World champion Elisa Balsamo excited by the challenge of first three-day RideLondon Classique
The first-ever three-day edition of the RideLondon Classique begins tomorrow and the fastest women in the world are hoping to make their mark on the new-look event.
World champion Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) returns to racing after an incredible Spring Classics campaign that saw her claim three back-to-back UCI Women’s WorldTour wins at Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Comune di Cittiglio, Classic Brugge-De Panne and Gent-Wevelgem.
After a short break, Italian star Balsamo returns to racing at the RideLondon Classique, a race she has come so close to winning before, finishing second in 2019 and third in 2018.
Excited to be back racing
She said: “I’m excited to finally be back racing on the road after the Spring Classics. Of course, it was good for me to have that break and I’ve done some track racing in between, but I’m really happy to be back with my Trek-Segafredo teammates now to start the next part of my season. I think we’re going to have some fun here.
“As this is my first road race since Paris-Roubaix, I’m not sure how my body will react, so I think the first two days will be more about getting that race feeling back in my legs and just seeing what’s possible together as a team.
“I am definitely looking forward to the final stage around London. It’s been a race that’s suited me in the past, finishing third in 2018 and second in 2019, so hopefully I can do one better this year.”
Supporting Balsamo’s aim for overall victory at the RideLondon Classique is her teammate British 20-year-old Elynor Bäckstedt, who is delighted the event is back on the UCI Women’s WorldTour calendar for the first time since 2019 – after the Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of both the 2020 and 2021 editions.
More chances for fans to watch
Bäckstedt said: “I’m really happy the RideLondon Classique is back. It’s a great race and the addition of the two extra stages gives fans more chances to watch us racing here. It’s always nice to race in the UK, there are not many opportunities throughout the season to do that so I always looking forward to it.
“I’m here to help Elisa [Balsamo] as much as possible. I’m sure the final stage around central London will come down to a sprint and it would be incredible to lead Elisa out to win there – hopefully we have enough girls there to do her justice.”
Team DSM’s Lorena Wiebes (NED) is the defending champion of the RideLondon Classique, but the task facing her in 2022 is somewhat different to when she won in a dramatic sprint on The Mall in 2019, with the race now a three-day event.
Punchy two-lap final circuit
But 23-year-old Wiebes, who has an incredible 40 career wins to her name already, is optimistic of being one of the main General Classification (GC) contenders, though she thinks her ambitions will hinge on the decisive day two, which concludes with a punchy two-lap final circuit around Epping in Essex.
Wiebes said: “My ambition is to go for the (stage) wins and to try to survive the second day and go for GC. The route looks nice and the second day will be the most challenging for me, but I am looking forward to it and I’m happy the final stage is back in the centre of London as I have good memories there from 2019.”
Team DSM arrive with a very strong team that has plenty of riders with RideLondon experience, including Leah Kirchmann, who finished third in the Classique in 2016 and was then part of the lead-out train for Coryn Rivera’s (now Labecki) win in 2017.
Also in Team DSM’s line-up is British champion Pfeiffer Georgi, who will be racing for the first time on home roads since winning the national championships in Lincoln last October.
Georgi, who was born in London and raced in the RideLondon Grand Prix as a junior, will have plenty of family and friends coming out to support her and she’s looking forward to helping the team fight for the GC.
A hard and fast race
The 21-year-old said: “It’s always special racing in your home country, but it’s even more so wearing the national champion’s jersey, so I’m really excited for this weekend.
“There is a nice mixture of stages with some likely sprints and then Stage Two is a bit more rolling, so it should bring some exciting racing. The final stage in central London will be really cool and definitely a fast and hard race. My aim is to support the team and Lorena [Wiebes] as we look towards stage wins and the overall GC.”
Team Jumbo-Visma come to the race with 2017 RideLondon Classique winner Coryn Labecki spearheading their team.
Labecki said: “I have great memories of winning here in front of Buckingham Palace in 2017 and I’m pretty stoked there is more than one stage here this year. The first two stages are quite challenging and I think that will set up the GC well going into London. Traditionally this sort of course is better for me to try to drop some of the bigger sprinters, and I think it will make for more dynamic racing.”
The RideLondon Classique starts tomorrow, with Stage One a 136.5km test that starts and finishes in Maldon, Essex, and is expected to have a sprint finish in the town’s High Street.
Stage Two starts at Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford, and finishes in Epping High Street. Two tough laps of a circuit around Epping should cause some break-up in the GC before Stage Three, which is the traditional and iconic circuit race in central London.