In just a few days in Wollongong, Australia, the title of World Champion will again be up for grabs. For us, it’s the opportunity to relive the emotions that the defending champion brought us in her amazing season
For those who like to believe in signs of fate, Elisa Balsamo’s victories in the first and last races with the rainbow jersey would give much food for thought. For others it might be just a happy coincidence. But for all, it is undeniably the closing of a season that has bordered on perfection.
We might be inclined to exaggerate, but the facts and figures don’t. The Elisa Balsamo’s 2022 rainbow season – which, for the record, may not end with Saturday’s Worlds RR in Wollongong – is summed up in 9 wins, 6 second places and 5 third – that’s 20 podiums from 47 days of competition. A remarkable track record for a 24-year-old rider in her first year in the World Tour and on whose shoulders weighed the burden and the honor of the World Champion’s jersey. A season that deserves to be told, and re-told.
The New Adventure
Elisa Balsamo officially joined her new Trek-Segafredo teammates in January, and a gift was waiting for her. Or rather, an homage: at the January training camp in Spain, she discovered that her Émonda is different to any other. A dedicated, unique and special design that accompanied her along the 2022 season.
The first days were needed to settle in, to get to know the family and to create a feeling with new teammates. It didn’t take long to realize that the blossoming chemistry would bring great achievements.
In her debut race, the Setmana Valenciana in February, Elisa finished off the excellent work of her teammates by winning the sprint of the first stage. A script that would be repeated often.
From Spain to Northern Europe, Balsamo confirmed that the condition was there. At the opening weekend in Belgium, she placed 4th at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. In her second race in the North, she placed 2nd place in Ronde van Drenthe.
After a super start, expectations were high for the first big test of the year: the Classics. And Elisa did not disappoint. The Trofeo Binda became the stage where the World Champion, with the unfailing support of her teammates, showcased her skillset with a victory of strength, intelligence and class.
I am in a team that has the strength to lead the race and manage it. For a rider like me, this is amazing. We create our chances and not just waiting for what the others will do. Winning my first WorldTour race in Italy is a special emotion. Now it’s time to turn our attention to the Northern races and I can do so with top confidence - said Elisa after Trofeo Binda
A few days later Elisa and the Team repeated the feat at Classic Brugge-De Panne while the pinnacle came at Gent-Wevelgem, the third World Tour victory in a row. A real Belgian Classic, whose cobbles were dominated by Elisa and her teammates with innate skill. After the win in Leuven, the proof that for Balsamo the North will be the hunting ground in the future.
That remained the high point of her spring. The Classics season came to a close with Paris-Roubaix and coincided with the first rest period to refresh ahead of a busy series of stage races
Today, I won my favorite race. It’s a dream come true. I am very, very happy - gushed Balsamo after the race
From the UK to France: The Big Stage Races
At the end of May, in the three-day RideLondon Classique, Elisa returned to competition. But she never seemed to stop. Three stages, two second places . In mid-June she competed at the Tour de Suisse in a thrilling finale with an exciting uphill sprint to the line and a head-to-head with Muzic
In the Italian championship, she clearly won the sprint with room to breathe. It was the final confirmation that Elisa approaches her first Giro Donne with a great condition.
In the Giro prologue in Cagliari, Elisa finished third, but only six seconds down on the winner. The next day in Tortolì the team script worked like a charm and Balsamo won the stage to claim the first Maglia Rosa of her career.
Don’t wake me up - said Elisa wearing the Maglia Rosa
In Stage 3 in Olbia she was still on the podium, but the second victory was not far away. In Reggio Emilia, Stage 5, Balsamo was the embodiment of technique and strength: a daring overtake in the last corner put her in the winning position, Elisa just had to finish it off with her trademark sprint. Her first Giro ended with two stage wins, two days in pink and the second place in the points classification.
Just fifteen days later came the historic Tour de France Femmes. An event awaited by the entire cycling world started on the iconic Champs-Élysées where their male colleagues would finish their Tour later that day. The first stage was loaded with expectations, meaning, and anticipation of who would wear the first Maillot Jaune, but Elisa was not able to express her full potential. She closed her experience in France with a 2nd place stage finish as her best result, but along the way demonstrated incredible team spirit by putting herself at the disposal of Elisa Longo Borghini’s GC aspirations.
I’m in a great team and even if I wear a rainbow jersey I don’t feel strange that I put myself at the disposal of my teammates. It’s important to be objective, as a person. I really like when they help me, but I’m also happy to pay back their effort. I like to feel myself useful for the Team - Elisa
The Season Finale (partly yet to be written...)
The return to racing took place wearing the Azzurra jersey at the European Championship. Elisa was the captain of the Italian national team, and the course in Munich promised a sprint finish. A painfully close sprint which required a photo-finish confirmation showed that Lorena Wiebes edged out Elisa by a few centimeters. In Elisa, after the immediate disappointment had passed she was comforted by the recognition that her early season form was back.
The proof of this was the excellent performance at the Ceratizit Challenge, with a victory in the final stage in Madrid , in addition to the team success shared in the opening TTT.
I am extremely happy. This is my last race with the jersey and there is no better way to end such a wonderful season for me. Today we really were the strongest team. Now I can see the World Championship on the horizon. I'm going to Australia with the goal of trying to regain the rainbow jersey, which I've grown fond of - said Elisa in Madrid
Elisa Balsamo’s rainbow ends here. Or maybe it doesn’t; we’ll see this weekend.