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Trofeo Alfredo Binda 2024 – Can Lidl-Trek extend the three-year domination?

One of the oldest women’s events in the calendar, Trofeo Alfredo Binda – Commune di Cittiglio, is also one of the rare one-day events of the spring where SD Worx-Protime doesn’t have its name scrawled all over the leaderboard through recent years. For three years running, the Women’s WorldTour race, which first took place 50 years ago, has been the dominion of Lidl-Trek.

Last year it was Shirin van Anrooij who took the honours for the team with a solo break, while Elisa Balsamo claimed the second spot from the small group sprint behind. That finishing turn of speed was the key to victory for the team in 2022, when Balsamo triumphed in a reduced bunch sprint, and in 2021 it was Elisa Longo Borghini with a solo win. 

The question now is can the team claim its first Women’s WorldTour win of the year to make it four in a row in Cittiglio in 2024?

There are again multiple options to cover the usual race-winning scenarios of either a solo win or a small group sprint. The winners of the last two years – Van Anrooij and Balsamo – line up with a power-packed squad behind them, but there are also plenty of others who have shown that they have the ability to disrupt Lidl-Trek’s plight. 

SD Worx-Protime, for one, will be have Elena Cecchini and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, according to the preliminary start list, while Alpecin Deceuninck’s Puck Pieterse will come in with the jersey of the leader of the youth category in the Women’s WorldTour on her back. UAE Team ADQ are expected to come in with the strong duo of Sofia Bertizzolo and Silvia Persico while Canyon-SRAM’s Soraya Paladin will be seeing if she can continue, or even better on, her run of top five finishes.

The next point of reckoning in the Women’s WorldTour is rapidly approaching, so it is time for Cycling News to run the ruler over the favourites, as well as some of the outsiders, at the 140km race on Sunday March 17.

Elisa Balsamo and Shirin van Anrooij (Lidl-Trek)

The unpredictability of Trofeo Alfredo Binda – with its two early climbs after setting off from Maccagno and then the four-time repeated combination of the Casalzuigno and Orino – means to have the best chance at winning a team needs to keep its bases covered. Lidl-Trek certainly has done that. The team has put together a squad that includes the last two winners of the race Shirin van Anrooij, who won solo in 2023, and Elisa Balsamo, who claimed the 2022 win in a reduced bunch sprint.

It was just Van Anrooij’s second race of the road season when she celebrated her first women’s WorldTour victory on the finish line in Cittiglio last year. In 2024, she will be targeting the race with a slightly longer lead in, having started her road season at Setmana Valenciana, where she came 10th overall and claimed the youth classification. Van Anrooij has shown the signs of having the form in place to mount a formidable defence of her title, with a fifth at Strade Bianche and an attacking fourth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. 

Balsamo too, is clearly in fine fettle after starting her season with a pair of stage wins at Setmana Valenciana and taking second at Ronde van Drenthe behind Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx-ProTime). Given the strength and obvious form of the Lidl-Trek pair are carrying into the race, plus the fact that they also have a bunch other powerful cards – Brodie Chapman, two-time winner Lizzie Deignan, Gaia Realini and Amanda Spratt – a fourth title in a row looks like a distinct possibility.

Elena Cecchini (SD Worx-Protime)

It is often a game of pick which SD Worx-Protime former winner could be the team’s main card for a race when narrowing down the top contenders for a Women’s WorldTour race, such has been the strength of the team in recent seasons. However Trofeo Alfredo Binda happens to be a rare race where the squad doesn’t have a list of recent winners on the roster. In fact the Dutch team hasn’t celebrated victory in Cittiglio since 2016 when Lizzie Deignan, who now races for Lidl-Trek, claimed victory for a second year running while clad in Boels-Dolmans colours. 

SD Worx-Protime’s top performer at the race over the past six years has been Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, with second at the 2018 edition and then a fourth in 2022. However, as she returns from a year out of the peloton it wouldn’t be surprising if it perhaps takes her a little longer to build to her top racing level this season, but there is another rider from the team who was also right behind her at that 2022 edition.

For Elena Cecchini, Trofeo Alfredo Binda is a race where she has regularly found herself high on the results tally. Her five top-10 finishes include a trio of fifth places, the most recent in 2022, which was also the last time she competed at the event. The 31-year-old has clearly come into the season with a strong winter behind her, delivering a couple of top 10 stage results at Setmana Valenciana when she started racing. 

If she gets a chance at Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Cecchini could just be the rider to take the team back to the podium at the long-running Italian race.

Sofia Bertizzolo and Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ)

When Balsamo won Trofeo Alfredo Binda from a reduced bunch sprint in 2022, it was Sofia Bertizzolo who led the charge behind, taking the runner-up position. The  race has been a staple of her season since the 26-year-old Italian turned professional in 2016. The combination of ups and downs with a fast finish is exactly where Bertizzolo excels, and is the type of terrain that has led to her victory in recent seasons. 

This year, too, she delivered a strong early start to make sure she was well into her stride by spring, having started the year in Australia and twice made it to the podium at the Santos Tour Down Under as well as winning a criterium, the Geelong Classic. The longer build could stand Bertizzolo in good stead this year, however, she certainly will not be the only card for the team to play.

The last two times Silvia Persico has raced Trofeo Alfredo Binda, she has made it in with the front group, finishing sixth in 2023 and eighth in 2022, which bodes well for what she may be able to do with her refreshed focus on stage and one day wins on the road in 2024. 

The 26-year-old rider has set her cyclocross and GC ambitions aside to instead set her sights on the Olympic Games, and the Spring Classics are among her early goals. Trofeo Alfredo Binda could well be a good marker to see how her work with new coach Luca Zenti is progressing, with signs already that the build is well on the way after a 14th at Strade Bianche and eighth at Trofeo Oro earlier this month.

Puck Pieterse (Fenix-Deceuninck)

Puck Pieterse has already shown us just what a powerful force she can be in the mountain biking and cyclocross, with a third in the elite race at both the latest Mountain Bike and Cyclo-cross World Championships. Her brief foray onto the road in 2023 also made it crystal clear that her talents extend to a third cycling discipline, with the rider taking fifth at Strade Bianche last year.

Not surprisingly after that first foray, Pieterse decided to take on more road races this year and already the 21-year-old has stepped onto a Women’s WorldTour podium. Pieterse started with top 10s at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Omloop van het Hageland this season, and then was 13th at Strade Bianche before helping light up Ronde van Drenthe. First, she delivered an acceleration which peeled off a strong group of eight riders and then, when that was caught, still managed to deliver third in the uphill sprint. 

It’s a powerful indicator that the rider is hitting her stride on the road as well, so watch out come Sunday when Pieterse will line up wearing the blue jersey of the leader of the youth classification of the Women’s WorldTour.

Vittoria Guazzini (FDJ-SUEZ)

Vittoria Guazzini fought her way into third place last year in Cittiglio, standing on the podium alongside the two Lidl-Trek riders. It was a strong season start for the Italian then, who early in 2023 had also hit the podium at Le Samyn des Dames and then taken seventh at Ronde van Drenthe. This year the 23-year-old has taken it up even another notch with a win at Le Samyn from a small group sprint and then sixth at the Belgian Women’s WorldTour race.

That should leave the rider, who claimed the first U23 women’s time trial World Championship in 2022, brimming with confidence as she takes on her first home race of the season with the feeling of victory fresh in her memory. The preliminary start list also indicates that she could have some handy firepower by her side, with Grace Brown likely to be on the roster. It could also potentially mark the return to competition of Marta Cavalli after a bone contusion in the pelvis suffered in a training fall that delayed her season start.

Pfeiffer Georgi (dsm-firmenich PostNL)

Pfeiffer Georgi finished 2023 off with a win and has already delivered an indication that she is heading into 2024 on a firm footing. While illness may have intervened at Strade Bianche, it was a trip to the podium at Omloop van het Hageland and a top 10 at last Sunday’s Ronde van Drenthe where she was a powerful support rider for her teammate Charlotte Kool. 

Georgi doesn’t have much to show by the way of results at the Italian Women’s WorldTour race which she has only taken part in twice – first when she was 18 in 2019, delivering a DNF, and then again in 2021, when she came 39th – but this year she will be returning as one of the key rider for dsm-firmenich PostNL, alongside Juliette Labous. The French rider, with her prowess on the ascents, could come to the fore in the scenario that the race is shredded into ones and twos by the climbs but should it be a reduced group sprint Georgi is the clearer option. 

Plus, the rider from Great Britain has actually shown she has got what it takes to claim victory on the road to Cittiglio as a junior, having in 2018 started her season with a win in the U19 version of the race. 

Mavi Garcia (Liv AlUla Jayco)

Mavi Garcia has already found her way onto the podium multiple times this season, her first with the newly-combined Liv AlUla Jayco. The Spanish champion stepped up to third in her first race of the year at Trofeo Palma Femina and at the UAE Tour on stage 3 to Jebel Hafeet, which then also helped her to third overall at the stage race. It was then 12th at Strade Bianche as the season, where the rider is hoping for a bounce back from 2023, continues to show promise.

Garcia has already made her way into the top ten twice at Trofeo Alfredo Binda and with her Jebel Hafeet result a clear sign that she is climbing well, look for the 40 year old to try and make her move on the ascents, or at least follow the key attacks there.

Soraya Paladin (Canyon-SRAM)

Soraya Paladin has raced every single edition of Trofeo Alfredo Binda since 2014, and impressively the 30-year-old hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since 2018. She has been in the top five the last three years, hitting the podium in 2022. With a record like that, it is hard to bet against the Italian.

“I’m looking forward to Sunday as I always like the course,” said Paladin in a team release. “I wasn’t feeling 100% well at Strade Bianche, but I’ve now improved and expect a much better race.”

Elise Chabbey is also another strong option for the team having just delivered eighth at Strade Bianche. It could well be the case that the Swiss rider looks for a break opportunity while the Italian provides the sprint option as that was certainly the plan in 2022 when Paladin came third.

SOURCE: CyclingNews   (go to source)
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