Tuesday 28 September 2021

Photo of the day - 28: More Italian cycling success, even ahead of the mighty Dutch


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Continuing the theme of Italians winning things this summer, this was once again repeated at the Women's World Road Racing Championships. The noteworthy thing was that it was Elisa Balsamo who managed to outsprint Marianne Vos, the greatest female bike racer of all time. Those who have followed the season will not be surprised that Elisa was in the mix at the end, given that with her sponsored team Valcar Travel & Service she has tended to contest sprints and be in the minor placings.

But to get ahead of the great Marianne Vos was an achievement at another level. I think the difference between Marianne and Elisa was that Vos probably launched her sprint a little late, and furthermore Balsamo had a very strong cohesive lead-out team in the shape of Elisa Longo Borghini, Marta Bastianelli, Marta Cavalli and Maria-Giulia Conflonieri. Interestingly, the Dutch team was also very strong on paper. People have been talking about them for the last couple of years being a formidable team, and the team to beat.

Given that a number of these riders have been Olympic Champion or World Champion, it isn't without reason that the world is talking about the team from the Netherlands. The question isn't will they win? It's more - which one out of  Marianne Vos, Annemiek Van Vleuten, Anna van der Breggen, Demi Vollering, Amy Pieters and Ellen Van Dijk will win? 

Unfortunately, the team has lost out in recent major competitions. At the Olympics, they totally failed to spot that a relatively unknown rider from Austria (Anna Kiesenhofer) had done a breakaway off the front to win. In fact, when Annemiek Van Vleuten crossed the line in second place she did a victory salute, thinking she had won! Apparently, some members of the Dutch team new that there was already a woman ahead on the road, but this doesn't seem to have been communicated between them. (Radios weren't allowed during the race.)

Then at the World Championships communication was better, but they still didn't manage to get organised to launch Marianne into the best position at the right time for the sprint for the line. So their most decorated rider failed to catch the young speedy Italian in the home straight. 

Marianne looked extremely disappointed - more so than I have ever seen her after a race - and she was in tears on the finish line. I must say, I felt bad for her and would have like to see her win.

But I think here, it is a case of the strongest team isn't always the team that wins. What counts more is using your resources wisely and working better as a team. And I think that's where the Italians were able to make the difference. So the buzz word is "team work". And that's something that the Italians seem to excel at where the Dutch need to do better.

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