Riding is Life


With top Trek riders away, Alfredo Binda was the next generation’s chance to play

Deignan, Longo Borghini, and van Dijk are all out and van Anrooij seized the moment

Photo: Cor Vos

Abby Mickey
by Abby Mickey 19.03.2023 Photography by
Cor Vos
More from Abby +

On Sunday, one of Trek-Segafredo’s young talents, Shirin van Anrooij, rode to her first WorldTour victory. The team supporting her was made up of new-to-the-team and young riders, three of the five aged under 25.

This is new for Trek. The American squad smashed their way onto the scene in 2019 and quickly made a name for themselves as one of the best in the business, not only in results but also wages and support. After multiple seasons in the WWT, Trek-Segafredo is in the process of a rebuild.

Most teams struggle with the transition, and Trek-Segafredo hasn’t escaped without a few disappointing performances, but if they can pull together like they did on Sunday in Italy, the future is looking bright.

When Trek first formed, they signed as many of the top riders in the peloton as possible, with former-world champion Lizzie Deignan headlining the squad. Elisa Longo Borghini and Diegnan would become a formidable pair, with the assistance of multi-time French national champion Audrey Cordon Ragot, American national champion Ruth Winder and time-trialling legend Ellen van Dijk.

In their first three seasons, they kept the core team the same and won races like Paris-Roubaix Femmes, La Course by the Tour de France, and the Women’s Tour. They added no more than one young rider at a time and had very little turnover.

But by Trofeo Alfredo Binda in March of 2023, Deignan was still away on maternity leave, Van Dijk announced she was pregnant and would not race in 2023, Winder had retired at the end of 2021, Cordon Ragot changed teams, and Longo Borghini was out after two weeks with COVID-19.

Enter the next generation.

The American team sent 21-year-old Van Anrooij, who signed with the team in 2020 as a trainee, alongside 25-year-old Elisa Balsamo (former World Champion), in her second season with the team, and new recruits Amanda Spratt, Gaia Realini, and Brodie Chapman. Chapman and Spratt are seasoned professionals, but Gaia, only 21, is fresh to the WWT.

Balsamo crossed the line in second and celebrated her team’s 1-2. Photo: Cor Vos

Looking at the line-up it would be easy to assume the team was racing for the 2022 winner Balsamo, or maybe Spratt. Balsamo was one of the best transfers of 2022, winning many races for her new team including Gent-Wevelgem, Brugge-De Panne, and two stages of the Giro Donne. Spratt is one of the most experienced racers on the team and finished second at both the Tour Down Under and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race already this season. Maybe the team would race for the Australian national champion Chapman, who has spent enough time in the peloton to deserve a shot at victory. But as the race unfolded it looked like the American team would be going rogue.

The plan, according to Van Anrooij after the race, was to race for Balsamo in the sprint. “I knew I was really in good shape but still I started my road season last Wednesday,” Van Anrooij said. “I came here with the expectation of helping Elisa [Balsamo] again, but then I felt super strong and I tried to attack and somehow I could keep the gap until the finish line.”

Van Anrooij, having spent two full seasons with Trek-Segafredo already, has put in her time on the front working for others. If Longo Borghini was in the race, or Deignan, she would likely find herself working for them. This is common, and it’s often good for young riders to learn the ins and outs of the races before the pressure of winning is heaped on their shoulders. Yet Van Anrooij isn’t like every other 21-year-old WWT rider. Her time in the cyclocross space has primed her to deal with pressure.

Longo Borghini will return to the team soon, as will Deignan, but over the last two months, Trek-Segafredo’s new crop of riders have pushed for leadership.

Van Anrooij got it on Sunday, and she took advantage.

What did you think of this story?