OUDENAARDE, Belgium (VN) — Elisa Longo Borghini believes that teams should do more to try and break the current stranglehold that SD Worx has on the classics.
Lotte Kopecky soloed to victory at the Tour of Flanders after initially making it into a four-rider group with two of her teammates over the Koppenberg. She would eventually distance everybody else to take the win by 36 seconds with Demi Vollering scoring second.
Longo Borghini held the sprint for third place after her Trek-Segafredo teammate Shirin van Anrooij had tried several times to attack and bring back Kopecky. SD Worx helped to stifle the chase with two riders in the group behind Kopecky, but the Italian believes that some teams could do more to bring back attacks by SD Worx.
“If you want, I can show you my data then I can show you how hard it was. It was hard but at some point you don’t always have to think about these SD Worx that are around,” Longo Borghini said after stepping on the podium to at the finish. “I’ve been watching a lot of television lately and it seems like every time they are on the front then the peloton thinks ‘ok, SD Worx is on the front so they have won the race.’
“No, we have to do our race, we don’t have to give a heck if they are there in the second peloton. We do our race, we stick to the plan, we try to get back the first one and we try to win the race and look for our plan. Trek-Segafredo has a lot of potential and we can win bike races.”
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The Tour of Flanders was Longo Borghini’s second race since returning from a COVID-19 infection. The Trek-Segafredo rider picked up the illness before Strade Bianche and hadn’t raced since Omloop Het Nieuwsblad when she started Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday.
Having been forced to take a significant amount of time off the bike to recover and only a small period of training to build up again, Longo Borghini wasn’t particularly confident in what she could do Sunday, and she was prepared to go all in for Van Anrooij.
“I felt really bad all day long. I was like ok, I can help Shirin and then just come back to the group and help Shirin again. I felt that if the other riders are believing in me, I could get on the podium,” she said.
“I would never have expected to get third today at the Tour of Flanders, especially after my comeback and not having any intensity for 15 days and being positive for the previous 15 because of COVID. Today, I said that after the main split on the Koppenberg, I said to Shirin that she was the leader, and she was the one with better legs.”
Longo Borghini was seen yo-yo-ing off the back of the chase group as she tried to set up Van Anrooij, but she was still there when the group neared the finish.
“I put in a big effort to try and get the breakaway back together with Lucinda. All of a sudden when we regrouped in the last 10k, Ina Teutenberg said ‘ok now Longo Borghini you are to go for the sprint.’ I said ‘ok, I wasted myself a little bit’ but I believed that if she was telling me that I have to sprint, that I have all of the belief of the team then I need to finish off this work the best that I can,” Longo Borghini said.
Shirin really did a good job keeping the pace up and putting me in the best spot in the sprint. I just went and sprinted for 150 meters for a podium place and that is what happened. I had mixed feelings after the race because I did think that maybe I was fourth. Then, there is also some luck for me sometimes and I was third. This was really emotional.”
In the past, if Longo Borghini had come to the finish in a small group like the one she did at the Tour of Flanders, her chances of riding away with a result would have been very small. In recent years, she has spent more time working on her finish, sprinting to town signs with her partner, and fellow Trek-Segafredo rider, Jacopo Mosca.
“It feels really weird to have teammates looking to me for the sprint as we have a few fast finishers here in Flanders, but I want to thank everybody on the team for all of the trust that they put in me, especially knowing that I come from such a strange period and very difficult for me,” Longo Borghini said.
“Today, they were really looking after me and every single rider was putting in a great effort to position Shirin and I in a very good place for every single climb, and every single key point in the race. They all did an amazing job and I want to thank everybody, every single rider and my DS Ina Teutenberg and everybody who is working in our shadow, the masseurs, the mechanics, even the press officer.”
With the Tour of Flanders done, the defense of her Paris-Roubaix title is next up for Longo Borghini. The Italian soloed to victory at the “Hell of the North” last season after another difficult classics period that was impacted by illness.
“Another big shock to the system, which I have had a lot lately. Roubaix is another race where we have to play with the numbers,” she said. “I don’t know, maybe I’m in better shape than I expected, but I don’t want to make any thoughts yet about Roubaix. I want to cherish with my teammates this podium and then Roubaix is next Saturday, and we will think about it maybe on Friday.”