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'When a sprinter smells victory it’s like a regeneration' – Tough Trofeo Alfredo Binda boosts Balsamo's win satisfaction

Trofeo Alfredo Binda – Comune di Cittiglio may have been a race Lidl-Trek entered with a three-year winning streak, but taking a fourth victory was never going to be easy. There was not only an extra lap, and therefore another ascent of the tough finishing climb thrown in to amp up the challenge for sprinter Elisa Balsamo, but the dominant SD Worx-Protime also delivered a formidable late addition to the roster, world champion Lotte Kopecky.

The Belgian may not have come in with much warning but made a fearsome addition for the race nonetheless, given her combined ability on the climbs and in a fast finish. The power-packed Lidl-Trek, however, have never been a team to bow to the dominance of SD Worx-Protime and it was clear from the moment the racing got underway that it was going all in to clinch its first Women’s WorldTour victory of the year at the Italian race.

“Trofeo Binda is a race I really love,” said Balsamo, who also outlined that the event had been among her ‘priority list’ this season. “I was super motivated, but I knew it would be tough today, with that extra final climb. It turned out to be a super-selective and tough race, I think this gives added value to the success.”

The race was split to pieces even before the final lap, with a hugely reduced peloton entering the last pass of five, and the attacks just kept flowing right up to and beyond the final climb of Orino, which peaks within ten kilometres of the line. Still Lidl-Trek’s 2023 winner, Shirin van Anrooij, was instrumental in neutralising the attacks and helping pull the lead group back together to allow Balsamo the opportunity to take on the sprint.

“Our strength, as Lidl-Trek, is teamwork. We don’t always have the strongest individual, but as a collective we have few equals. The plan was to have Shirin ready to follow climbers’ attacks, while my role was to be there in case of a bunch finish” said Balsamo, adding “Shirin was commendable, she deserves a special thanks”.

While the plan to have Balsamo in place in the scenario that a sprint finish eventuated may have been clear, it was by no means an easy task, with the rider having to fight hard to hang on during the final ascent. 

“Surviving on the last climb wasn’t exactly easy,” said Balsamo in the team media release. “I knew it was the most critical point… but when a sprinter smells victory, it’s like a regeneration.”

With the late break of Mareille Meijering (Movistar) reeled in Balsamo got her chance at securing that second victory in Cittiglio and a fourth in a row for her team as the unpredictable event finished with a reduced bunch battle, just like it had in 2022 when she claimed her first victory at the race.

“In the final I played my cards in the best way,” said Balsamo. “I knew by experience it requires strength, because it is slightly uphill, and tactics… There were a few fast riders in the group, I marked Kopecky closely and then went full gas.”

That, turned out to be enough to overcome Kopecky, who claimed second place on her Trofeo Alfredo Binda debut and, despite her late inclusion, put the Dutch team back on the podium of the long-running Italian Women’s WorldTour race for the first time since 2018. 

“I am quite satisfied with this,” said Kopecky in an SD Worx-Protime statement. “Of course you always want to win, but Elisa was just faster so I can live with this perfectly.”

SOURCE: CyclingNews   (go to source)
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