The World Champ delivers a successive third WorldTour victory
A rainbow curse appears to have landed on the women’s peloton, not Elisa Balsamo. The World Champion sprinted to a WorldTour win for a third straight race, this time besting a reduced bunch in Gent-Wevelgem.
“Today, I won my favourite race,” gushed Balsamo. “It’s a dream come true. I am very, very happy.”
Gent-Wevelgem can go in many directions with the cobbled climbs and narrow, twisting roads providing ample opportunity for antagonists to shine. But when Elisa Balsamo made it over the final ascent of the gruelling Kemmelberg in the front with teammates Elisa Longo Borghini, Ellen van Dijk and Shirin van Anrooij, that direction pointed in Trek-Segafredo’s favour.
“The Kemmelberg was hard and steep, but my teammates helped me stay in a good position, and being in a good position is very important,” said Balsamo. “Then we decided to go for a sprint after the last time up Kemmelberg.”
Good plan. Because no one bets against a winning horse.
From the Kemmelberg to the finish – 33 long kilometres – it was impossible for the other teams to crack the Trek-Segafredo machine. But try they did.
Van Dijk was there when a threatening group escaped up the road, but the rainbow jersey was caught behind. It was a precarious moment. “We panicked a little bit, but Ina (Teutenberg, director) was so good from the car and kept us calm. Then Ellen dropped back and closed the gap. She was incredible.”
That was the first of many efforts from Van Dijk. She closed another attack moments later and still found enough energy to pull back a perilous one at 1200 meters from the line.
The last kilometre was left to Balsamo, and the World Champ did what she does best. Unleashing another furious sprint, she finished her teammates’ selfless efforts to grab another huge win.
“We were confident after the Kemmelberg, but it was not easy,” added Balsamo. “In the last kilometres, there were a lot of attacks, but my Team was perfect and closed everything – they did a great job! They all were strong – Ellen, Elisa (Longo Borghini) and Shirin (van Anrooij), especially in the finale. I have a little bit of pressure when I have such a good team working for me, but I am feeling good. It seems the work I did this winter is paying off. We won this race because we were the best team and have the best team spirit – we are one team for one result.”
Balsamo increased her lead in the Women’s WorldTour rankings; however, that leader’s jersey will have to stay hidden under the rainbows. For Trek-Segafredo, no one cares since this rainbow brings a pot filling with gold.
But for the peloton, perhaps, they might prefer the World Champion in a different jersey as they try to solve a rainbow curse of their own.
“Did you win again?”
🇧🇪 #GWE22 #GWEwomen pic.twitter.com/clc5steSZD
— Trek-Segafredo (@TrekSegafredo) March 27, 2022