‘I have to try something’: Elisa Longo Borghini on gaining time on her GC rivals

Former Italian champion says she has to find ways to gain time on the "goats" if she is to climb up the GC.

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On a day that saw crashes mark the end of GC hopes for some of the pre-race favourites, Trek-Segafredo pulled off a tactical feat designed to give Elisa Longo Borghini a leg-up in the overall. 

After the intermediate sprint on the first crossing of the finish line in Provins, Longo Borghini and her teammate, world champion Elisa Balsamo, instigated a move that stayed away until the line. Balsamo pressed on in the confusion after the sprint, taking Longo Borghini with her, alongside eventual stage winner Marianne Vos, Silvia Persico, and Kasia Niewiadoma,  

While Vos proved victorious on the day, the move put Longo Borghini at an advantage ahead of some of her main GC rivals, finishing the day 18 seconds behind new yellow jersey wearer, Marianne Vos, 27 seconds ahead of Demi Vollering (SD Worx), and 32 seconds ahead of a group including Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (SD Worx), and Juliette Labous (Team DSM).

“It was planned beforehand,” Longo Borghini said of the move. “This morning, we saw that there was this crosswind section after the finish line and we thought to take an advantage on the sprinters and on the other other GC riders. And so we did.” 

The brains behind the move, Longo Borghini said, was Trek-Segafredo directeur sportif and legendary former racer, Ina Teutenberg. “Teutenberg was really prepared and she told us to go straight after the sprint, because the sprinters would just calm down,” Longo Borghini explained.  

The Italian also praised her Trek-Segafredo teammates, especially world champion Balsamo. “Elisa Balsamo was great,” she said. “She was pulling like there’s no tomorrow for me. And in the end I just had to keep the speed high because I didn’t want to make our work useless just to watch each other for the final.

“I don’t know how much we gained, but surely even 20 seconds, it’s a little bit,” she said. 

The 30-year-old has been performing exceptionally well at stage races this season including winning The Women’s Tour and taking fourth at the Giro d’Italia Donne earlier this month. While she is not a pure climber in the vein of Annemiek van Vleuten, Longo Borghini held her own in the mountains at the Giro.  

“I can pace myself really strong on the climb but maybe I can’t follow the very best very pure climbers so I need to gain some time somewhere,” Longo Borghini said of her GC approach.  

“I mean, the Tour de France is pretty long. [It’s a] little bit more, you know, like saving a little bit of money. Then I have something to spare. I can pace myself really well on the climbs but the pure climbers are probably 10 kilos less than me,” she added. 

“I’m never comfortable when all those goats are going. But yeah, what I have to do? I have to try something.” 

Asked if she was surprised to have put time into riders like Van Vleuten, Longo Borghini simply answered “no.”

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