One of the oldest races on the women’s calendar, Trofeo Alfredo Binda is a race that held more prestige before the WorldTour boom hit women’s cycling. The Italian one-day has been running since 1974 and is still a favourite among riders, but it sits at an awkward point in the calendar where many big names are getting ready for the cobbles of Belgium and thus opt to skip the hilly Italian race.
(One of the reasons riders sit out Trofeo Alfredo Binda is the travel. I won’t get into the cumbersome back and forth from Strade Bianche in Italy to the northern Dutch flatlands, back to Italy for Binda and then back to Belgium for Brugge-De Panne/Gent-Wevelgem and how that impacts the startlist … but this should probably be addressed by the UCI at some point.)
What makes Trofeo Alfredo Binda a race worth watching is that it’s not a course that favours a specific kind of rider, and for that reason, there are a wide range of fan favourites who target this race. Weather, who shows up, and how the race unfolds tactically in a given year, all play a role in who ultimately crosses the finish line first. It’s been won solo, like in 2018 when Kasia Niewiadoma took the victory in horrendous conditions, or in a reduced bunch sprint, like last year when it was won by then-world champion Elisa Balsamo.
This race is sometimes overlooked, but it shouldn’t be. The hilly nature of the final circuits around Cittiglio makes for edge-of-your-seat racing. It also takes place the day after Milan-San Remo, so if you’re feeling a bit down about the first Monument being over, this Sunday’s 24th edition of Trofeo Alfredo Binda will surely cheer you up.
The 2023 edition of Trofeo Alfredo Binda starts in Maccagno con Pino e Veddasca, on the edge of Lago Maggiore. The course weaves along the coast before hooking inland for the usual hilly circuits.
The first climb is 5.1 km long averaging 4.6% but as it’s only 35 km into the 139 km race it will likely only serve as a leg-opener for the riders who are hoping to win. The circuits are where the real action takes place.
After crossing the finish line for the first time 68 km into the race the peloton will complete four laps that include two climbs. The first, Casale, is the shorter of the two at only 800 meters but also the steeper, averaging 7%. The second, Orino, where winning moves have gone in the past, is 2.6 km long with an average gradient of 5%.
The finish line in Cittiglio comes directly after a sharp right-hand turn and is slightly uphill.
Kasia Niewaidoma (Canyon-SRAM)
The 2018 champion returns in hope of another spectacular victory for Canyon-SRAM. Niewiadoma didn’t have the legs she hoped for at Strade Bianche, but Trofeo Alfredo Binda is generally a little on the tamer side compared to the other Italian one-day event. Binda is also unpredictable, an environment where Niewiadoma thrives.
It doesn’t look like the weather will be quite as bad as when she soloed to victory five years ago, but maybe she won’t need it this year.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez)
Since Kristen Faulkner of Jayco AlUla was disqualified from Strade Bianche for wearing a glucose monitoring device, Uttrup Ludwig can now claim the final podium spot of that race. She had a good day a few weeks ago, attempting to bridge to the two SD Worx riders (who would eventually win) chasing Faulkner.
Last year was a breakout season for the Danish national champion, and with her form at Strade, it seems like she’s taking that success into the new year. It would not be surprising to see Uttrup Ludwig open her books with a victory in Cittiglio.
Juliette Labous (Team DSM)
In the past Labous has been crammed into a domestique role for Team DSM, but with Liane Lippert and Floortje Mackaij jumping over to Movistar, Labous now finds herself one of DSM’s leaders.
She had some impressive results last year, like winning the queen stage of the Giro Donne. Now that the team has more confidence in her, can she take the top step in a WorldTour one-day? If she’s going to go for one, Trofeo Alfredo Binda might as well be it.
Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ)
Without a doubt one of the most impressive up-and-comers of the 2022 season, Perisco has yet to win a one-day WorldTour race. She won stage 4 of the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, finished on the podium of two stages of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, and ended last season with third at the World Championships.
So far in 2023 she’s finished third in the queen stage of the UAE Tour behind Elisa Longo Borghini and Gaia Realini. She’s explosive, which is great for Sunday’s course, and she can clearly climb.
Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo)
Defending champion Balsamo may have a hard time backing up her 2022 victory without Elisa Longo Borghini. However, she will have the support of Shirin van Anrooij, Amanda Spratt, Gaia Realini, and Brodie Chapman. It’s a strong team on paper; a team of potential winners, however, it’s not exactly a team stacked for a sprint lead-out train.
If Balsamo isn’t having a great day look to Spratt and Chapman for a potential solo move.
Arlenis Sierra (Movistar)
Sierra finished second behind Coryn Labecki in 2017 and has since developed into a consistently reliable rider, yet she is frustratingly overlooked. With Emma Norsgaard, Annemiek van Vleuten, Lippert and Mackaij absent from the startlist perhaps this is the time for the Spanish team to finally put all their power behind Sierra.
She won Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in 2019, so she knows how to win a WorldTour race (even if the Australian one-day is a bit different than anything on European soil). She also started 2023 strong finishing fourth at Clasica de Almeria and fifth just a few days before Trofeo Alfredo Binda at Nokere Koerse.
Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx)
One of the winningest women in the peloton, Wiebes has a better shot than most to win on Sunday. She also is climbing quite well, as we saw at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Her presence will significantly impact the way the race is raced, no doubt.
With Wiebes on the start line, viewers should get excited about a potential Wiebes vs. Balsamo situation.
What you didn’t know you need to know
The start village of Maccagno con Pino e Veddasca boasts some truly incredible scenery. Do yourself a favour and look up Santuario della Madonna della Punta. The sanctuary is located on Lago Maggiore, with a little metal stairway down to the water where visitors can take in the beautiful white building set against the green Italian hills with their feet in the lake.
Once you’ve walked along the cobbled path that runs from the sanctuary to Maccagno con Pino e Veddasca, maybe even explored Castello Mandello up the hill, you can make your way into town for a few Italian staples. There are numerous pizza and gelato shops to enjoy. For example, Gelateria Laghee was apparently started by a young couple and Nina Onatskaia claims they have the best ice cream she’s ever tasted, even if the flavour selection was not to Andy Friedli’s liking.
Conversations with friends
I’m not the only one with thoughts about this Sunday’s race. I spoke with my Escape colleague Dane Cash about his expectations, and reached out to others on the team to see who they thought would win.
Abby: Similar to Milan-San Remo, this is a race that is both easy and hard to predict because it could end in a few different ways. I feel like it’s going to be a breakaway of pre-race favourites, but Dane, you don’t agree with me.
Dane: Yeah, I think it’s gonna be something closer to a sprint. Maybe not 100 riders at the finish line, but I think there will be enough of them that we’re going to see some of the more traditional “sprinters” as opposed to just people who can sprint.
Abby: Why do you think this?
Dane: I don’t know that the climbs are hard enough and I feel like there are enough teams with a fast finisher that they will work together to bring things back.
I also feel like there are enough riders who can get into a move that can sprint that nobody’s going to want to work with them.
Abby: That last point might be true.
My eyes are on Silvia Persico who’s got a kick but is also quite good at climbing. But yeah, if she is in any moves there are lots of reasons not to work with her.
Trek-Segafredo would be the team that would hold it together for the defending champion [Elisa Balsamo] but they are missing quite a bit of horsepower. If you look at their lineup for this race there is a gaping hole where Ellen van Dijk would be and I think that would affect their chances heavily.
Dane: And they’re also missing Elisa Longo Borghini.
Abby: Correct. She’s had COVID-19 and won’t be racing. I think the team they are sending is really strong but they can’t hold it together like they did last year. There are too many riders who will want to attack on the circuits.
Dane: The other big question is of course the SD Worx team, which as of this conversation, has not yet been announced. It makes it a lot harder to do this.
Abby: It definitely makes the preview a bit harder. But we know [Lotte] Kopecky won’t be there. I would be surprised if they send [Lorena] Wiebes with the Belgian Classics coming up. If they send Wiebes they clearly want it to be a sprint, they’re kind of showing their cards. But also, if they wanted it to be a sprint and Wiebes is there, they’ve got it in the bag.
Dane: So basically keep an eye on the SD Worx team.
Abby: This race is a lot less prestigious than other WorldTour one-days. Teams don’t always send their “A Team” and it opens the door for opportunistic riders to take a victory.
Dane: But this race is in Italy. And even if it’s not as prestigious for everyone else, it’s probably pretty important to Elisa Balsamo. She’s pretty fast … just saying.
Dane: Elisa Balsamo
Matt de Neef: Matt originally picked Demi Vollering, when we didn’t have a confirmed SD Worx roster. I took the liberty of updating his pick to Lorena Wiebes
Ronan Mc Laughlin: Amanda Spratt
Abby: Silvia Persico
When you should tune in
It’s a women’s race so you should tune in as soon as the live feed starts at 2:30 pm CET on Sunday, March 19. For everyone in Europe, Australia, the USA, and Canada, you can find the feed on GCN+.