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Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda) soloed to victory at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday. It was a spectacular victory for the Italian, who crossed the finish in Oudenaarde 43 seconds ahead of a nine-rider chase group. Ronde van Drenthe winner Jolien d’Hoore (Wiggle Honda) led the chasers home, sprinting across the line for second. Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv) rounded out the podium.
“I still don’t know how I feel to be honest,” said Longo Borghini. “For me, this is a dream.”
“The team plan was very clear after Wednesday,” said Wiggle Honda general manager Rochelle Gilmore. “We came out and did our recon on Wednesday, our dress rehearsal. The girls raced hard all day on the cobbles and climbs. At the Patersberg, we said they could go full gas, and Elisa just rode away from everybody. We even tried to get girls behind the car to get back to Elisa and they couldn’t.”
“We looked at her average speeds,” Gilmore added. “We knew if she could get over the Patersberg with a gap to the finish, she could win it. That was our tactic. If that failed, we wanted to have Jolien there for the sprint. That was our plan. Not every race goes to plan, but we knew, and Elisa herself knew, that she had the legs to do it.”
The victory is Longo Borghini’s second World Cup win. Her first was on home soil two seasons ago at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda. It is the second World Cup victory for Wiggle Honda out of three contested already this season. With her win at Ronde van Drenthe, coupled with her second place finish at Flanders today, d’Hoore moves into the World Cup series lead
“We knew what had riders capable of winning Tour of Flanders when we came here,” said Gilmore. “When we spoke about it last month, when we spoke about it two weeks ago, one week ago, this morning – we said “Yep, we can win it.” We knew we could win today with Elisa.”
“I wanted to win this race,” added Longo Borghini. “As I told everyone yesterday evening when we spoke, we had two options – me solo and Jolien d’Hoore for the sprint. We promised [teammate] Audrey Cordon to win this race because yesterday she got sick, and this is one of her favourite races.”
Longo Borghini launched her race winning move just beyond the Kanarieberg. Thirty six kilometres from the finish, the Italian attacked alone, countering the catch of Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla). The peloton was slow to react. Whilst Longo Borghini lined up as a potential contender, her move seemed too early. The effort too big to sustain.
“After Kanarieberg, when Worrack (Velocio-SRAM) and van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) attacked, I felt like going and winning the race,” explained Longo Borghini. “And so I did.”
The 23-year-old made quick work of establishing an advantage. Within her first few kilometres out front, she had pocked a minute advantage. The peloton fractured over the Kwarement, with an elite chase group of nine riders forming in Longo Borghini’s wake.
D’Hoore and van der Breggen were joined by Bigla duo Annemiek van Vleuten and Ashleigh Moolman Paiso, road world champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Rabo Liv), Elena Cecchini (Lotto Soudal), Alena Amialiusik (Velocio SRAM), and World Cup leader Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) and her teammate Chantal Blaak. The chase group split into two over the Paterberg but came back together before the finish.
“We weren’t getting any information,” said van Vleuten, who finished in fourth place on Sunday. “They told us at five kilometres that she had one minute, but it was too late by then.”
Asked what she thought while she was alone out front, Longo Borghini replied simply: “I will win.”
Rather than hands in the air, Longo Borghini crossed the line with her face in her hands, barely able to believe what she had accomplished. Less than a minute later, Wiggle Honda had a second reason to celebrate as d’Hoore sprinted to the second spot on the podium.
“This is I think our strength,” said Longo Broghini. “We are so united. We really like to spend time together. Also the staff is involved in our daily life. We melt really well.”
“I really want to thank my staff also,” Longo Borghini added. “They really work in the darkness. Sometimes what comes to the light is our results. You don’t know how much work the mechanics and the soigneurs and the sport directors and the management is doing before the race and during the race. I really want to thank them.”
LONGO BORGHINI Elisa LONGO BORGHINI Elisa Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling
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D'HOORE Jolien D'HOORE Jolien Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling
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VAN DER BREGGEN Anna VAN DER BREGGEN Anna Rabobank-Liv Woman Cycling Team
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