By: Rebecca Reza
How the race finished
Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) took a record third win atop San Luca to celebrate the 10th edition of the Giro dell’Emilia Internazionale Donne in Bologna, Italy on Saturday. American newcomer, Veronica Ewers racing for EF Education – TIBCO was second flanked by another Italian racing for UAE Team ADQ Sofia Bertizzolo in third. The race was just under 90km, leaving little time to play out any real team tactics, leaving it all for the final 2.2km climb to the finish.
How it happened
The sun and warmer temperatures greeted the riders at the start, a welcome return after cold rain had pelted the regionmost of the day before – preventing teams from any recon rides. The race profile was mostly flat, making it tough for any breakaway to escape. 2021 Champion, Mavi García did not return to defend her title, leaving the race open to the WorldTour favorites in the peloton including Arlenis Sierra racing for Movistar Team who had finished twice in second before, and Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) who had celebrated two prior victories in 2015 and 2016.
After starting an hour after the men’s race kicked off earlier in the morning, the women set out for what would be roughly 2 hours of racing. There were many jet-lagged legs in the peloton, having returned from Worlds less than a week ago.
Trek-Segafredo took to controlling the pace, preventing any breakaways from escaping. Speaking to EF’s Sara Poidevinat the start, many expected a high pace race direct from kilometer zero.
“It’s really a lot more dynamic with these shorter distances,” Poidevin said. “The left hand turn onto the climb is really tricky, so that will be a big fight. We’ll look for the opportunities in the beginning, then set up our options for the final to try and have a good climb there.”
The WorldTour teams battled in the final kilometers before the tight, 180-degree right-hand turn to start the climb. It was Trek-Segafredo that had the upper hand with both Chloe Hosking and Elynor Bäckstedt setting the pace for Borghini. The team looked back to check if their leader was on their wheel, but suddenly had lost her.
“We had planned to attack at 200m in the last steep section from the top,” Leah Thomas said at the finish, catching her breath. “We had lost Elisa (Borghini) but she found her way back. I saw her go…I’m impressed by her grit and fight at the end of the season, with so much pressure all year. I’m so happy for her.”
Ewers had been just behind Trek, with her EF Education teammates delivering her at the base of the climb to let loose.
“We went pretty hard at the first really steep section, and then it evened out,” Ewers told Vox Women exclusively at the finish. “All of us in that group caught our breath and so were able to hit that last climb. I wanted to be aggressive on the last really steep section and went for it.”
Longo-Borghini and Bertizzolo were quick to her wheel, soon after making contact, they duo launched attacks. Ewers fought back, staying within her pace before catching their wheel once again. The three of them were together in the final kilometer before Yara Kastelin (Plantur-Pura) had also made contact in the final stretch to the finish.
“I had some trouble getting that last kick when it flattened out at the top,” Ewes added. “It’s pretty amazing to come second to somebody so amazing on the bike. When it’s short and flat like it was, it’s really east to get sleepy. It’s funny mentally preparing the whole time, knowing you’re going pretty easy for an hour or two, and then full-gas for 7-8 minutes at the finish.”
Many riders echoed Ewes sentiments, appreciative for the course, but wishing for more opportunities to showcase the roads of Bologna and making the race more competitive. After popping the champagne on stage, Longo Borghini added her thoughts and thanked her teammates for their work in delivering her to victory.
“I lost their wheel so it was my fault that I was caught behind,” she said, speaking of the turn into the finishing climb. “Elisa (Balsamo) was waiting for me and tried to lead me out. She’s a sprinter and goes really fast, so she basically dropped me and I had to get back on her wheel. My teammates are always important in every kind of race, not only in this one.
“It’s a very good win, racing here in Italy at the end of the season,” she added. “It feels like racing a little bit at home. To be fair, I wish it was a longer race. It could be very interesting to race San Luca twice; we are used to racing a bit more kilometers than 90. Still, it’s a beautiful race and a beautiful region and I hope the fans enjoyed the race today.”