With Vos on your wheel, what would you do?

'She won by force and cunning, but deservedly so': Elisa Longo Borghini nets a best possible second place in Stage 7 at the Giro Donne

The entire Trek-Segafredo team played a part in setting up Elisa Longo Borghini’s counterattack just after the red kite signifying the final kilometer. It was a move that would have been good enough for victory if not for one crafty rider, someone already decorated with 29 Giro stage wins.

Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon-SRAM) was the first to attack as the bunch started the final ascent of the 1.5-kilometer climb to the line, and when she was caught, the Italian champion countered.  The timing was perfect.  Except for Marianne Vos, looking for her 30th win in the Giro d’Italia, was quickly onto Elisa’s wheel.

The finish climb had already been tackled five times in the six-lap race, a finish suited perfectly to the Dutch star. There are not many who can match the uphill speed of Vos and Longo Borghini’s attack was the best tactic to thwart her. But Vos is cunning. And strong.

As Elisa pushed on with Vos, she found herself in a challenging situation.

“When Cromwell attacked, I followed her instinctively. Lizzie told me to go, and I continued,” explained Longo Borghini.

“With Marianne on my wheel, I immediately thought that the only way to look for the win was to avoid a sprint. For a rider with my characteristics, you already know that your destiny is to finish second with her. The only chance for me was to start on her wheel, but Vos is too smart to get trapped. She did her race, she stayed on my wheel, and so I continued as hard as I could to try and drop her. She won by force and cunning, but deservedly so.”

Stage 7 featured six hilly circuits that ended with a tough finish, and Trek-Segafredo came out firing.  Again, no team wanted to play the same game, and once again, the team found itself in a breakaway with no help.

“We raced the stage to make the race. The goal was to keep Lizzie safe and to put her in the best condition. She was definitely our top player in a challenging but fast finish,” continued Elisa.

In Stage 6 Longo Borghini spent time off the front alone, and in Stage 7 it was Lucinda Brand who attacked and ended up solo ahead of the bunch. With no extra firepower to keep the move help keep the move ahead, Brand was inevitably brought back with 16 kilometers remaining.  While out front, Lucinda collected enough GPM points and overtook the lead in the mountains jersey, a rewarding trip to the podium for her effort.

The pace on the penultimate climb pared the peloton to a select lead group at the start of the final lap with Ruth Winder, Lizzie Deignan, and Elisa Longo Borghini present.  Constant numerous attacks followed, with the three Trek-Segafredo teammates attentive to all until a brief pause in the action allowed Ellen van Dijk and Lucinda Brand to rejoin. Immediately the two teammates went back to work.

Van Dijk pulled the race back together and Brand set a fierce pace to the start of the final uphill.  When Brand pulled off, Winder took over until the attack by Cromwell set up the blistering acceleration by Longo Borghini.

It was close to perfect.  When you cannot shake Vos, there’s little to do but accept second.

“I’m happy with my Giro; I feel good. I had a type of race in mind before starting, but then the road changed my plans,” summed up Elisa. “I’m having fun, and, like yesterday’s and today’s stages show, I’m racing with a more attacking spirit. Let’s just say I’m enjoying it as it comes, day after day. After the great success of the team time trial, we hope to make this Giro even more special in the last three stages.”