Elisa Balsamo of Lidl-Trek wins Trofeo Alfredo Binda 2024.

Elisa Balsamo is better than ever at tough Trofeo Alfredo Binda

Lidl-Trek go four from four as Balsamo snatches her second victory at the tough Italian classic.

Elisa Balsamo (Lidl-Trek) wins Trofeo Alfredo Binda 2024. Photo: © Cor Vos

Abby Mickey
by Abby Mickey 17.03.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
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There was no rest during Trofeo Alfredo Binda on Sunday. Relentless attacks left the race in pieces on each ascent of the Casale climb, but to the chagrin of Puck Pieterse who spent much of the race trying to get away, Elisa Balsamo was able to hang on to the reduced bunch to win ahead of Lotte Kopecky.

Balsamo spent the day either chasing the climbers who continuously slipped off the front of the peloton or recovering from the chase at the back of the group. She was well taken care of in the finale by last year’s winner Shirin van Anrooij. The former world champion only caught back onto the peloton with just over 7 km to go after the final climb of the day put pressure on Lidl-Trek’s sprinter.

In the last five years of this race, we’ve seen reduced sprints and solo winners, but for three years in a row, Lidl-Trek has made the race their own. Elisa Longo Borghini started the winning streak when she soloed to victory in 2021, and the following year the American team controlled things from the start to bring a group of 23 to the line so Balsamo could take her first big WorldTour one-day, and in the rainbow jersey. Last year Van Anrooij took a page out of Longo Borghini’s book and took the race with a brave move.

World champion Elisa Balsamo wins Trofeo Alfredo Binda 2022.
Balsamo’s 2022 victory in the rainbow bands was one to mount on the wall, but was it as impressive or indeed memorable as this year’s edition?

This year’s edition of Trofeo Alfredo Binda had all the makings of a solo winner; until the very end of the race riders were convinced they could find victory on their own. On multiple occasions Pieterse gave it a go, but the climbs simply weren’t long enough to shed Balsamo and Kopecky once and for all.

In theory, there is no such thing as a “pure sprinter” in women’s cycling, and if there was the title would probably go to Charlotte Kool alone, but Trofeo Alfredo Binda, with its hilly circuits around Cittiglio, should be considered a puncheur’s race. For years it went to the climbers or Classics specialist, but as the peloton has found more depth more recently, the Italian one-day has morphed into a wide-open event.

The hills still offer plenty of opportunities for climbers like Niamh Fisher-Black, who attacked multiple times on Sunday, to have a real shot at victory.

Unlike when Balsamo won in 2022, Lidl-Trek spent less time at the front of the race controlling the pace for the Italian at this edition. Van Anrooij followed the final attack by Fisher-Black, and her team did everything to help Balsamo position herself, but there was a claws-out attitude in Cittiglio on Sunday that made Balsamo’s victory more impressive than her previous win.

One of the reasons the victory was all the more impressive was the character standing next to the Lidl-Trek rider on the podium.

Kopecky’s entry into the race was a last-minute one. Only four days before racing in Italy, the Belgian effortlessly soloed to victory at Nokere Koerse, so her unexpected presence at Trofeo Alfredo Binda narrowed the chances for Lidl-Trek to continue their hold on the top step.

But even though Balsamo was boxed in in the final sprint and had to find her way through, the Italian was still able to out-kick Kopecky on the slightly uphill finish.

Balsamo had a rough 2023, with a brutal crash at RideLondon taking her out of a large chunk of the racing, but she is coming into 2024 with a glint in her eye. Her second-place finish behind Wiebes at Ronde van Drenthe on the changed course, and now beating the best in the world is only the start of Balsamo’s season. Don’t forget that after winning Trofeo Alfredo Binda in 2022 she went on the win Brugge-De Panne and Gent-Wevelgem in the following weeks.

So even though on paper Balsamo’s win out of a group of 25 could be seen as a similar result to that of 2022, it is far from it. With the race the way it was – non-stop – and the runner-up being Kopecky, this win is another step in the ladder of Balsamo’s career.

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