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Road Racing

Gent-Wevelgem: Elisa Balsamo praises Trek-Segafredo teamwork after claiming third straight win

The Italian world champion says she's not thinking about Tour of Flanders yet despite strong run of form.

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WEVELGEM, Belgium (VN) — Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) is unstoppable at the moment as she claimed her third straight win in eight days at Gent-Wevelgem.

The Italian world champion added Marianne Vos to her growing list of defeated rivals after fending off a late surge from the defending champion.

Balsamo already won the Trofeo Alfredo Binda last week and beat Lorena Wiebes at Brugge-De Panne on Thursday. With Gent-Wevelgem now on her palmarès, 2022 looks likely to be an annus mirabilis for her.

“I feel good and, of course, I have a very strong team, and this is one of the most important things. I’m in a good condition and I’m happy because it seems that I worked well this winter,” Balsamo said after the race.

“It was a hard one and very steep. I tried to stay in the first part of the group. My teammates helped me to be in a good position and I think being in a good position is the most important thing.”

Also read: Elisa Balsamo goes three-in-a-row with Gent-Wevelgem women’s victory

The win is Balsamo’s fourth so far this season after winning in Valencia on her opening day of racing, and her fifth in the rainbow jersey of world champion. While some can feel the burden of racing in the prestigious jersey, Balsamo has flourished while wearing it.

For her, she feels the pressure when she’s off the bike but that all goes away when she pulls away from a start line.

“Of course, it’s not an easy jersey, but when I’m racing I almost forget that I have this jersey because I am totally focused on the race so maybe it’s a little bit different before and after the race but honestly I forget that I have this jersey,” she said.

In the longest women’s Gent-Wevelgem since its inception 10 years ago, it was always going to be a difficult day out. The race broke up and reformed countless times over the final 30 kilometers as riders repeatedly tried to break free.

There were some dangerous moves, in particular one that went just inside the final 10 kilometers. Balsamo’s teammate Ellen van Dijk made the move, but the team was all-in for the world champion and van Dijk left her place in the break to haul what was left of the peloton back up.

“I have a little bit of pressure because such strong riders are working for me, but we know that this one can be a hard race with a sprint at the end. I’m feeling good so we decided to go all for the sprint,” Balsamo said.

“We panicked a little [near the end] but our coach in the car was so good, speaking with us. Ellen stopped and helped us to close the gap. We did a great team job.”

Also read: The raw emotion behind Balsamo’s victory salute 

Teamwork was a huge role in Balsamo’s victory in what proved to be a frenetic finale where a sprint finish was not a certainty. The Italian believes that the squad’s approach of pulling for one rider has led to its success this year, with the American-registered squad winning more than any other so far with seven victories, four of which have come from Balsamo.

“We are a really strong team, and we believe a lot in each other,” she said. “I think we won these three races because we were the best team. I really want to say thank you to my teammates. We really like to help each other and we really feel like we are only one team for only one big result and I think that this makes the difference.”

With Balsamo’s imperious form in recent weeks, victory at next week’s Tour of Flanders is looking increasingly likely. However, she is focused on taking things easy after a busy period of racing and will ponder her De Ronde chances when the time comes.

“Now, I don’t want to think about it. I only want to rest a little bit and then on Saturday I will think about Flanders,” she said.

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