There was only one thing missing for Elisa Balsamo to finally leave the difficult and complicated recent months behind her: victory. Today, in Geppengen, the finish of the first stage of the Simac Ladies Tour, that moment came. Balsamo won the bunch sprint, ahead of two of the strongest sprinters in the peloton, Wiebes (SD Worx) and Kool (DSM).
After a glorious year in rainbows last year, 2023 has not been an easy year for Elisa Balsamo. The former World Champion crashed out of Ride London in May, fracturing her jaw. Since her return to competition at the Tour de France Femmes, Elisa has been chasing an elusive victory. She got her feet on the podium twice at the Tour of Scandinavia at the start of August, but was unable to move onto the top step due to frequent sprint-rival Lorena Wiebes’ domination. Until today.
A well-drilled team performance culminated with Ilaria Sanguineti delivering her sprinter in a perfect position, leaving Elisa to power to the line, clinching the victory over Wiebes by just a handful of centimeters. It was incredibly close, too close even for Elisa to begin celebrating. After an anxious few moments, the victory was confirmed over the radio and Elisa was able to celebrate in the arms of her teammates, who always believed in her.
“If I have to choose one word to represent the feeling I have today, it is realization. After the crash it was like rebuilding everything from scratch for me. I was forced to stop for a month, with great difficulty in eating and limitations in training. I lost weight and muscle tone. It was like starting again from a deep abyss. Seeing myself on the top step again is like coming out of this darkness. The work I did, thanks also and above all to the people who helped me, is a real achievement.”
“Since the first race after the crash, the Team has always been very close to me. At the Tour de France Femmes, in Scandinavia, in Plouay: my teammates have always believed in me, they have always worked to the end to put me in the best conditions. I don’t deny that for me, not being able to repay this effort was very frustrating. But this closeness of theirs, the strength that Ina [Teutenberg] transmitted to me in motivating me to never give up, was one of the strong points in speeding up my recovery.”
“Today’s victory is the best way for me to thank all the people who have helped me during these months and during the season in general. Thanks to everyone. Now the goal is to take advantage of every opportunity between now and the end of the season to leave an even deeper mark on the season.”