Elisa wins the sprint from the chase group and holds second place in the GC
Elisa Longo Borghini sprinted to second place in Stage 2 of the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, overcoming an ill-timed crash with her teammates help to retain a top spot in the general classification.
Elisa out-gunned Liane Lippert and Demi Vollering at the line, two minutes behind Annemiek Van Vleuten who gave another masterclass performance in a solo victory and grabbing the race lead.
“We knew that today was the hardest stage with a lot of climbing and that I could potentially lose the jersey, and I did,” said Longo Borghini. “But overall, I am satisfied with my shape. Annemiek is really outstanding at the moment – actually already since the beginning of the season.”
“The whole team did a good job,” she added. “Amalie (Dideriksen) and Elynor (Bäckstedt) for their support earlier in the race and especially Elisa Balsamo after Shirin (van Anrooij) and I crashed. She rode me back right before the second-to-last climb where the race went.”
The quick teamwork prevented what could have easily been a disastrous situation.
How it played out
Elisa knew it would take something extraordinary to defend the leader’s jersey against Annemiek van Vleuten in the queen stage, but it did not stop her and her teammates from giving everything in trying.
Lucinda Brand followed the Team’s pre-race plan, and her attack drew out the race’s only breakaway. With Sarah Roy for company, the two journeyed out front for a big part of the race. Lucinda sprinted for the climbing points on offer to land a trip to the podium post-race for the mountains jersey and the honor as the most aggressive rider in the race.
“A good race for the team as we had the plan to have Lucinda in the break, which happened for more than 70kms in the front,” explained Longo Borghini. “It was a steady race until the second-to-last climb where Van Vleuten went really fast.”
Van Vleuten’s expected attack came on the penultimate climb, immediately exploding the bunch. Elisa held her wheel for as long as she dared; not wanting to risk pushing herself into the red for too long, she finally backed off.
When Elisa lost grip, only Demi Vollering remained. However, not for long. Moments later Vollering, too, waved the white towel, backing off the searing uphill pace by the Dutch Movistar cyclist.
“I managed to stay with her and Demi Vollering until three kilometers from the top. She dropped first me, then Demi. I worked together with Lippert to get to Demi and then we worked well together until the finish,” continued Elisa.
Distanced earlier, Liane Lippert clawed back to Elisa and the two eventually caught Vollering to create a chase group of three. When Van Vleuten continued to build on her lead over the final climb and run-in to the line, the trio began to look at each other. The chase was over. It was now a race for second place.
Coming into the final kilometer, Elisa dropped back to third wheel. She played the sprint perfectly, jumping first in the slight rise to the line and holding off Lippert and Vollering to grab a valuable six second time bonus.
Three stages remain and while Van Vleuten’s lead of nearly two minutes should be more than enough to secure the overall win, Elisa has only 29 seconds over Vollering. The fight for the final podium in Madrid is not quite settled.