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Elisa Longo Borghini solos to Tour of Flanders victory in Wiggle Honda one-two

Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Elisa Longo Borghini won the women’s Ronde van Vlaanderen – the Tour of Flanders – after a 30km solo attack, as the black and orange team took a one-two in what is arguably the most prestigious one-day race of the season. The Italian finished 43 seconds clear of the sprint for second place, which was won by Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Belgian Champion Jolien D’hoore, ahead of the Netherlands’ Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv).

“It was awesome. It was really awesome,” Longo Borghini said of her biggest victory to date. “I actually have no words to describe how happy I am. I don’t know. I don’t think I realise yet that I won Flanders!”

The 23-year-old won her first World Cup race in 2013, at the Trofeo Binda in her native Italy, but had been beaten into fourth place in both of the last two editions of the Tour of Flanders. Some advice from her most experienced teammate, former two-time road World Champion Giorgia Bronzini in the build up to todays race, however, gave her the courage to take the gamble of such a long breakaway.

“Yesterday I was talking to Giorgia,” Longo Borghini explained, “and she said ‘you know Elisa, you are a person who thinks too much, both outside cycling and especially in the races. So tomorrow just follow your instincts; just go when you feel like it.’ So I did, and I think Giorgia is right!”

Longo Borghini broke clear just after the Kanarieberg, as she responded to an attack from Trixi Worrack (Velocio-SRAM). The experienced German was unable to hold on to the Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling rider’s pace, and was soon back in the peloton, but Longo Borghini went on to build what was to become a winning lead.

“I saw that I got 30-35 seconds immediately, because I think the girls were just looking at me and thinking ‘oh, she’s crazy, she’ll never come to the finish line,’” Longo Borghini laughed.  “Then my gap went up to 59 seconds, when I was on the last 7km and I saw I had one minute I though, for sure, I will win this race.”

The early part of the race had seen several attempted breakaways, with Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Bronzini and Japanese Champion Mayuko Hagiwara getting into the two most dangerous looking. It was the presence of so many of her black and orange teammates at the head of affairs that gave Longo Borghini the strength to continue her solo effort.

“When I attacked I was confident that I had my teammates behind me, who would cover my shoulders, and I thought that if they catch me back then at least I’ve done some good work for Jolien and she can win the sprint,” she explained. “I don’t know why but I was certain that we would win the race in any case. I was confident, I was just sure that we would have won.”

Longo Borghini’s victory is her first of the season, but follows a fourth place in last week’s Trofeo Binda and third in the Strade Bianche. It was the fifth UCI-ranked victory for the Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling, however, with D’hoore taking the opening round of the World Cup, the Ronde van Drenthe, as well as wins for Bronzini and Audrey Cordon-Ragot.

“It’s been a really good season for us, and the feeling is just amazing!” Longo Borghini added.

Taking the bunch sprint for second place, D’hoore took her best ever result in her nation’s biggest race. Despite having had to do no work in the unsuccessful chase of her Italian teammate, however, the 25-year-old Belgian Champion was forced to dig very deep to stay with the elite group.

“We rode a perfect team tactic and I’m really happy that Elisa won,” D’hoore said. “Elisa went really early, with 30km to go, but I was also struggling at the back, I was struggling a lot to hang on. Luckily I did, but it was pretty hard for me.

“I started my sprint pretty early – maybe too early because in the last 50 metres I had some cramps – but I held on to take second,” she added. “For the team to win a second World Cup is amazing!”

Netting 100 points for her second place, to add to the 120 she took for her victory in Drenthe, also gave D’hoore the overall lead in the Road World Cup; taking the jersey back from Trofeo Binda winner Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) who could only manage eighth after pulling her foot out of the pedal in the sprint.

“I didn’t expect it!” D’hoore exclaimed. “Lizzie was not in the top five so I took it. We’ll see how that will go!”

1. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)
2. Jolien D’hoore (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)

3. Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv)


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