Elisa Longo Borghini snatches 3rd in Flèche-Wallonne


Race animator Ruth Winder hung on for 7th after a daring solo attack to round out a full-team effort

Trek-Segafredo started the mid-week Ardennes Classic with several arrows in the quiver and the desire to make an aggressive race. Lucinda Brand has quickly found her road legs, and put in a strong attack after the early breakaway was caught. Brand was joined by two other riders, Henderson of Jumbo-Visma and Elise Chabbey of Canyon//SRAM, and the trio worked well to lead the race for over 30 kilometers, but more importantly forcing the other teams to work hard.

When Brand’s breakway had been foiled, it was time for USA Champion Ruth Winder to loose her shot. The recent Brabantse-Pijl winner shot clear and quickly gained a significant gap alone.

“It’s hard not to dream a bit, right? But, it was a huge effort to get over those climbs before and then the big roads had such a headwind that was fricking killing me, but you had to keep pushing there or else your chances were already done. I really was [believing]!

I turned onto the Mur thinking ‘Just give everything you’ve got’ but they come by you like you’re standing still!

“I was just going as hard as I could but I had a lot of faith in my teammates behind me so I knew we had some really good options to play. I turned onto the Mur thinking ‘Just give everything you’ve got’ but they come by you like you’re standing still!

“I’m pretty happy with my own [7th] performance and in the end, I was going for Elisa. The whole race was such a good race for the team. We had people up the front the whole time with Tayler and Lucinda. We wanted to make the other teams had to chase and we made that happen. For the team, it was a perfect effort and we got the result we got and that’s OK. We did the best race we could do today and I think everybody is really happy.”

With a strong teammate in front, and with potential to win, Elisa Longo Borghini was able to take a more relaxed ride in the group of favorites which was selected over the Côte des Chemin des Gueses. It was by no means an easy ride, but having Winder in front allowed Elisa to surf the wheels and not stress about having to chase.

Eventually, it came down to slugfest on the infamous Mur de Huy. Longo Borghini was holding strong in the group as they hauled themselves over the 11.5% climb. All eyes were on Van der Breggen, who had won this race for the last six editions. When she made her acceleration, Longo Borghini was initially distanced into fourth position. But the race was not yet over – the Italian Champion gritted her teeth and ground out the remaining meters. Racing all the way to the line, Longo Borghini was able to overhaul third placed Van Vleuten on the line to take the bronze for herself and Trek-Segafredo.

“On the Mur you have to race your own pace and find out in which part you have your strength. It’s a bit of a false friend – it feels like you are up there and everything is fine, then all of a sudden you can blow up,” explains Longo Borghini. “I know I’m really good over the crest of the climbs because I can use my power. When I saw that Anna [van der Breggen] had a faster pace than me I kept my own and I let the others go, then I sprinted at the last 100 and I managed to catch Annemiek [van Vleuten] at the last 25 meters. I really used her as a reference point to just pass her.

I have a love/hate relationship with it but I hope one day I can win it.

“It was the minimum I could do after the race my teammates did. I knew I had to take my own pace on this Mur and I knew I can sprint really well over the climb because I did it already in the past years. In this race, it’s never finished until the end.

“Every member of this team worked really well and I need to thank every member of my Trek-Segafredo teammates because they were super good today. They were always up there; we had Lauretta and Audrey controlling the race from the start, Tayler positioning me really well on the climbs, Lucinda in the breakaway, and finally, Ruth, who made a big effort all the way to the final climb. I’m really thankful to my teammates.

“I expected a very hard race and I think we made a very nice race to watch too. Third is the best I could do so I have no regrets today. It’s a very good result and this is one of my favorite races. It’s actually my dream race, but I have a love/hate relationship with it but I hope one day I can win it.

“I would never, ever give up after all the Team did for me. Every time I see my teammates working so hard for me I just get pumped up and I feel like I need to do something to give back. After the disappointment from Sunday, I just wanted to race.

“We agreed with Ina and the team that we would race freely and I could do everything I wanted at my best on the Mur, and I think I did. It’s not for me to give up and I always go full until the end. I would be so mad to do that, that’s why I was really mad on Sunday. I want to thank all the riders, all the staff, and everyone involved in Trek-Segafredo because they do believe in me and they give me all the chances to go for it and do my best.

“I think in Liège I will not be the only one in this team who can do a good result, we showed that we are really strong and we can have a good result with someone else. I’m really confident in my teammates and I would be happy to see one of them on the podium.”