The Trek-Segafredo Italian sprints to her first victory in her ninth Italian Grand Tour and moves into third place overall.
If at first, you don’t succeed…
It took nine years of try, try again for Elisa Longo Borghini to net her first solo climb onto the top podium step in the women’s Giro d’Italia after she outgunned Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) in a two-up sprint in Stage 8 of the 2020 Giro Rosa.
After almost a decade of coming oh, so close, including a third place in Stage 3 this year – an implausible tenth time Longo Borghini has been on the podium’s lower steps – Longo Borghini’s tenacity paid off. And how sweet it is!
To add to her list of impressive palmares in the Giro, Longo Borghini finished six times in the top 10 in the overall classification, including a second place in 2017, and won the Best Young Rider and Mountains classifications in 2012 and 2016, respectively. It was hard to believe it was only this year that she claimed her first individual victory and added a cherry to that long-awaited cake, her first team trial win and Maglia Rosa after Trek-Segafredo claimed victory in the first stage.
“It’s very emotional. I knew that I was strong when I came here, and first of all, I found myself in pink, which was incredible. And in the second stage, I lost a lot of time, so we decided to go for stages, and I tried for the win many times this week, and it never worked out. This win is really special, especially after this very tough period and after the lockdown when I was thinking about my country a lot. I just really want to give emotions to people here. And it’s also the first victory of the season for me! I am very happy.
How it unfolded
In a nervous day filled with crosswinds and climbs, the Trek-Segafredo women showed their strength as a team, keeping Longo Borghini sheltered. When a breakaway finally formed midway through the 91-kilometer stage, US Champion Ruth Winder was part of the nine-woman group.
“We have been trying to get into a breakaway every day, and finally one went away,” said Winder. “The break went on the nine-kilometer climb; it felt good to be there and up the road, but there was always the feeling it was going to come back with the group we were with and the finish climb. Everyone was pushing a little, but it was not full gas in anticipation of the last climb.
“It was good to be there, so we did not have to chase. When we were getting caught, Ina told me on the radio to try and help the team if I could, but the bunch came flying past us with so much speed, and I was, of course, feeling the fatigue of being in the break and from the last days. My legs are cooked!”
The breakaway was brought back by a reduced bunch before the bottom of the finishing climb. Lizzie Deignan led a searing pace for Longo Borghini into the final five kilometers, a tough, steep climb with gradients reaching 12% before topping out with a small descent and short ramp to the line.
“On the last climb, Lizzie led me out, and after one kilometer, Anna attacked, and I just followed her. I knew that she was going for the GC, and it would be a good opportunity for a stage win, and it worked out,” explained Longo Borghini.
This morning we had a strange feeling about winning the stage today that you only experience a few times in your life.
In a close sprint, a victory rewarded Longo Borghini’s persistence. In her ninth Giro Rosa, she could finally throw her arms into the air.
“It was an incredible day because the team just rode so amazing! We were all the time on the front, all together, and had everything under control. This morning we had a strange feeling about winning the stage today that you only experience a few times in your life,” she added.
“I want to thank my team Trek-Segafredo, the Italian police, my family – all my beloved ones. If I am here and able to perform so well, it’s because my family, friends, and the ones I love made it possible. So thank you very much!”