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Elisa Balsamo wins the opening stage of the 2023 Setmana Ciclista Valenciana

Elisa Balsamo took the first stage of the 2023 Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, a repeat of her win at the same stage in last year’s race. The Italian national champion was positioned perfectly by her teammate Ilaria Sanguineti going into the final corner with 300 metres to go. A series of roundabouts over the final few km had strung out the bunch, leading to Trek Segafredo doing a great job of controlling the best position on the front of the peloton. Dropped off at the ideal point, Balsamo was never in doubt as the stage winner from that point on.

Some of the best stories though come from behind Balsamo. Lotta Henttala was taking part in her first race since becoming a mother and taking time away from the peloton before then. A strong sprinter before covid, this is a strong return to form that those with long memories of women’s cycling will be pleased to see. It’s another comeback for Coryn Labecki too. She was 3rd on a stage of the Women’s Tour last year but it hasn’t been plain sailing. A result this early in the season is hopefully a sign the American is back to her best.

Elisa Balsamo will wear the leader’s jersey tomorrow ahead of Henttala and Labecki. Intermediate sprint bonus seconds see Olivia Baril, Matilde Vitillo and Silvia Zanardi ahead of most of the peloton.

“I was a little bit scared because you never know how your condition will be at the start of the season. I was coming from the European track championships so it was quite a lot of time without the road bike. Today my team did a great job, on the first climb I was little bit full gas but then everything was perfect.

The final was crazy but Yaya was really amazing, it was just super fun working again with her. This win means a lot for me. It’s always difficult during a race to find the good timing and be in the right place at the right moment for a chaotic sprint finish like this one, but yesterday we saw with Ina [Teutenberg, DS] the last KM so that today we were prepared for the finish. 

It would be a dream to have a season like last year. Last year was just amazing. I really hope to have a good start to the season.”

Elisa Balsamo

“It was super special to have Olavi there. It’s super nice to be back but it was hectic with a peloton of 160. I needed to find my place and rhythm again which is normal of course. The team played an important role in that. We rode together really nicely until the final where I said I would do my own sprint and follow some wheels.

Jolien said I should go into the last corner as third or fourth place which I did in fourth. I knew what to do but I hesitated a bit in the end and then braked a little. I don’t know why. But a second place after three years not racing is amazing. I can be happy with this because I got beaten by a former world champion.”

Lotta Henttala

2023 Setmana Ciclista Valenciana Stage 1 results

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Annemiek van Vleuten at the head of the peloton
Photo Credit: Getty Sport