The Italian 19-year-old sprints to third place in Gent-Wevelgem
With Ellen van Dijk and Lotta Lepistö leading the way in the final kilometer, Letizia Paternoster sprinted to her first WorldTour podium, just edging out compatriot Marta Bastianelli (Team Virtu) for third in Gent-Wevelgem.
Kirsten Wild (WNT-Rotor) captured her second consecutive WorldTour victory and continues to show she is tops in the world at the moment in bunched finishes, but Paternoster, with little road experience to her name, is already proving to be a sprinter of the future.
“We all know that Letizia has amazing talent,” said director Ina Teutenberg. “She probably lacks a little bit of strength and endurance at the end today, but the team put her in perfect position. We just have to accept that Kirsten is just stronger and faster at the end of a hard, windy bike race. The team did great, kept her out of trouble, and I think a podium place with her age and experience is pretty amazing.”
While the wind was strong enough to create harsh conditions, echelons never formed despite attempts by Trek-Segafredo and a few other teams at various points of the race.
I thought there was enough wind for echelons, we tried, but it didn’t happen for whatever reason. For us it didn’t really matter – either way, we were riding for the win, so we were happy with either situation.
In the end, almost 90 riders arrive at the finish. With the headwind, Trek-Segafredo patiently waited until less than 1300 meters to go to begin its leadout. Ellen van Dijk powered to the front with Lepistö and Paternoster on her wheel, and the Finnish sprinter gave the final push for her Italian teammate.
It was a textbook leadout.
But it was Wild who opened her sprint first and quickly jumped to the win.
“I started my sprint really late because of the headwind. When Kirsten passed, I was thinking I was probably too late, but I did my maximum. This was my first sprint after the track world championships, so I am happy and hopeful for the future,” explained Paternoster.
I am really happy with third. My team did a really good job. It’s incredible to have Ellen van Dijk, Elisa Longo Borghini, Trixi Worrack and Lotta Lepistö working for me – I am learning a lot from them!
With two more Classics upcoming, including Ronde van Vlaanderen next Sunday, Trek-Segafredo will continue to push for the top step.
“We keep aiming for a victory in the next two races – podium is always okay, but we all know it’s just not as satisfying,” smiled Teutenberg.