The biggest talking points ahead of Trofeo Alfredo Binda - Preview
Trofeo Alfredo Binda - Comune di Cittiglio is one of the longest running events on the women’s calendar and the Italian race with a record of delivering a dynamic attacking competition, marks the seventh round of the Women’s WorldTour in 2023.
The field will be looking for a smoother path to the start line than transpired for the sixth. Ronde van Drenthe was hit by snow and uncertainty before Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx) was crowned victor in a shortened race of 94 kilometres. Wiebes win also meant she stepped into the lead of the top-tier series but given she isn’t racing at Trofeo Alfredo Binda, so it could easily find a new owner at the Italian event.
The March 19 race which has a habit of either ending in a reduced bunch sprint or with a solo winner,last year started to the south of the Cittiglio finish line, in Cocquio Trevisago, but this year will set out on Sunday from further to the north, on the shores of Lake Maggiore. After the Maccagno start line the race will run through to Porto Valtravaglia and then take a U-turn back toward Germignaga before dropping down to finish the pivotal final half of the race on the same course as last year.
The 139km event, which first ran in 1974, will conclude with four laps of the 18km finishing circuit including the Casalzuigno climb and the ascent to Orino on the way to the Cittiglio finish line, where we will find out if an attack or sprint will provide the winner for 2023. Either way it's likely to be an action packed battle to the line, with the opportunity laden finishing circuits and bevy of strong options within the teams on the start list set to fan the flames.
Cyclingnews highlights the biggest talking points ahead of Trofeo Alfredo Binda.
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Can the home-nation riders dominate again?
Last year it was an all Italian podium for Trofeo Alfredo Binda, with Elisa Balsamo taking victory for Trek-Segafredo, while Sofia Bertizzolo (UAE Team ADQ) and Soraya Paladin (Canyon-SRAM) rounded out the podium. In 2023, there will again be plenty of strong home-nation contenders to open up the possibility of a repeat.
Balsamo is back to defend, though teammate and 2021 winner Elisa Longo Borghini is out after having COVID-19, which does rule out one option for a green white and red flag filled podium but there are still so many others. Even among the limited number of teams that had confirmed their squads before three days out from the race, a powerful list of contenders can clearly be seen.
We know for sure that last year’s podium placers Bertizzolo and Paladin will be at the start, plus Trek-Segafredo may not have Longo Borghini, but they have added in Gaia Realini, who is fresh from victory at Trofeo Oro. UAE Team ADQ also has Silvia Persico in the line-up. The 25-year-old Italian finished seventh last year while racing for Valcar-Travel & Service and is looking for more in 2023.
“The Binda trophy always proves to be a tough race, even more so this year,” said Persico in a race media release last month. “I hope to do even better than last year.”
Women’s WorldTour leader board opens up
After the return of the Australian Women's WorldTour season starters in 2023, the Santos Tour Down Under and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, Amanda Spratt rode into the European season with the purple jersey of the race leader in the top tier race series on her back. Given she had a lead of more than 200 points on her nearest rival, it would take some time for another to come even close to taking it away.
Spratt held the jersey through Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Strade Bianche and right through to Ronde van Drenthe, even though the only of the three Women's WorldTour events she raced was the Italian event on the white gravel roads of Tuscany. At Ronde van Drenthe, however, Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx) finally closed the gap by taking victory and now, with 848 points, holds a gap of more than 100 on Spratt at 730 while Lotte Kopecky makes it an SD Worx sandwich, sitting in third at 720. There are another three riders within 400 points, Grace Brown (FDJ-Suez), Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) and Loes Adegeest (FDJ-Suez).
Wiebes isn't racing on Sunday so there is certainly every possibility that the lead could change hands again at Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Comune di Cittiglio. It could even be Spratt, who came second at the Italian race in 2019, that is back in purple.
What would a women's Milan-San Remo mean for Trofeo Binda?
The men's Monument, Milan-San Remo is on the same weekend as Trofeo Alfredo Binda, and while it hasn't eventuated for 2023 the calls for a women's edition of the race continues. The list of high profile races on the women's calendar has grown considerably in recent years, with a women's edition of events like Paris-Roubaix and the reintroduction of a Tour de France Femmes and Milan-San Remo is one of the next obvious steps.
One impact though, of the increase, is pressure on the calendar, raising the question of what would happen to Trofeo Alfredo Binda if a women's Milan-San Remo was introduced? The organisers of Milan-San Remo last year indicated that they were planning to run the race on the same day as the men's, potentially delivering a clash, not of days, but weekends.
A race that has for so long recognised the value of putting on a women's race, with the Italian event having started back in 1974, doesn't deserve to be relegated. It would be hard, however, to keep drawing a strong peloton if it were up against a race with the prestige of Milan-San Remo, particularly as the current size of the women's rosters makes it challenging to field two strong squads concurrently. That raises the prospect that this is potentially the last edition we could see Trofeo Binda in this position on the calendar, as one possible solution - but of course not the only one – is that the race moves into a different slot in 2024 if a women's Milan-San Remo is introduced.
History and the SD Worx victory run
Racing in the Women's WorldTour returned to Europe with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on February 25 after the first three rounds took place in Australia and the United Arab Emirates. That's when SD Worx started claiming the spot on the top of the podium as their own.
First it was Lotte Kopecky who took victory with a solo break at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad while new teammate Lorena Wiebes won the bunch sprint behind to take second place. Then at Strade Bianche it was Demi Vollering who moved up to the top of the podium and it was another one-two with Kopecky in second, as Vollering took out a somewhat controversial teammate sprint after the pair came to the line together. The streak then continued into the sixth round of the Women's WorldTour as this time Wiebes claimed the top step at Ronde van Drenthe.
If history is anything to go by, the seventh event on the Women's WorldTour could spell the end of that run. Trek-Segafredo have taken out the race the past two years and while SD Worx may have long been one of the top teams in the women's peloton it has been a considerable period of time since they have been at the top in Cittiglio. In fact the last time the team won at the race was 2016, when Lizzie Deignan took victory for the squad, which was then Boels Dolmans. Even the podium has escaped the team in recent editions, with the last podium appearance a second by Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, in 2018
A powerful Trek-Segafredo pitch for three-times running
Last year at Trofeo Alfredo Binda the women’s peloton was at its attacking best, delivering a dynamic race that saw a constant procession of attacks and fight backs. So many key teams had multiple cards to play and multiple bullets to fire, so the attacks, chases and neutralisations just kept coming leading to an exciting run in to that final reduced bunch sprint where Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) took victory.
The way the start list is shaping up there are going to be a number of teams who have more than one rider who is capable of a top finish, from UAE Team ADQ with Silvia Persico and Sofia Bertizzolo to Canyon-SRAM with Soraya Paladin, Kasia Niewiadoma and Elise Chabbey and, while at the time of writing SD Worx were yet to release a roster, is there ever any event where they don't line up with an impressive range of options?
Given the array of competition it may seem a big ask for Trek-Segafredo to secure the title at the race for a third year running, particularly as they are one down with 2021 winner Elisa Longo Borghini out after COVID-19. Though as big as a task as taking victory again may be, it looks like they have the tools to take on the job.
Balsamo, will obviously be a closely-watched trump card, but even with the team down to five instead of six there are so many more they have to play. For a start there is Shirin van Anrooij, who was one of the aggressors for the team last year at the race and is now building up for the road season after taking out the U23 cyclocross rainbow stripes. Then there are three new members of the Trek-Segafredo squad for 2023.
Amanda Spratt and Brodie Chapman are never shy when it comes to throwing down the gauntlet and Spratt knows what it takes to hit the podium at the race, having come second in 2019. Plus her form is clearly firing again, with a strong season opening in Australia and a second at Trofeo Oro earlier this month where she rode across the line with teammate Gaia Realini, who took first. The 21-year-old Italian has thrived since stepping up to the Women's WorldTour squad, doing a huge amount of work to help teammate Longo Borghini secure victory at the UAE Tour and coming second in the process as well before then working toward her first international win at the Trofeo Oro. No doubt, she'll be hoping to make her second race with the team on home soil just as successful as the first.