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Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) outsprinted a six-rider breakaway in Trofeo Alfredo Binda on Sunday, taking the lead in the UCI Women’s World Cup in the process. The victory continues Armitstead’s run of fine form and the Boels-Dolmans show of strength the week before the all-important Tour of Flanders, which Armitstead has long called a target.
“I’m really delighted,” said Armitstead. “Like I said before, I was just hoping for some good feelings ahead of Flanders. To win and to win the way I did against two really strong Rabobank girls is great for my confidence ahead of next week.”
The two strong Rabo Liv riders Armistead referenced were double world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, in her first race back since she won the Cyclocross World Championships in Tabor in January, and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner Anna van der Breggen. The Rabo Liv pair and Armitstead were part of a six rider breakaway that took shape on the penultimate lap of the hilly course.
Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda), who won in Cittiglio two years ago, Alena Amialiusik (Velocio-SRAM) and Jolanda Neff (Switzerland) also made the move.
In each of her post-race interviews, Armitstead sung the praise of her Boels-Dolmans teammates. She credits them with setting her up for her fourth victory of the season.
“The team did a fantastic job,” said Armitstead. “Christine did lots of work early on. The other four did their work a little bit later. During the third lap, I said on the radio that I thought it was a little too easy. We still had Bronzini in the group. Straightaway, Evie [Stevens] and Megan [Guarnier] really committed on the climb. That’s when the group went away.”
“From then on, I knew I had to do it,” Armitstead added. “I had to finish off their work.”
The six-rider move went clear on the penultimate lap, and the leaders started the fourth and final lap with a 45 second advantage on a seven-rider chase group. With two Rabo Liv riders out front, Ferrand-Prevot and van der Breggen were able to use their numerical advantage in attempt to wear down the group.
The duo launched repeated attacks, eventually causing Amialiusik and Neff to fall off the pace. Ferrand-Prevot launched what initially appeared to be a decisive attack before the final climb up to Orino.
“I was very concerned that I was outnumbered by Rabobank,” Armitstead admitted. “It was really hard. Every time a Rabobank girl attacked, they were led out by a motorbike as well, so that made it doubly hard. In the last lap alone, I would say they attacked us at least 15 times.”
“I had a little bit of a combine with Elisa, which was good,” Armitstead added. “I knew on the climb that I could bring Pauline back at my own pace, so that worked out. I caught her just before the top.”
From the top of the climb, just under eight kilometres remained until the finish. Armitstead responded to attacks on the twisty descent and the flat roads, remaining calm before the uphill sprint to the line.
“They were continually attacking me,” Armitstead recalled. “Elisa quite rightly did nothing. She knew that she wouldn’t win the sprint. She played the gamble. I used my track background, sticking to right side of the road, so I knew I only had to look to the left for attacks.”
“They attacked me all the way to the line,” added Armitstead. “I had [sport director] Danny [Stam] in my earpiece saying: ‘You’ve got to be on the wheel straightaway. Don’t hesitate. Be straight on the wheel.’ I guess you could say there were a couple of warm-up sprints before the final one.”
To add to the drama in the finale, Amialiusik and Neff managed to claw their way back to the leaders in the last kilometre. Neither would prove a problem for Armitstead.
“Having gotten second last year, I didn’t want to leave it too late,” said Armitstead. “I opened the sprint.”
“Pauline is fast,” Armitstead added. “Her attacks were the hardest to counter today. It was hard to get back on her wheel. I knew she would have a good kick in the end, but I was stronger today.”
Armitstead twice stood on the podium during the post-race presentations. She was called to the top step as race leader. Shortly after, she stood on the stage again to accept the iconic World Cup series leader jersey.
It’s a familiar jersey for Armitstead. She pulled it on in Ronde van Drenthe last year, having won the opening round of the World Cup series, and kept it all the way to the series finish in Plouay, France.
“This is only my second World Cup victory,” said Armitstead. “You know, I won the World Cup series last year, but I only won one World Cup. It’s important to me to win big races. It gives me confidence for those World Championships and Olympic Games.”
DEIGNAN Elizabeth DEIGNAN Elizabeth Boels - Dolmans Cycling Team
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FERRAND-PRÉVOT Pauline FERRAND-PRÉVOT Pauline Rabobank-Liv Woman Cycling Team
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VAN DER BREGGEN Anna VAN DER BREGGEN Anna Rabobank-Liv Woman Cycling Team
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