Elisa Longo Borghini will lead a powerful Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling into Wednesday’s La Flèche Wallonne Femmes, the fourth round of the UCI Women’s Road World Cup. The 23-year-old Italian has finished on the podium of both of the last two editions of the southern Belgian Classic and, after her victory in the Tour of Flanders earlier this month, will be one of the outstanding favourites. She will take the start alongside Belgian teammate Jolien D’hoore, who will proudly wear the World Cup Leader’s Jersey in the second of her country’s events in the classification.
“Flèche Wallonne is an awesome race,” said Longo Borghini. “It’s my favourite classic and it is one of my big targets for the spring. I have been training on the lap, and I hope that I can be good on Wednesday.
“Our team is really competitive and we have also the World Cup leader,” Longo Borghini added. “It’s going to be fun!”
As an historic race in the men’s peloton, La Flèche Wallonne Femmes carries considerable cachet as it races over the same roads, and finishes atop the iconic, super-steep Mur de Huy. The 121km race will start at the top of the Mur, before taking in two long loops around the hilly Ardennes countryside. The peloton will climb the Mur for the first time after 57.5km at the end of lap one, while the second lap will take in a small detour to climb the almost-as-steep Côte de Cherave before the final race up to the finish line.
Although the finale of La Flèche Wallonne is not one that is best suited to Jolien D’hoore’s characteristics, the Belgian Champion will be proud to line up at the start in Huy resplendent in the White Jersey of the leader in the World Cup Classification. The 25-year-old first took the jersey after her birthday victory in the Ronde van Drenthe on the 14th of March, but didn’t wear it at the Trofeo Binda as she was racing in Gent-Wevelgem on the same day.
Second place in the Tour of Flanders, behind Longo Borghini, meant that D’hoore has retaken the World Cup lead, and she is excited to display the jersey in her home nation on Wednesday.
“It’s obviously a big honour for me to race in the World Cup leader’s jersey, in a World Cup race in Belgium, so that’s special and new for me,” she said. “But I won’t race there to get my own result, I will help Elisa and the others of the team and try to do as much as I can on that type of course.”
Riding alongside Longo Borghini and D’hoore will be former US Champion Mara Abbott, whose victory in last week’s Redlands Classic highlighted her status as one of the strongest climbers in the women’s peloton. The two-time Giro d’Italia winner will be joined by former Spanish Champion Anna Sanchis, Japanese Champion Mayuko Hagiwara and Frenchwoman Audrey Cordon-Ragot, who has recovered from the illness that forced her to sit out best friend Longo-Borghini’s Flanders victory.
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling team for La Flèche Wallonne Femmes (22nd April)
Mara Abbott (United States), Audrey Cordon-Ragot (France), Jolien D’hoore (Belgium), Mayuko Hagiwara(Japan), Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy), Anna Sanchis (Spain)
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s riders were in action all over the World this weekend, racing to glory on three continents. While much of the team was at the Energiewacht Tour, in the Netherlands, Mara Abbott took overall victory in the Redlands Classic, in California, while Nettie Edmondson was winning the Sprints Classification in the Adelaide Tour, in her native South Australia.
Arguably the nicest result for the black and orange team, however, saw Olympic Champion Dani King win the two-day Tour of the Reservoir, in Northumberland, Northern England, in her first race back from the horrific injuries she suffered in November last year.
“I was really nervous before the start of the first stage on Saturday, but I just had to get stuck in,” King said afterwards. “The first race back was always going to be the hardest, because of my confidence, but I got stuck in.”
The opening stage saw King escape the peloton with Katie Archibald (Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International), and she managed to outsprint the talented Scottish rider at the finish.
“I’ve been working on my sprint, so I wanted to take it to the finish,” King explained. “Katie attacked me a couple of times on the flat but I sat tight and managed to get her at the end.”
Sunday’s second stage saw the peloton racing under heavy rain, which turned to snow at times, but King was able – with the help of Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling teammate Anna Christian – to hold off the expected onslaught from her rivals. Archibald’s teammate, former Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling rider Joanna Rowsell, escaped to take the stage, but King was able to hold on to take overall victory.
“Pearl Izumi rode a really attacking race,” King said. “Between us Anna and I must have chased down about ten by the time Jo attacked. I can’t tell you how good Anna was today, she really rode her heart out for me, and then got top five overall herself!
“It was just a war of attrition in the end, the weather was horrendous! I’ve never been so cold on a bike before; when I finished I couldn’t even talk, but it felt so good to be racing my bike again. I’ve had so much inspiration from the team, it’s been an incredible few weeks, and it’s nice to keep the winning streak going for Wiggle Honda!”
Mara Abbott’s victory in the Redlands Classic was a first for the 29-year-old American after having finished second on three previous occasions. Riding for the mixed “LA Sweat” team, she took second place in the hilly stage one circuit race, kept in touch overall in the second stage time trial, then soloed to victory on the uphill finish to Oak Glen on stage, where she took the leader’s jersey as well as the stage.
“Amber Neben [Visit Dallas Cycling] set tempo up the climb starting out, which narrowed down the field a bunch,” Abbott explained. “She actually rode everyone straight off of her wheel.
“I waited a bit for a good moment and then attacked, passing Amber and finishing solo to the finish,” she added. “Because I was down in GC a bit after the time trial, and knowing that Amber is an experienced rider who could hold a strong pace, I knew that I had to go all out the entire way across the finish line.
“This was a really special victory for me because I won Oak Glen in 2007 – which was the last time that they held this stage – it was my very first professional win,” Abbott added. “It’s a cool race. It’s one of those ones where the town loves having you there. It’s a cool race.”
Abbott then held on to her overall lead in the following two stages, to beat Neben by 24 seconds, and Allie Dragoo (Twenty16-Sho-Air) by 42.
In the Netherlands, Belgian Champion Jolien D’hoore added second place in the fourth and final stage of the Energiewacht Tour to the victory she had taken in stage one. The 25-year-old outsprinted Kirsten Wild (Hitec Products) from a group of seven riders, just over a minute behind the solo victory of Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv) on the German island of Borkum.
“The whole tour was good for me,” D’hoore said. “I showed myself each time in the front group, so that was good. I was feeling really good; I had good legs. I had only one win, but I was there all the time, with second, fourth and fifth.”
The decisive split came early in the fourth stage, with D’hoore getting herself into the winning move of ten riders on the windy circuit race. As the only Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling rider in the group, however, she was powerless to stop van der Breggen’s attack with around 30km remaining.
“Rabobank was there with three girls, Velocio had two girls – they were defending GC – so there wasn’t much I could do to chase van der Breggen,’ D’hoore explained. “I just had to stay there, hope we could get her, and then sprint. We didn’t catch her, so it was second.
“It’s pretty nice to beat Kirsten, even though it was for second place,” she added. “It was a bit hectic, with a lot of corners in the last 200 metres, and a little uphill. I like sprints that are just straight on, but this was different.”
Marking her return to road racing, following a break after winning two titles at the UCI Track World Championships, Australian Nettie Edmondson was in action in her home city race, the four-day Adelaide Tour. Facing the fastest riders in the domestic peloton, the 23-year-old took one second place and one third, and came away with an emphatic victory in the Rezz Hotel Sprint Classification.
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Jolien D’hoore continued her incredible streak of form with another victory, in the first stage of the Energiewacht Tour, between Wedde and Ter Apel in the north eastern Netherlands province of Groningen. The Belgian Champion was first to the line at the end of the 109.2km stage, with a late burst of speed, beating the Velocio-SRAM duo of Barbara Guarischi and Trixi Worrack into second and third.
“The last corner was 150 metres from the finish, and I came into the last corner in sixth or seventh position or something,” D’hoore explained. “So yeah, I thought ‘my sprint is over! This is too late!’ But then a gap opened up on the right side and I thought ‘I’m going to give it a go, and I’m going to try if it’s possible,’ and yeah, I won!”
The stage was made up of a twisting 53.6km loop across the Groningen province, followed by four laps of a 13.9km finishing circuit. The strong winds that usually characterise the Energiewacht Tour were absent and, with little else in the way of obstacles, the peloton stayed largely together for the whole day.
The race was characterised by a two-rider break from Marijn de Vries (Parkhotel Valkenberg) and Winanda Spoor (Jan van Arckel), who escaped almost immediately and were able to build a lead of more than two minutes. With so many top sprinters in the peloton, however, the breakaway stood little chance of making it to the finish. Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Amy Roberts counterattacked midway through the stage, along with Sara Mustonen (Liv-Plantur), to put pressure on the other teams to chase.
“The weather was really nice, about 15 degrees, and no wind,” D’hoore said. “So that means it’s very dangerous riding. There was not much happening in the bunch. Nobody wanted to go and close the gap – because there were two girls in front – but no one wanted to ride, and it was a bit boring sometimes!”
De Vries and Spoor were finally caught with just a few kilometres left, whereupon the teams of the sprinters began to organise themselves for the finish. Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Chloe Hosking led into the final corner and, although Guarischi was the first to launch her sprint, D’hoore was able to ease past the Italian to take the stage by almost a bike length.
“Amy was given the job of staying in front of the bunch, and to go in an attack if it was possible, and she did a really great job,” D’hoore explained. “Today she was really amazing; she stayed in front the whole time and she even got in an attack; yeah, she did a really great job.
“At about 10km to go Velocio started to ride – they were in a formation – and they did a really good job for Guarischi, so we caught the two riders with 4km to go or something. Chloe and me stayed in the wheel of Velocio – also Rabobank and Boels were there – but then Chloe did a really good job again. She kept me in front until the last corner.”
A ten-second time bonus on the line puts D’hoore on the same time as prologue winner Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv) but the Dutch rider retains the yellow jersey by fractions of a second. With a team time trial tomorrow morning though, the Belgian champion does not expect to take the race lead, but will be chasing more single day success later in the week.
“The main goal was to take a stage win, not to go for GC, because we are just five riders and that makes it difficult,” she explained. “Also, a lot of teams like Velocio and Rabobank have already had a training camp for the TTT.
“It’s not getting windy or anything, the weather forecast looks really nice: 15 degrees and no wind, so that’s too bad!” D’hoore laughed. “First we have to do the TTT, and then we’ll see what the GC looks like, but probably we’ll go for another stage win.”
1. Jolien D’hoore (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
2. Barbara Guarischi (Velocio-SRAM)
3. Trixi Worrack (Velocio-SRAM)
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Chloe Hosking sprinted to second place in today’s GP Dottignies, less than 30km from yesterday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen finish in Oudenaarde, just over the border into French-speaking Wallonia. The 24-year-old Australian was just beaten to the line by French sprinter Roxane Fournier (Poitou-Charentes Futuroscope) at the end of the 125km race, with Fournier’s compatriot and teammate Pascale Jeuland taking third place.
“I definitely felt yesterday’s 145km,” Hosking said, referring to the part she played in Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling teammate Elisa Longo Borghini’s Flanders victory. “We didn’t really go in with the plan – actually we didn’t want a sprint at all today – we wanted to kind of mix it up and give particularly Eileen [Roe] and Mayuko [Hagiwara] some opportunities. Unfortunately the breaks just weren’t sticking, so it ended up coming down to a bunch sprint, which was not ideal because Gio [Bronzini] and I had had to do a bit of work in the race – and obviously yesterday as well.”
Japanese Champion Hagiwara managed to escape in one of the race’s numerous breakaway’s, along with former Netherlands Champion Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla) and Australian Amy Cure (Lotto-Soudal), but several teams were keen for the race to finish in a sprint.
“Then it also started raining, and it’s a pretty technical finish, so I was a bit like: ‘I don’t want to die!’ But Gio did a really good job guiding me into position,” Hosking explained.
“I don’t know where my head was at though, because I noticed with 100 metres to go that I was on my hoods rather than in my drops,” she admitted. “I think that just the tiredness from Flanders yesterday – we didn’t get a lot of sleep – and it wasn’t an easy race, because everybody’s looking at our team now. I think we’re having to work that little bit harder.
“But I’m happy for Roxane, and it’s nice to pick up another podium and some more UCI points,” Hosking added. “I’m disappointed that we couldn’t get Eileen or Mayuko up for a result, because these are girls who do a lot of work throughout the season and don’t necessarily get to stand on the podium; so hopefully next time!”
Second place marks Hosking’s fifth visit to the podium in UCI races this season. Despite being such a central part of much of the black and orange team’s success so far – and having started 2015 with victory in the Mitchelton Bay Crits series – however, a northern hemisphere victory has just eluded the 24-year-old Australian so far.
“It’s getting annoying!” she joked. “Never being on the top, but just being on the podium.
“I’m so impressed by Wiggle Honda, and the level that the team has stepped up to this year,” she continued. “It’s really nice to be a part of that, and I feel that the morale in the team is so high, not necessarily because we’re getting really great victories, but because we all love racing together.
“I think the reason we’re getting the victories is because we all love racing together, and not the other way around!”
1. Roxane Fournier (Poitou-Charentes Futuroscope)
2. Chloe Hosking (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
3. Pascale Jeuland (Poitou-Charentes Futuroscope)
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Elisa Longo Borghini won the women’s Ronde van Vlaanderen – the Tour of Flanders – after a 30km solo attack, as the black and orange team took a one-two in what is arguably the most prestigious one-day race of the season. The Italian finished 43 seconds clear of the sprint for second place, which was won by Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Belgian Champion Jolien D’hoore, ahead of the Netherlands’ Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv).
“It was awesome. It was really awesome,” Longo Borghini said of her biggest victory to date. “I actually have no words to describe how happy I am. I don’t know. I don’t think I realise yet that I won Flanders!”
The 23-year-old won her first World Cup race in 2013, at the Trofeo Binda in her native Italy, but had been beaten into fourth place in both of the last two editions of the Tour of Flanders. Some advice from her most experienced teammate, former two-time road World Champion Giorgia Bronzini in the build up to todays race, however, gave her the courage to take the gamble of such a long breakaway.
“Yesterday I was talking to Giorgia,” Longo Borghini explained, “and she said ‘you know Elisa, you are a person who thinks too much, both outside cycling and especially in the races. So tomorrow just follow your instincts; just go when you feel like it.’ So I did, and I think Giorgia is right!”
Longo Borghini broke clear just after the Kanarieberg, as she responded to an attack from Trixi Worrack (Velocio-SRAM). The experienced German was unable to hold on to the Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling rider’s pace, and was soon back in the peloton, but Longo Borghini went on to build what was to become a winning lead.
“I saw that I got 30-35 seconds immediately, because I think the girls were just looking at me and thinking ‘oh, she’s crazy, she’ll never come to the finish line,’” Longo Borghini laughed. “Then my gap went up to 59 seconds, when I was on the last 7km and I saw I had one minute I though, for sure, I will win this race.”
The early part of the race had seen several attempted breakaways, with Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Bronzini and Japanese Champion Mayuko Hagiwara getting into the two most dangerous looking. It was the presence of so many of her black and orange teammates at the head of affairs that gave Longo Borghini the strength to continue her solo effort.
“When I attacked I was confident that I had my teammates behind me, who would cover my shoulders, and I thought that if they catch me back then at least I’ve done some good work for Jolien and she can win the sprint,” she explained. “I don’t know why but I was certain that we would win the race in any case. I was confident, I was just sure that we would have won.”
Longo Borghini’s victory is her first of the season, but follows a fourth place in last week’s Trofeo Binda and third in the Strade Bianche. It was the fifth UCI-ranked victory for the Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling, however, with D’hoore taking the opening round of the World Cup, the Ronde van Drenthe, as well as wins for Bronzini and Audrey Cordon-Ragot.
“It’s been a really good season for us, and the feeling is just amazing!” Longo Borghini added.
Taking the bunch sprint for second place, D’hoore took her best ever result in her nation’s biggest race. Despite having had to do no work in the unsuccessful chase of her Italian teammate, however, the 25-year-old Belgian Champion was forced to dig very deep to stay with the elite group.
“We rode a perfect team tactic and I’m really happy that Elisa won,” D’hoore said. “Elisa went really early, with 30km to go, but I was also struggling at the back, I was struggling a lot to hang on. Luckily I did, but it was pretty hard for me.
“I started my sprint pretty early – maybe too early because in the last 50 metres I had some cramps – but I held on to take second,” she added. “For the team to win a second World Cup is amazing!”
Netting 100 points for her second place, to add to the 120 she took for her victory in Drenthe, also gave D’hoore the overall lead in the Road World Cup; taking the jersey back from Trofeo Binda winner Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) who could only manage eighth after pulling her foot out of the pedal in the sprint.
“I didn’t expect it!” D’hoore exclaimed. “Lizzie was not in the top five so I took it. We’ll see how that will go!”
1. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
2. Jolien D’hoore (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
3. Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv)
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling is looking for even more success in the 2015 UCI Women’s Road World Cup at this weekend’s Tour of Flanders, the Ronde van Vlaanderen. The team will be jointly led by Belgian Champion Jolien D’hoore, who won the first round of the competition, the Ronde van Drenthe last month, and Italian Elisa Longo Borghini, who took fourth place in last week’s Trofeo Alfredo Binda.
“The Tour of Flanders is the race I love the most,” said D’hoore. “It’s a prestigious ‘monument’ race in Belgium and far beyond. I’m very proud to wear the Belgian champ jersey on my home roads, so obviously I want to do well on Sunday.”
D’hoore comes into the race after an impressive fourth place in last weekend’s epic edition of Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields and, although conditions are expected to be far better on Sunday, the Belgian champion hopes to shine over the cobbles and bergs of her native region once more.
“We have a strong team at the start line,” the 25-year-old added. “I’m confident that we can show ourselves and play an important role in the race. I’m really looking forward to kick off this amazing spring classic on Sunday!”
Although she comes from northern Italy, Longo Borghini is one of the most accomplished riders over cobbles in the women’s sport, as she has shown since her very first races in the elite peloton. The 23-year old has finished fourth in both of the last two editions of the Tour of Flanders and, after superb form so far this year – with third place in the Strade Bianche to go with her fourth place in Binda – is capable of going even better this time.
“Flanders is one the most important races on the entire calendar,” she said. “We are ready to race and I can’t wait to get to the start.
“I know it will be really hard, but our team is strong and we’ve got many cards to play,” Longo Borghini added. “I can’t wait until Sunday!”
Although D’hoore and Longo Borghini will be team captains for the race, the team will also include Australian sprinter Chloe Hosking, whose performance in Gent-Wevelgem – where she finished in third place – showed that she is also capable of performing in Flanders this weekend. Fellow sprinter Giorgia Bronzini, who won last month’s Drenthe 8 is also more than capable of taking a result at the end of such a hard race.
The team will be completed by Cholet-Pays de Loire winner Audrey Cordon-Ragot, who has recovered from her Trofeo Binda crash, and Japanese Champion Mayuko Hagiwara, whose ability to ride in any terrain makes her one of the most valued teammates in the peloton.
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling line up for the Ronde van Vlaanderen (5th April)
Giorgia Bronzini (Italy), Audrey Cordon-Ragot (France), Jolien D’hoore (Belgium), Mayuko Hagiwara(Japan), Chloe Hosking (Australia), Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy)
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Chloe Hosking took third place in what has been described as an epic edition of Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields, while Elisa Longo Borghini narrowly missed the podium in the Trofeo Alfredo Binda Comune di Cittiglo in Italy. The black and orange team was in action on two fronts, with riders making the selections in both races, but was just unable to match the success of the two previous weekends.
Floortje Mackaij (Liv-Plantur) won Gent-Wevelgem with a late solo attack, with Hosking just beaten into second by Janneke Ensing (Parkhotel Valkenburg) a few seconds later. Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Belgian Champion Jolien D’hoore won the sprint for fourth place at the head of the next group.
The race was run in strong wind and heavy rain, which caused many to call for the men’s WorldTour race – which was being run concurrently – to be neutralised.
“It was awesome!” Hosking exclaimed. “I think maybe the wind got stronger in the day, for the guys, but for sure there were girls being blown off the road, and I had a few sketchy moments where girls that had too deep wheels on almost took me out. I just love this kind of racing though. Maybe it was a little bit dangerous, but it was real Belgium spring classic racing. Maybe I’m just crazy!
“The peloton was already pretty small when we hit the Kemmelberg for the first time. It got select over the hills, but it was really the crosswinds that did the damage. I suddenly looked round and there was a group of about ten, and some of the big names weren’t there.
“It wasn’t until the second time over the Kemmelberg and Monteberg that it really split up. Only five girls went over the top together – Jolien was up there for us, which was great – and I was the sixth rider, just hanging off the back, but I knew the descent and I knew that I’d be able to get back on.”
The group was reduced to just nine riders, with Hosking and D’hoore present, but late attacks split the group further in the final run to the finish in Wevelgem.
“I said straight away ‘this is Gent-Wevelgem, this is Jolien’s race,’” Hosking explained. “But, in the end, Liv-Plantur had the numbers and made it count. They started launching attacks, and I think I covered maybe three or four – and Jolien covered one – but Mackaij attacked with about three-k to go and I just hesitated.
“I was so exhausted. It was me and Ensing, but we just couldn’t close the gap. I rolled through with about a kilometre to go, and she left me stuck on the front and took me for second place. Finishing third wasn’t fantastic for us because Jolien really had the legs and would have been able to take the sprint if it had stayed together, but Liv-Plantur had the numbers and played it really well.
“It wasn’t the best, but it’s nice to finish on the podium, and we’re really looking good for the Tour of Flanders next Sunday.”
The Trofeo Binda was won by Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) at the head of a selective group of six riders, with the Rabo-Liv duo of World Champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot and Anna van der Breggen outsprinting Longo Borghini to the final podium spots.
“I’m satisfied with the form I have, because I was sick in the days before this race and I didn’t know what my condition is,” Longo Borghini said afterwards. “I’m there, and I’m happy that I was there in the front group today.
“I’m just feeling a bit sad because I really wanted to get a podium place for my team, because they worked really, really well and everyone did their job. I just couldn’t sprint fast enough for third place, but I’m happy.”
Racing in fine weather, the peloton stayed largely together during the opening long lap – with only solo attacks from Simona Frapporti (Alé-Cipollini) and Katrin Garfoot (Orica-AIS) breaking the deadlock. On the four hilly 17.1km finishing laps, however, the race came to life.
Longo Borghini was part of a six-rider move that included Armitstead, Ferrand Prevot and van der Breggen, as well as Alena Amialiusik (Velocio-SRAM) and Yolanda Neff (Switzerland), which proved to be the winning move of the race. Ferrand Prevot made a solo bid for glory, but was chased down by Longo Borghini, Armitstead, Ferrand Prevot and van der Breggen, with the other two just managing to rejoin in the final kilometres.
“The last three laps we were on fire, it was an explosion!” Longo Borghini exclaimed. “There were a lot of attacks and I managed to counter and follow and to be there until the last corner. I have to admit that I took the last corner wrong. I was the last one, and I had to sprint, and I couldn’t reach the third place.
“I’m happy, but I wanted to give a podium place to the girls that worked for me,” she added. “We will be really strong in [next week’s Tour of] Flanders, I’m so sure. My condition is growing, I feel confident and I feel strong.”
1. Floortje Mackaij (Liv-Plantur)
2. Janneke Ensing (Parkhotel Valkenburg)
3. Chloe Hosking (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
4. Jolien D’hoore (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
Result Trofeo Binda
1. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans)
2. Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Rabo-Liv)
3. Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv)
4. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
Gent-Wevelgem Photos Credit: Dick Soepenberg/Sportfoto.nl
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)