Trofeo Alfredo Binda preview: Elisa Longo Borghini aims for title defense, Marianne Vos targets record fifth win

Vos could make history this year, but she has plenty of competition in her way, including home favorite and defending champion Elisa Longo Borghini.

Photo: Tim de Waele / Getty Images

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After a brief trip to the Netherlands, the women’s WorldTour calendar returns to Italy for the Trofeo Alfredo Binda.

In a time when a growing number of men’s events are setting up in the women’s calendar, this Italian one-day race is an increasingly rare standalone competition for the female peloton. The event is currently run by the company Cycling Sport Promotion, which also holds a junior women’s event alongside it.

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It is named for the Italian cycling legend Alfredo Binda, who was from Cittiglio where the race is situated.

Despite the influx of new races in recent years, it is still one of the biggest on the calendar. It is also one of the oldest with the first race, which was won by Italian Giuseppina Micheloni, dating back to 1974.

It is a race that can end in all manner of scenarios, from solo breaks, bunch sprints, and small groups. It’s almost impossible to predict.

The contenders

Home favorite Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) is the defending champion this year, after taking an impressive solo victory by 1:42 over a chasing group behind. Longo Borghini is from Ornavasso, a town on the opposite side of Lake Maggiore, fewer than 30 kilometers, as the crow flies, from Cittiglio.

Last year was Longo Borghini’s second victory at what is effectively her home race after she won in a similar fashion back in 2013, winning by 1:44 over the chasers behind. Longo Borghini has had a steady start to the year and finished eighth at the recent Strade Bianche and she’ll want to pick things up a notch on home soil.

Alongside Longo Borghini will be world champion Elisa Balsamo, who says that the finale is possibly too challenging for her, and she will most likely work for her compatriot. She could still be a wildcard for the team.

If Longo Borghini takes her third victory in Cittiglio this weekend, she still wouldn’t be the most prolific rider at the event. That crown jointly belongs to Marianne Vos and Maria Canins, who raced in the ‘80s and early ‘90s.

The Jumbo-Visma rider has won here four times, taking her first in 2009 and her most recent in 2019. She finished second to Longo Borghini last year and she’s back to try and regain her crown.

Vos finished one place ahead of Longo Borghini at Strade Bianche, which was her first road race of the season after winning an incredible eighth world cyclocross title back in January. She will have new teammate Coryn Labecki, who won the race in 2017, at her side in Italy, giving Jumbo-Visma several cards to play.

Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) is the last former winner due to be on the start line in Cocquio-Trevisago. Niewiadoma was in aggressive form at Strade Bianche and only just missed out on the podium. We can expect another aggressive race from the Polish rider this weekend.

Unusually, SD Worx does not have a past champion in its roster, but it does still have a pretty formidable squad. Chantal van den Broek-Blaak has finished on the podium here in the past and the hilly parcours with a flat finish is well suited to her capabilities.

Elena Cecchini is also on very good form for the squad, as is new signing Marlen Reusser, who could mount a solo attack if she has the legs Sunday.

Other riders to keep an eye on are Amanda Spratt (Bike-Exchange-Jayco), Arlenis Sierra (Movistar), Floortje Mackaij (DSM), Marta Cavalli, and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (both FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope).

The course: If it ain’t broke don’t fix it

After upping the ante last year with a route that went over 140 kilometers, the organizers have decided to keep the exact same course for 2022. At 141.8k, it is one of the longest one-day races on the women’s calendar and its undulating route makes for a very tough day out on the bike.

The course comes in three parts with the initial ride out of Cocquio-Trevisago, which heads on a small loop southward before the course starts moving east. The riders will get their first chance to see the finish line as the route transitions onto the long lap, a 44k loop that heads out toward Grantola and back.

Closing the race is four laps of a short, local circuit that features two climbs on each passing. The first is the short, but very steep Casale climb — which is just 800 meters but averages nine percent grade, and it is followed by the longer Orino ascent — a 1.5-kilometer rise that averages 6.5 percent.

It is on this short circuit where the major selections are made and both climbs are often used as a platform to attack for victory. Last year, Longo Borghini surged clear over the Orino on the penultimate lap to begin her race-winning move.

In 2018, Niewiadoma waited until the final lap, but used the Casale climb to trim down the bunch before going all out on the Orino to go for victory.

For those who are unable to hold on over the climbs, all is not lost and there is a chance to get back in contact in the seven kilometers that come after the top of the Orino, with a fast descent followed by a rolling ride to the line.

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