In a thrilling finish to the four-day WorldTour race, Elisa surprises herself with a solo win, the overall title, and mountains jersey.
A more thrilling ending could not have been scripted as Elisa Longo Borghini soloed to the overall victory by two seconds in the final stage at the Emakumeen Bira WorldTour race in the Basque Country.
Longo Borghini rode away on the final climb of the day and just held off the bunch to win the stage by four seconds. It was enough to give her the overall win over Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton Scott) who finished fifth on the stage and moved to second overall.
Longo Borghini: “Today we rode super well. First, we had Anna (Plichta) in a break, then Audrey (Cordon-Ragot) in the next one. Audrey was the virtual leader on the road, so that put a lot of pressure on Mitchelton-Scott. Then on the last climb, Garcia of Movistar attacked, and I followed. I went by instinct and just continued fast as I could to the top, and all of a sudden, I had 28 seconds.”
Longo Borghini crested the final climb alone and used her descending skills to increase her lead over the ensuing downhill kilometers. As she reached the last flat eight-kilometer run-in, her gap had fallen, and it was touch and go if she would hold off the chase behind.
The last 15kms were a hell! I tried to push everything I had, I really wanted to win the stage. In the end, I found myself winning the race, the GC and the mountains jersey…it’s a dream. I really want to thank my teammates and all the staff who work 24 hours every day this week for us, and to Luca (Guercilena, general manager) for giving me a contract and really believing in me.
With the bunch closing on Longo Borghini in the final meters, teammate Tayler Wiles – who won stage three in a similar exciting fashion – knew that the bonus seconds would come into play. Wiles sprinted for the line, taking third place and the last of the bonus times and gobbled up any chance for Spratt to keep the leader’s jersey. When the times were tallied, the overall title was Longo Borghini’s by a mere two seconds.
“I knew it was going to be so, so close. I could see Elisa as we came into the finish so I knew it would be really tight and every second would count, so I did my best to try and sprint,” said Wiles, who also held onto fourth place in the GC.
It was another example of the teamwork and cohesiveness that was evident in every stage and played a critical part in the overall victory.
“I could not ask for more than this,” said an emotional Giorgia Bronzini (team director). “I am so happy. We came here with a low profile. I asked the team to go for a stage win, and if we get ourselves into a GC position, then we can also look for that. Everyone on the team had opportunities. We rode from the first day really aggressively to look for a stage win. And yesterday the win of Tayler was incredible. After all the work she had done in the Ardennes Classics for her teammates, she deserved so much this win.”
Every stage Trek-Segafredo went on the offensive, attacking and looking for opportunities. Longo Borghini also grabbed mountain points along the way and wrapped up the classification over the top of the final climb as she gunned for stage glory.
“I knew that Elisa was in good shape and day by day she felt better,” continued Bronzini. “Again today we were aggressive with Anna and Audrey. I had asked Elisa to wait, and when Audrey’s break was caught, I told her to go for it and try everything. She did 18k on her own with Mitchelton-Scott chasing in the back, and they were unable to catch her!”
It doesn’t seem possible that this happens to me – I am not this type of rider!
And what does go through one’s mind in those last nerve-racking kilometers? We put that question to Elisa:
“I was thinking so much about my teammates, all my family, my boyfriend, and my mom that came here yesterday; everyone was giving me from home and the side of the road a lot of power in those last kilometers. It’s just incredible. It doesn’t seem possible that this happens to me – I am not this type of rider!”
An unbelievable finish and a true display of what a strong team spirit can achieve.
“I cannot be more happy – the team rode perfectly, and I cannot be more proud of them. The spirit of this team is incredible. It was a WorldTour win, but a WorldTour team win. Everyone, all the staff, and all the riders, put their hearts into this week,” summed up Bronzini.