the small lap and I was up the front, and there was an attack – the first really serious one – and I jumped over, and the break had gone!
“I could do nothing, I was in the break!” Bronzini laughed. “I tried to be a little bit smart because my shape is not the best, and I can’t work really hard. I thought that the break would be chased down by the other teams, but it wasn’t. I tried to take my turn, but I didn’t have any power.
“In the end they tried to attack me, but I could follow the moves,” she added. “I was on van Vleuten’s wheel on the last corner, and I gave her a little bit of a gap. I came out with 200 metres to go, and it was okay at the end!”
Bronzini’s win is her first of the season, but the second for Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling inside five days, after Belgian Champion Jolien D’hoore’s Omloop van het Hagelend victory on Sunday.
“We are going well! It’s good!” Bronzini laughed.
The race – so called because the route map traditionally resembles a figure-eight – consisted of two loops of a long circuit to make up the first 101.7km, and finished with five laps of a 7.4km circuit. The usual winds that dominate races in this part of the Netherlands were absent, which saw the peloton stay together for much of race but, as the race hit the smaller circuit, the decisive break got clear on the narrow roads.
The group originally numbered eight, with Bronzini, Scandolara and Van Vleuten joined by Loren Rowney (Velocio-SRAM), Willeke Knol (Liv-Plantur), Emilie Moberg (Hitec Products), Alice Arzuffi (Inpa-Sottoli) and Heather Fischer (USA). The break built a lead of more than half a minute, before being pegged back to just ten seconds for some time. As the main peloton began to split behind them, however, the gap began to grow again, to almost two minutes as the eight riders entered the final kilometres.
Attacks and accelerations saw Arzuffi dropped in the last few kilometres to take the break down to seven, but nobody was able to break free. Despite a late move from van Vleuten the group arrived at the finish together and, although she was feeling far from her best, Bronzini – as expected – was the fastest.
The finish was marred a little after a spectator appeared to reach out his arm and grab Rowney’s handlebars as she passed, causing the Velocio-SRAM rider to come crashing down just behind Bronzini; the Australian unfortunately suffered a fractured collarbone and the incident is currently being investigated by the race organisation.
“In the first moments I thought that it maybe was my fault, but my sprint was okay and she had time,” Bronzini explained. “We just saw the video and someone – a spectator – took her handlebar, and that is really crazy; a really crazy thing!”
1. Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
2. Valentina Scandolara (Orica-AIS)
3. Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla)
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Jolien D’hoore took the team’s first victory of 2015 – and her first ever for the black and orange team – in the Omloop van hat Hageland, in Tielt-Winge, to the east of Brussels, with a dominant sprint over a group of eleven riders. The Belgian champion had plenty of time to sit up and show her black, yellow and red driekleur jersey as she crossed the line several lengths clear of Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) in second place, with Sara Mustonen (Liv-Plantur) just behind the Dutch rider in third.
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Chloe Hosking finished just behind D’hoore in ninth place, having travelled overnight from yesterday’s Strade Bianche to dictate much of the race on behalf of her Belgian teammate.
“I didn’t expect to get my first win so soon!” D’hoore said. “My first race in the Omloop [Het Nieuwsblad] was not so good, but then Wednesday was a lot better and today I felt really good. I’m happy with my shape at the moment, and I’m really happy to get this win for the team – the first win for the team.
“Yesterday Chloe did the Strade Bianche, and she rode about 13 hours in the car to get here!” D’hoore exclaimed. “She didn’t know how she was going today, but she was really strong!
“She did the perfect lead out for the sprint, so it was really incredible, and I’m really thankful to have her as a teammate.”
The 120km race, which saw Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s first ever victory in 2013 – through New Zealander Emily Collins – was made up of a 53.1km opening loop followed by five laps of 13.4km circuit, featuring the climb of the Roeselberg halfway round each lap. Hosking led D’hoore over the top of the cobbled Kerkstraat climb, after 49km, with the broken field strung out behind them, to set the tone for much of the latter part of the race.
“This was the third time I’ve done this race,” D’hoore explained. “The course suits me; it’s up and down. It doesn’t look very hard on paper, but when you do it, in the final you feel every climb. So that’s what makes it hard.
“There was a cobbled climb, and Chloe was in first position and I was in second,” she added. “Chloe went so fast that we had a gap, and we were only two, so I had to tell her to slow down because there were still 70km to go!”
The was a lone attack from Team USA rider Heather Fischer at the end of the first local lap, and the American was able to get almost a minute clear. She was gradually closed down, however, and caught with two laps to go; shortly before the decisive move of the race was to take place.
On the climb of the Roeselberg on that penultimate lap, the eleven-rider group pulled clear, with Hosking and D’hoore present. There were enough quality riders in the group – as well as most of the strong teams represented – to be able to open up a decisive gap.
“Evelyn Stevens of Boels attacked, and Amy Pieters [Liv-Plantur] went with her, then everybody came and the eleven strongest girls of the race were there,” said D’hoore. “I was pleased that we were in a breakaway, because it was much safer. Today was really dangerous in the bunch.”
Coming into the finish, Belgian Champion D’hoore was the outstanding favourite for victory, but with riders like Blaak present – who won Wednesday’s Le Samyn race – as well as fast sprinters like Team USA’s Coryn Rivera, she could take nothing for granted.
“I took the wheel of Chantal Blaak, because she won on Wednesday, so I knew she was pretty fast,” said D’hoore. “But then I saw the Chloe in front, and I said ‘yeah, maybe I’ll take the wheel of Chloe.’
“So I took Chloe’s wheel, and I screamed to her ‘let’s do it!’ and she did a lead out and it was perfect. Apparently I had a few lengths in front of Chantal Blaak; I didn’t know, I saw it on the photos and it looked good!”
1. Jolien D’hoore (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
2. Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans)
3. Sara Mustonen (Liv-Plantur)
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Elisa Longo Borghini took an excellent third place in the first ever edition of the Women’s Strade Bianche, across the unmade white roads of Tuscany. The 23-year-old Italian was just beaten to the line, in Siena’s historic Piazza del Campo, by Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) as they raced for second place, 37 seconds behind Armitstead’s teammate Megan Guarnier’s solo victory.
“I’m really happy with this race,” Logo Borghini said. “The team worked really well until the longest section of gravel. They managed to put me in the best position, and from there we were 15 riders – I think – with the majority of Boels, Rabo and Bigla. All I had to do was basically to follow them, and to stay with them.”
A group of 14 riders broke clear at the front of the race as it crossed the longest section of Strade Bianche, at San Martino in Grania, just after the halfway point of the 103km course. Longo Borghini was present, while Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling teammate Audrey Cordon-Ragot was in a group of three riders just behind.
On the next gravel section the lead group was cut to just five, with Longo Borghini, Guarnier, Armitstead, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Hitec Products) and Anna Van Der Breggen (Rabo Liv). The two Boels-Dolmans riders then combined attacks on the next section, which saw Guarnier escape with around 20km to go, and the American rider was able to build her decisive lead.
“In the end Guarnier went away,” Longo Borghini explained. “They were playing with the numbers. They were too many for me; I couldn’t follow them. But I’m satisfied. I’m really happy.”
With Guarnier almost a minute ahead and approaching the final climb to the finish, the battle for second place began behind her. On the steep slopes of the final kilometre, with gradients of up to 16%, Longo Borghini, Armitstead and Moolman-Pasio fought for the remaining podium positions.
“First Moolman attacked, and Lizzie countered and I followed,” Longo Borghini explained. “I managed to pass Moolman and took second in the sprint. I didn’t really know my level at the moment, I didn’t know my condition, but after this race I feel a bit more confident about my shape. I think I’m there, and I think I can perform well in the next races.”
The Strade Bianche is organised by RCS Sport, which also runs the Giro d’Italia, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-Sanremo and il Lombardia. After the success of this first women’s edition of what – despite only having been run since 2007 – is one of the biggest one-day races on the Italian calendar, Longo Borghini hopes that there may be more to come.
“It was really amazing to have a women’s Strade Bianche I think,” she said. “It’s really important for women’s cycling – and for Italian cycling. This is a special race, because it’s not common for us to race on gravel. Different skills from the athletes come out in different parts, and this is nice because it gives other riders the chance to perform well. It’s a fascinating race.
“It would be really nice to have a women’s race alongside all the other Classics!”
1. Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans)
2. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans)
3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s athletes are ready to race in Saturday’s inaugural edition of the Strade Bianche for women, which is almost certain to be one of the most prestigious and spectacular events of the season. Despite only having been run since 2007, the Strade Bianche has already taken on something of a Classic status thanks to the beautiful Tuscan landscape that it crosses, and the way it harks back to the Golden Age of cycling.
The 103km race will depart from the Piazza Duomo in the iconic Medieval hilltop town of San Gimignano, with its fourteen famous towers, and cross a total of 17.4km of Tuscany’s white roads on the way to the beautiful Piazza del Campo in the provincial capital of Siena.
The two Italian riders in Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s roster will doubtless take centre stage, with Elisa Longo Borghini and former two-time road World Champion Giorgia Bronzini taking the start. Longo Borghini – whose recently retired elder brother Paolo rode the first five editions of the race – has been the face of the women’s event, and featured in RCS Sport’s media campaign.
Although the course should suit the 23-year-old Classics specialist, Longo Borghini is circumspect about her chances in such a tough event so early in the season.
“For Strade Bianche I don’t expect anything in particular,” Longo Borghini said. “I simply want to race freely and without having so much pressure, enjoying every kilometre of the race which is in my opinion one of the nicest and charming on the calendar.
“Anyway,” she added. “I’m sure the our team can achieve a good result!”
As one of the most experienced riders in the women’s peloton, Bronzini is well aware of the significance of another big men’s race adding a women’s event. The Strade Bianche will be the first women’s race to be organised by RCS Sport – the organiser of the men’s Giro d’Italia and several other Classic events – since the sad demise of the Primavera Rosa – the women’s Milano-Sanremo – in 2005.
“I’m really excited to do this race because it is new for us and we will be racing in the same moment as the men!” Bronzini said. “It’s another event where the woman can have the chance to put on a good show!
“I don’t think I’m really ready for this kind of effort but for sure I will be a good support for the team!”
Alongside the two Italian riders, Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling will field the climbing strength of Japanese Champion Mayuko Hagiwara and two-time Giro d’Italia winner Mara Abbott; while the team will be completed by tireless French rider Audrey Cordon-Ragot and Australian Chloe Hosking, who has already achieved incredible results this season in Australia, Qatar and Belgium.
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling line up for Strade Bianche (7th March)
Mara Abbott (United States), Giorgia Bronzini (Italy), Audrey Cordon-Ragot (France), Mayuko Hagiwara(Japan), Chloe Hosking (Australia), Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy)
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Chloe Hosking and Jolien D’hoore finished fourth and fifth respectively in Le Samyn des Dames, a 112km race close to Mons, Belgium, in the French-speaking Walloon province. The race finished in a bunch sprint, won by Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans), ahead of Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv) and Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS), but only after a six-rider group that included Hosking was chased down inside the final kilometres.
“It was a good race for the team,” Belgian Champion D’hoore explained. “We were very aggressive; we we’re always riding at the front of the bunch, and there was always someone in the breakaways. So it was a pretty good team effort.
“In the end – on the last local lap – Chloe was in a breakaway of six, so that was perfect for us. We played the team tactics, and I could stay in the first group, but in the last kilometre everything came back together. Everything was a bit hectic and we didn’t have the time to communicate for the sprint, so we just did our own thing and it ended up with fourth and fifth. So not bad.”
After a 62.6km opening loop around the Walloon countryside, the race finished with two laps of a 24.7km circuit, featuring three sections of cobblestones and the climb of the Rue du Calvaire. Despite splitting several on several occasions, but reforming each time, the peloton was still together as it started the final lap; but this was when the group containing Hosking got away.
With the Australian were Johansson, Van Der Breggen, Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans), Amy Pieters (Liv-Plantur) and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Bigla). The six riders managed to build a lead of more than a minute but, with Boels-Dolmans deciding that they wanted more than just Guarnier in front, the Dutch team chased it down.
Despite the best efforts of the six riders in front, the break was caught with less than two kilometres to go.
“Boels had Guarnier in the breakaway, but she was not the right person for them as she’s not so fast in the finish,” D’hoore said. “So they kept attacking – one by one – but they couldn’t get away. So Ellen van Dijk decided that she’d close the gap on her own, and that’s what she did.”
As the best Belgian finisher D’hoore takes the yellow jersey as the leader in the Lotto Belgian Cup, but the Belgian Champion is not sure that the season-long competition will be one of her targets this year.
“It’s not a real objective,” she said. “It’s really nice that I have the yellow jersey right now, but if you want to keep it you have to ride every race of the Lotto Cup and I think that’s not possible. We will see how far I can go, but this is already a good start.
“It was a really big difference with [the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on] Saturday,” she added. “On Saturday I didn’t feel that good, but today was a real difference. I still felt strong at the finish, so that’s a good sign.
“I think I need maybe one or two more races and then I’ll be on my top.”
1. Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans)
2. Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv)
3. Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS)
4. Chloe Hosking (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
5. Jolien D’hoore (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)