Giro d’Italia Donne stage 1: Elisa Balsamo kicks past Marianne Vos for sprint win

This first story appeared on VeloNews.com.

Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) kicked past Mariane Vos (Jumbo-Visma) for sprint victory at the Giro d’Italia Donne.

The world champion opened her effort late and reeled in the flying Dutchwoman inches from the line to win the photo finish. Charlotte Kool (DSM) crossed the line third.

Balsamo’s blasting sprint earned her the race-leader’s jersey after Kristen Faulkner (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) held pink after Thursday’s prologue.

“It was a really hard sprint, my teammates did a great lead-out, they worked all day from the first kilometer to the last one,” Balsamo said.

The Italian also had complimentary words for Vos, who she beat in an almost identical fashion at the world championships in Leuven last autumn.

“I know that Marianne is such a super strong rider, for me she is like an example in the peloton, sprinting against her is always a pleasure,” she said.

Balsamo spoke of how her dream had come true after a strong ride at the opening time trial yesterday.

“I’m very happy today. We were here in Sardinia for this pink jersey, I’m very happy. It was so important yesterday, I really tried to go full gas and was very happy about my race. I was only six seconds behind.

“Of course when I was a child I always went to see the Giro, women’s and men’s, and of course for an Italian rider it’s a dream to wear the pink jersey, I am very very happy.”

The Giro Donne remained on the island of Sardinia for the second day of racing Friday.

The riders traveled from Villasimius, at the Southeastern tip of the island, 106.5km north along the coast to Tortoli. Prior to the start, COVID claimed its first victim, as Team DSM’s Floortje Mackaij tested positive and was forced to withdraw from the race.

A category 4 test in Castiadas just 7km into the stage set up the day’s racing, with Franziska Brausse of Ceratizit-WNT taking the QoM points, before pushing on with Canyon-SRAM’s Neve Bradbury in a first attempt to form the breakaway.

The pair were unable to hang on to their advantage though, as the Italian continental teams showed their hand. A break of two finally established itself, comprising Matilde Vitillo of Bepink and Cristina Tonetti of Top Girls Fassa Bortolo. A chasing group of four set off after them and managed to bridge the gap with around 48km remaining on the stage.

The group of six riders held a lead of over three minutes from the peloton at one point, which was slowly reeled in as the bunch traversed the bumpy Sardinian landscape, a long false flat testing the legs as Trek-Segafredo took control at the front of the peloton and began to drive the pace.

With 33km to go the lead group began to attack one another as the intermediate sprint approached. It was hotly contested, the eventual victor Marta Jaskulsa of Liv Racing Xstra. Meanwhile, the gap was rapidly reducing, and with 20km left to race it diminished from around a minute to just 30 seconds.

Francesca Pisciali of Team Medelspeck was the first of the breakaway riders to try a speculative attack, followed shortly after by Tonetti.

The peloton organized itself into color blocks across the road as they drew within 25 seconds of the breakaway, and prepared for the expected bunch sprint finish. With 10km to go they made the catch, with Trek-Segafredo, Team Jumbo-Visma, Uno-X and Canyon-SRAM all visible at the front of the bunch.

Jumbo-Visma led in the closing stages with Movistar and SD Worx in close quarters.

Vos launched her sprint first, but an exceptional lead-out from Elisa Longo Borghini brought Elisa Balsamo to the line at the perfect moment, and she claimed the stage win along with the leader’s jersey, which she calls her own into stage 3 with a gap of nine seconds to BikeExchange-Jayco’s Georgia Baker, and Kopecky in third at 10 seconds.

Giro d’Italia Donne (2.WWT)
Villasimius → Tortolì

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