Trofeo Alfredo Binda: Elisa Balsamo outsprints Lotte Kopecky to claim second title

Italian's victory was the fourth in as many years for Lidl-Trek, whose success in Sunday's reduced bunch sprint came ahead of the in-form world champion

Clock14:57, Sunday 17th March 2024
Two arms aloft for the two-time winner, Elisa Balsamo

© Getty Images

Two arms aloft for the two-time winner, Elisa Balsamo

Elisa Balsamo won the Trofeo Alfredo Binda on Sunday, as Lidl-Trek sealed their fourth victory at the Italian Classic in succession. It was a second title for Balsamo, who last won the race in 2022 and produced a tremendous sprint to capitalise on a strong team performance from the American outfit.

Balsamo pipped second-placed Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime) to the line, with the world champion launching her move first on the right-hand side of the road, before Balsamo made her move around the left and sealed her victory by a bike length.

Earlier in the day, Clara Emond of EF Education-Cannondale produced a valiant ride to stay off the front of the race for some 50km alone. But heading into the finish, attacks from the likes of Puck Pieterse (Fenix-Deceuninck), Niamh Fisher-Black (SD Worx-Protime) and Neve Bradbury (Canyon-SRAM) were all extinguished by Lidl-Trek.

The team in blue, yellow and red swamped the front of the peloton in numbers, with reigning champion Shirin van Anrooij owed a significant amount of credit for her work, and ensured that a small bunch sprint would decide the 2024 Trofeo Alfredo Binda.

In third place, Pieterse rounded out the day's podium, outsprinting Canyon-SRAM's Soraya Paladin to the line, whilst dsm-firmenich PostNL's Pfeiffer Georgi rounded out the top five.

"It is just amazing, if it is a dream, then please don't wake me up," said a delighted Balsamo after the finish. "The team was just super strong and yes, I am really happy.

"Those last two laps were really hard, the last climb was so painful for me but then my teammate did a great job to bring all the bunch together and yes, I just tried to do the best sprint that I could and I am really happy."

Individual opportunists the first to venture clear

With the flag dropped on the 140.3km-long race, all eyes were quickly on SD Worx-Protime and Lidl-Trek. The latter have dominated this race in recent years, with Elisa Longo Borghini, Elisa Balsamo and Shirin van Anrooij winning the past few editions of Trofeo Alfredo Binda.

Their names were added to an illustrious list of winners in the race's 50-year history, which includes Marianne Vos, Fabiana Luperini and Britain's Olympic gold medalist, Nicole Cooke. Chief challengers to Lidl-Trek's hopes of securing a fourth straight victory would, of course, be SD Worx-Protime.

The Dutch superteam have shown no signs of loosening their vice-like stranglehold on the women's peloton, and their strength in depth was exemplified by a late change to their team for the race, which saw Chantal van den Broek-Blaak pull out and be replaced by the reigning world champion, Lotte Kopecky.

In the face of these two juggernauts, the peloton's breakaway hopefuls made their presence known in the opening kilometres, with BTC City Ljubljana Zhiraf Ambedo's Giorgia Serena the first to hit out with a vengeance just a little over 10km into the day.

The Italian enjoyed a couple of kilometres of open road before being swept up by the peloton, with Mavi García (Liv AlUla Jayco) and Clara Emond (EF Education-Cannondale) the next to go on the attack. García's move did not last long, but Emond stuck at her effort and brought the peloton into five laps to go over the circuit around Cittiglio and its neighbouring towns.

It was on the peloton's first ascent of the Orino climb (2.5km at 5.2%) that Emond was finally caught, after over 50km of a solo breakaway, with some 60km still to ride.

Sporadic attacks and a Puck Pieterse demonstration

As the kilometres to go ticker dipped under 50, a semblance of fleeting order was brought to the race with both Lidl-Trek and AG Insurance-Soudal pushing a hard pace at the front of proceedings.

Their presence was not enough to stop daring attacks, however - in fact, some of their riders took their leave off the front - with Trofeo Alfredo Binda presenting an up-and-down course that could lend itself to a surprise.

Mireia Benito (AG Insurance-Soudal), Jade Wiel (FDJ-SUEZ) and Clara Koppenburg (EF Education-Cannondale) all fancied their chances, and it was Wiel who showed her colours most prominently. But the real big moves were still to come, with Fenix-Deceuninck particularly active.

Yara Kastelijn was the first to surge, quickly closed down by SD Worx-Protime, before her teammate and holder of the Women's WorldTour young rider's jersey Puck Pieterse produced the biggest blow thus far on the peloton. The multidisciplinary Pieterse spent a little under 10km off the front before being bridged by Niamh Fisher-Black (SD Worx-Protime) and quickly swamped by the pack.

Marlen Reusser (SD Worx-Protime) made a brief appearance at the head of the race, but the peloton was together as they entered the final 15km and looked towards the final ascent of the Casale climb (0.8km at 7.3%).

Reduced bunch sprint pits the two favourites against each other

Between the final two climbs of the day - the last of which peaked some 7.5km from the race finish in the Comune di Cittiglio - attacks rained from the likes of Evita Muzic (FDJ-SUEZ), Erica Magnaldi (UAE Team ADQ) and Kastelijn, but the front two groups on the road merged together.

Crucially, fast sprinter and former winner Elisa Balsamo was in attendance for Lidl-Trek, whose presence would be noted and feared by their rivals. Not satisfied with coming towards the finish alongside Balsamo, Neve Bradbury (Canyon-SRAM) produced what looked like a big attack at first, but was soon belittled by an enormous turn of speed by Fisher-Black.

Attacks came and attacks went, but none were allowed to stick and entering the final 5km, Mareille Meijering (Movistar) held a small gap over the peloton behind.

It was not to be Meijering's day, caught under the flamme rouge, as Kopecky and Balsamo remained right in the mix. A sprint was to be the decider.

Race Results

1

it flag

BALSAMO Elisa

Lidl-Trek

3H 40' 09"

2

be flag

KOPECKY Lotte

Team SD Worx-Protime

"

3

nl flag

PIETERSE Puck

Fenix-Deceuninck

+ 1"

4

it flag

PALADIN Soraya

CANYON//SRAM Racing

"

5

gb flag

GEORGI Pfeiffer

Team dsm-firmenich PostNL

"

6

nl flag

SWINKELS Karlijn

UAE Team ADQ

"

7

ca flag

BARIL Olivia

Movistar Team

"

8

it flag

PERSICO Silvia

UAE Team ADQ

"

9

fr flag

MUZIC Evita

FDJ-SUEZ

"

10

nz flag

FISHER-BLACK Niamh

Team SD Worx-Protime

"

Provided by FirstCycling

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