Nearly five months after the sprint of her lifetime and decked out in her new rainbow Trek-Segafredo kit Elisa Balsamo threw her arms in the air to celebrate winning the first stage of the Setmana Valenciana-Volta Comunitat Valenciana Féminas. Thursday was Balsamo’s first race with her new team but her leadout looked a lot like the one that helped her win the 2021 World Championship road race in Leuven with Elisa Longo Borghini guiding her young Italian teammate to the line.
Setmana Valenciana’s first stage featured the category two Alto Barx climb that fractured the peloton in the final 15 km and propelled Movistar’s Annemiek van Vleuten, Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope), and Spanish national champion for UAE Team ADQ Mavi Garcia to the front the race. The three were later joined by Cavalli’s teammate Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Ane Santesteban of BikeExchange-Jayco, and Veronica Ewers representing EF Education-Tibco-SVB) to make a breakaway of six.
Trek-Segafredo missed both the chase and the original move, but with Longo Borghini and Ellen van Dijk chasing and Canyon-SRAM lending a hand the peloton came back together just in time for a reduced bunch sprint.
In the final straight to the line, it was the Italian national champion Longo Borghini leading the charge for Balsamo. Once Longo Borghini’s job was done, Balsamo rocketed off the front too fast for Ruby Roseman-Gannon (BikeExchange-Jayco) to compete. Roseman-Gannon, who had a stellar start to the 2022 season racing in Australia, crossed the line just ahead of Anouska Koster of Jumbo-Visma.
The Elisa + Elisa duo promises an exciting season to come for the young World Champion, who was picked up by Trek-Segafredo before her World Championship victory and will remain with the American team through 2024. Balsamo has been an accomplished sprinter for years but with top riders like Longo Borghini and Van Dijk leading her to the finish, her palmares is sure to grow.
The first stage also gave a sneak peek of what is to come at Setmana Valenciana. Van Vleuten is climbing well, but there are riders who can compete with the former World Champion on the category two climbs. FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope has numbers on the climbs and in the bunch. Roseman-Gannon is settling nicely into her new role on Team BikeExchange-Jayco. And finally, there are three exciting stages to come.