The Italian champion captures a hard-fought and unexpected 3rd place in the first of the Navarro Women's Elite Classics
Elisa Longo Borghini has had a productive and taxing start to 2021 and was coming off a rest period into Emakumeen Nafarroako, the first race of a block of Spanish races. As a result, she was ready and more than willing to work for her teammates and allow herself an easing into the second part of her season.
But a pre-race plan does not always pan out on the road.
“I suffered a lot today because I just had my holiday before these races, and I was here to build up my form again,” explained Longo Borghini. “Today we really wanted to give a chance to Lucinda (Brand) and Ruth (Winder), and I really thought that Ruth’s attack would succeed.”
In the end, despite being at less than top form, Longo Borghini still had the legs to take part in the furious action at the end of a wet and hilly 128-kilometer race.
Relentless attacks created non-stop action over the final climbs as cold rain fell. Riders forged ahead as others clawed back. “In the end, Annemiek (Van Vleuten) and SD Worx were really aggressive; I had to take my pace on the climbs,” said Longo Borghini.
In the latter part of the race, both Lucinda Brand and Ruth Winder attacked their way into breakaways. But nothing stuck out front for long.
Amongst a group of five leaders on the final uphill, Longo Borghini, who had been riding conservatively throughout the race, decisively played her ace. However, Van Vleuten countered, which proved to be the winning move. Van Vleuten held on to a narrow lead through a treacherous descent and run-in, finishing just ahead of Demi Vollering. Elisa Longo Borghini arrived a few seconds later for third.
“I tried an attack, and Annemiek countered it. I managed to descend the final corners very fast to hold on to the 3rd place,” continued Longo Borghini. “I think today is a good sign, and I can be really happy.”
And a massive honorable mention to Ruth Winder: After attacking, following breaks, and fighting back to the front numerous times, she arrived in 10th place. “Again, thank you to my teammates and all the staff for all the support. Let’s go on to the next one!” agreed Longo Borghini.