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Trofeo Alfredo Binda preview: Iconic Italian race is one of the most open of the year

Marianne Vos will be back in action after surgery, and former world champion Elisa Balsamo holds the favorite's title.

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As women’s cycling continues to go through major development, Trofeo Alfredo Binda stands firm as the only one-day race on the Women’s WorldTour calendar that remains solely for the women.

With women’s cycling becoming increasingly professional, times are tough for some of the standalone events that have been supporting female racing. This year saw the demise of the Vårgårda WestSweden event, which had been run by volunteers since 2006.

Amidst this environment, the Trofeo Alfredo Binda stands out as a window into the rich history of women’s cycling. With the rapid development of the sport, it’s important that races like this remain on the calendar.

Trofeo Alfredo Binda is the oldest race on the WorldTour calendar with its first edition held back in 1974. The next oldest is the Giro d’Italia Donne, which was inaugurated a full 14 years later in 1988, while the 2.1 Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour started in 1986.

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Unsurprisingly, Italians have dominated this race with 26 victories across the race’s 46 editions. Indeed, between 1974 and 1996 just one non-Italian rider won the race and that was Belgian former world champion Nicolle Van Den Broeck.

Wins have been far more spread out in the last 20 years, though the UK and the Netherlands are the only other nations to have taken a victory more than once.

Marianne Vos is responsible for all four of the Netherlands’ wins in this race and she is the co-record holder for total wins alongside the Italian Maria Canins, who was also dubbed the flying mother. Elisa Balsamo is the defending champion after a convincing win from a reduced group in 2022.

Like all good classics, the rolling nature of the Trofeo Alfredo Binda parcours makes for an open race where solo wins and sprint victories are equally possible. It all depends on how it is raced by the peloton.

In recent seasons, the win has alternated between a sprint victory and a solo breakaway. With Balsamo’s sprint success in 2022, it would look like we’re due a lone rider taking the victory but anything could really happen Sunday.

A series of circuits

Elisa Longo Borghini used the climbs to launch her race-winning move in 2021
Elisa Longo Borghini used the climbs to launch her race-winning move in 2021 (Photo: Tim de Waele / Getty Images)

As is tradition, the race is defined by a finishing circuit around the town of Cittiglio, which is nestled near the shores of Lake Maggiore on the Lombardy side.

After starting in Cocquio-Trevisago for the past two seasons, the race moves further north toward Italy’s border with Switzerland and the town of Maccagno con Pino e Veddasca. Moving further north has allowed the organizers, Cycling Sport Promotion, to add an extra 10 kilometers to the route compared with last year’s offering of 129km.

At 139km it’s not the longest-ever edition of the race, that belongs to the 2021 edition which was 141km, but it is up there.

Once out of Maccagno con Pino e Veddasca, the race will hug Lake Maggiore for a picturesque start before winding its way to Cittiglio, where the riders will do four laps of the finishing circuit.

The local lap around Cittiglio is dominated by two climbs, Casale and Ornio. The first is just 800 meters but it has a nine percent average gradient, while the latter is close to three kilometers at a 4.6 percent average with a maximum of almost 10 percent.

If a breakaway is going to succeed, the odds are that it will go on the longer Ornio climb. Whether that be on the final lap of the day, or a few kilometers earlier.

Sprint v breakaway

Coryn Labecki (neé Rivera) won the 2017 race in a sprint
Coryn Labecki (neé Rivera) won the 2017 race in a sprint (Photo: Tim de Waele / Getty Images)

Vos could make history this year if she could claim her fifth win at Trofeo Alfredo Binda, but she only hard surgery on an iliac artery constriction a month ago, which forced her to take 10 days off the bike, so we might be getting ahead of ourselves on that.

If Jumbo-Visma wants to ride away with the win, it’s likely going to be looking to American racer Coryn Labecki, who won the race back in 2017.

Last year’s champion Elisa Balsamo is the big favorite for the victory after some early wins on tricky terrain at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana last month. While she will be missing the support of top teammate Elisa Longo Borghini, who is still recovering from an illness, she’ll have Amanda Spratt and Gaia Rialini in her corner to control the race or go on the attack if Trek-Segafredo wants to take that approach.

In the event of a reduced sprint finish, Elise Chabbey and Arlenis Sierra are other riders to watch out for.

Meanwhile, there are a whole host of big-name riders who will be looking to rip of the race on the Ornio. Kasia Niewiadoma, Silvia Persico, Juliette Labous, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, and Mavi Garcia are all in that camp.

Trofeo Alfredo Binda is a race that could play out in multiple ways and we’ll just have to wait and see how it breaks down.

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