‘Don’t wake me up!’: Elisa Balsamo sprints into pink

The Italian world champion realizes a dream in Stage 2 of the Giro Donne

Elisa Balsamo came into the Giro d’Italia’s second day with her eye on pink and achieved a dream by winning the stage and taking over the maglia rosa as leader of the race.

For an Italian cyclist, there is nothing better and her first words were, “Don’t wake me up.”

The 106-kilometer stage was set for a sprinters’ feast, but first Trek-Segafredo needed to tame a six-rider move that had gained over three minutes’ lead.

Coming to the front with 40 kilometers remaining, the team made the work look easy, cutting back the lead quickly.  At nine kilometers from the end, the race was back to one bunch and heading to a fast and tricky finale.

Jumbo-Visma had early control of the front, looking to set up Marianne Vos.  Inside the last two kilometers, Trek-Segafredo emerged with Balsamo, and the Italian World Champion found Vos’s wheel.

Vos jumped early but Balsamo’s fast legs were in her slipstream.

The Italian World Champion, wearing the green jersey, made no mistake, slinging around the Dutch rider in the final meters to snatch the win – and pink! “It was a really hard sprint,” admitted Balsamo. “My teammates did a great lead-out. They worked from the first k to the last.”

“I know that Marianne (Vos) is such a strong rider, she has been a rider I have looked up to and sprinting against her is always a pleasure,” she continued.

Winning the sprint capped her performance in Stage 1 where she had to minimize time loss in a short time trial in order to keep a dream of pink alive.

“[The time trial] was important, I was only six seconds behind Faulkner and we really believed in this pink jersey today. As a child I always went to the men and women’s Giro, and of course for an Italian rider this is a dream to wear the pink jersey – it’s a dream coming true. We were here in Sardinia for the pink jersey, and we did it! I am super happy.”

The Giro continues with one more stage in Sardinia before a travel day Sunday.  The high mountains arrive in the final days, with a mix of flat and lumpy stages to tackle until then.  Balsamo knows she can handle climbs. How long the Italian can maintain pink will to be determined.

“We will try to keep it, but our biggest goal was to win it today. So now we will see,” she said cautiously, wanting only to enjoy the moment.

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