Never say never: Elisa Longo Borghini wins the overall in a thrilling bunch sprint

Elisa sprints to 3rd in the final stage and wins The Women’s Tour by one second

Don’t tell Elisa Longo Borghini she can’t sprint. Mostly because she will actually tell you that herself. But also because she is one of the most gritty riders in the peloton. Tell her that, and she will just dig in her heels deeper.

After ceding three seconds to race leader Grace Brown in the first intermediate sprint, and one second to third place Kasia Niewiadoma, Longo Borghini didn’t give up.  She now needed to finish at least third in the stage if she wanted to steal the overall win from Brown. For a climber, and someone who describes herself as ‘sprinting like a stone’ it was a big ask.

However, with her strong Trek-Segafredo team leading her, Elisa claimed perfect positioning in the final kilometers and delivered a sprint that surprised everyone. She went up against the pure sprinters and crossed the line in 3rd place, grabbing a four-second time bonus to leap over Grace Brown and win the Women’s Tour by one second.

A more thrilling finish for an already inspiring week of racing in the UK couldn’t be better scripted.

Trek-Segafredo again showed how much teamwork is worth in cycling.

“We decided to go for the intermediate sprint, and I was 4th, so I was like okay, that’s the 2nd place and that’s it,” explained Longo Borghini. “But all my teammates kept my morale up and told me we will try at the finish; we’ll do the lead-out for you. I was really doubting, but when you see such a motivated team and they are really believing in you, you just want to give them back everything.

 

“In the end, they all did a perfect job, and Audrey (Cordon-Ragot) led me into the final 500m. I know that in corners, I am good, and I let some riders in front of me and took their draft, and I made my own sprint.”

 

Her own sprint was beautiful and it came on the back of an incredible team performance.

 

“Really, In the end, it was just perfect teamwork,” Elisa agreed. “I am really thankful to all my teammates and staff working for me here. Trek-Segafredo again showed how much teamwork is worth in cycling.”

Picture by Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com

How it played out

 

Coming into the final stage, Elisa and Grace Brown were tied on time and Niewiadoma two seconds behind. The time bonuses on offer were going to be a massive fight.

 

 However, in the first intermediate sprint, Elisa couldn’t muster better than 4th and race leader Grace Brown won the three seconds, giving her a dominant lead.

 

 In the next sprint, Trek-Segafredo was more than content to let a three-rider breakaway gobble up the bonuses leaving everything on the finish.

 

You can’t expect that from a mountain climber to get third in a bunch sprint, but we’ll take it!

Director Ina Teutenberg explained: “Grace Brown showed she was the faster when the three of them came to the finish in Stage 3, so it was not a surprise she won the intermediate sprint and took the 3 seconds. It was a bummer that Elisa didn’t gain even one second, but she didn’t have that punch in that moment. The team did a good job, but she couldn’t finish it off and I think it gave her a little more anger for the finish.

 

“So we let the group go for the 2nd intermediate sprint because when it’s not contested by the bunch, there would have been a chance to give Grace even more time. We would have to just try at the end; there was a minimal chance, but we had a good week so far.”

Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

With the breakaway tagged back, Trek-Segafredo went to work. The entire team lined the right-hand side of the road and never relented their position. 

 

Rushing full speed into the technical finish with Elisa, they had the bunch stretched and many on the limit.

 

“We knew the finale was crazy, and we planned to go into the corner at one kilometer to go full gas and open some gaps. And this worked out perfectly,” continued Tuetenberg. “The team were perfect pilots, and Audrey (Cordon-Ragot) did an amazing final lead out into the next corner. Then Elisa just stayed on the sprinter’s train and got the four seconds. You can’t expect that from a mountain climber to get third in a bunch sprint, but we’ll take it!”

 

“I didn’t know where Grace was; I was just focused on taking the bonus seconds,” added Elisa.

Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

 Chalk this one up to determination and incredible teamwork. But Elisa also admitted she had practiced her sprint, at least a few times, with her boyfriend, Jacopo Mosca.  

 

“I sprint with my boyfriend Jacopo (Mosca) for town signs. We stopped for a bit and were joking a few days ago that we regretted this after the sprint in Stage 3 when I was third.  I think we will be back sprinting for town signs again soon,” she smiled.

 

She added: “This is a big relief to win this race because it has been a strange spring for me. Now I am back to my normal level. Also, it’s nice to win an overall classification; this has not happened to me many times in my life. It’s only the 3rd tour I have won; this one is up there as one that ranks high.”

 

And it should! It was a long shot, but with a committed team ahead of a determined rider, Trek-Segafredo pulled off a thrilling overall victory.

Picture by Zac Williams/SWpix.com-

Grace was trying to be in position too – we just had a better ending than them today.

Photo: Rafa Gomez/SprintCyclingAgency©2022

“I think FDJ knew we would try. (Clara) Copponi was second, but I don’t think they expected Elisa to get third,” continued Tuetenberg. “Grace was trying to be in position too – we just had a better ending than them today.”

The Women’s Tour showcased women’s cycling at its best. An exciting week of racing was capped by an exhilarating final day. 

“We had good teamwork all week, but I think many teams showed team effort here and took responsibility on stages. I think it was a great show for women’s cycling this week and showed that the peloton is getting more and more professional, ” ended Teutenberg.