How it happened
After catching the final breakaway rider with 23km to go, Lidl-Trek’s priority was to position sprinter Elisa Balsamo for the short, but potentially significant, Fredriksten Fortress climb. Elisa, who is still working towards her best form after a serious crash in June, started the climb right at the front of the peloton, thanks to an excellent job by her regular lead out woman Ilaria Sanguineti. The climbers attacked on the incline, but thanks to her positioning, Elisa was able to stay in contact, along with teammate Lizzie Deignan. Over the course of the next lap various riders attacked, but Lizzie was alert to the danger and followed several moves. On the final ascent of the fortress climb, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Suez) attacked and managed to break away alone. As the group reformed behind, the peloton managed to find enough power to close her down. Lidl-Trek pull on the front, their objective two-fold: to bring back Uttrup Ludwig whilst keeping Balsamo well positioned for the sprint finish. Balsamo launched her sprint ahead of long-time rival Lorena Wiebes, catching the escapee in the process, but was unable to stay in front as the Dutchwoman passed her for the victory.
Being again in the mix makes me happy. Being able to fight for victory is a good feeling even if, in the end, coming only close to the win always leaves a bit of bitter taste. However, I don’t forget what I went through in the last few months, the hard work and the sacrifices I made to be where I am. And for that, the satisfaction of finishing the stage on the podium makes me satisfied
Today’s was a strange sprint, with a small group. I feel that the feeling with the sprints is coming back, even though I’m still missing a few watts to be at my 100% again. The difficulties I’ve had during recovery to feed and train have affected me a lot. I feel that I am still in a rebuilding phase, patience is needed, but I am confident that I will soon be back to my level.
The Tour de France Femmes and the World Championship were very important steps to build my condition for the finale. Facing two such tough races without being at top form was not easy, even frustrating sometimes. But they helped a lot. I know that the chances from here to the end of the season are not many, unfortunately, but I want to do my best to leave a mark, starting with the next stages here in Scandinavia. It’s a race with very different finishes and as a Team we can have our say almost every day. Teamwork is our strength, as we showed today. I thank my teammates for their trust and hope to repay them soon.
Photos of the day
Courtesy of Sprint Cycling