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Elisa Balsamo goes three-in-a-row with Gent-Wevelgem women’s victory

It's another big win for the world champion as Marianne Vos is second in thrilling finale.

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Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) won the Gent-Wevelgem women’s race Sunday in a dramatic bunch finale.

It was Balsamo’s third win in the space of a week after winning Alfredo Binda last weekend and Brugge-De Panne on Thursday as the Italian continues to dominate the spring.

The final hour of the race was alive with attacks. Grace Brown (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) tried to surprise the sprinters with a late-race attack with 3km to go.

Trek-Segafredo worked well with both European champion Ellen van Dijk and Italian champion Elisa Longo-Borghini sacrificing their own chances to make sure it came down to a sprint.

Balsamo powered to victory, with Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) in a close second. Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Ceratizit-WNT) crossed the line third.

“I am very happy today. I won my favorite race and a dream becomes true,” she said. “It was hard race and in the last K’s, there were a lot of attacks. My team was perfect and they closed a lot of the attacks. My team did a great job to set up the sprint.”

The victory is the third straight for the Italian world champion, who will start as one of the top favorites at Tour of Flanders next week.

How it happened — exciting from start to finish

Early action in the women’s Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday. (Photo: ERIC LALMAND/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

The race started in the town of Ypres and took on 159km of racing over the hills, cobbles and gravel of Belgium.

An early break of two riders went away but only managed around a minute over the chasing peloton. Those two riders were Anne van Rooijen (Parkhotel-Valkenburg) and Gulnaz Khatuntseva (Roland-Cogeas-Edelweiss).

They were brought back before the first of the seven climbs of the day. The second climb, the Baneberg, saw an early move with Belgian champion Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) go on the move with Anna Henderson (Jumbo-Visma), Liane Lippert (DSM) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM).

On the flat after the climb former Polish national champion Marta Lach (Ceratizit-WNT) and Alice Maria Arzuffi (Valcar) managed to bridge across to the leading group before the Monteberg with 54km to go.

However, they only had about 11 seconds on the cobbled climb of the Kemmelberg. This saw Arzuffi and Lach lose touch.

The peloton was led by Coryn Labecki (Jumbo-Visma), Marta Cavalli (FDJ) and Marlen Reusser (SD Worx) but those three riders went clear themselves with 50km to go.

Both Henderson and Kopecky paused in the lead group to chat before the leaders decided to wait for Labecki, Reusser and Cavalli with 45km to go.

Ellen van Dijk was tasked with the chase for Trek-Segafredo and, bizarrely, the leaders sat up and the Trek led peloton easily caught up with 43km to go. SD Worx then took over the push on the front.

At the base of the second ascent of the Baneberg, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (SD Worx) attacked with Sofia Bertizzolo (UAE Team ADQ) and Elisa Longo-Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) but it was swiftly dragged back by Team DSM.

The kick up and down the Baneberg saw multiple big names get away including Kopecky, world champion Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo), Reusser and 12 others. Jumbo-Visma dragged them back with 37km to go.

Kemmelberg sets the tone

Riders hit out on the Kemmelberg on Sunday. (Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Grace Brown (FDJ) hit the Kemmelberg for the final time on the front of the peloton and immediately gapped the rest and went solo off the front with Lippert leading a very large chasing peloton with 34km to go.

Van den Broek-Blaak let the wheel of her SD Worx team-mate Christine Majrus bridge across with Longo-Borghini. But Niewiadoma also tried a move that unintentionally brought a group of about 30 riders across to the front.

The continued pressure and high pace on the front saw the peloton split into three large groups with Van den Broek-Blaak attacking yet again into the final 30km.

Shirin van Anrooij (Trek-Segafredo), Shari Bossuyt (Canyon-SRAM) and Floortje Mackaij (DSM) joined but Henderson put in a strong chase to bring it back. Wave after wave of attacks followed led by SD Worx riders.

Trek-Segafredo and SD Worx changed their tactics in the final 20km to focus on their sprinters of Balsamo and Kopecky. Lorena Wiebes (DSM) was nowhere to be seen after losing touch mid-way through the climbs of the day.

Labecki countered a move by Rachel Neylen (Cofidis) with Lach and Van den Broek-Blaak following but it was brought back yet again. So the attacks started up again with Reusser kicking off another snipe out front going into the final 15km.

Elena Cecchini (SD Worx) used the lull in action to launch a solo move and the chase didn’t work together until Henderson tried to bridge.

SD Worx returned to their attacking tactic with one going after the other as their leader Kopecky sat in the wheels.

The group split with 10km to go with 13 riders getting away including European champion Van Dijk. But it was the Dutch rider who kept trying to take the pace out of the front so Balsamo could get back in.

Van Dijk sat up and dropped back to the chase group to give her all to bring it back together in the last 8km. Van Dijk made the gap closing look easy but the attacks didn’t stop SD Worx continuing their aggressive tactic.

Lonneke Uneken (SD Worx), Lippert, Neylen, Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon-SRAM) and Riejanne Markus (Jumbo-Visma) tried to get away but Van Dijk, yet again, was the one tasked with the chase bringing it back with 5km to go.

Finally into the final 4km the tactics changed to focus on the sprinters with Balsamo, Kopecky, Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma), Emma Norsgaard (Movistar) and more moving towards the front.

FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope came to the front en masse with Brown attacking hard, the rest of the riders blocked the peloton and she got a good gap immediately in the last 2km.

Trek and Jumbo-Visma joined forces to drag the Australian rider back just before the flamme rouge. Counter attacks came straight away but it was marked out.

It was a chaotic lead in to the sprint with Kopecky launching first. Balsamo was in the Belgian champion’s wheel and used the splitstream to launch by and to take the win by almost half a bike with Vos finishing fast to take second.

The victory was the third major win on 2022 for Balsamo.

Balsamo gave special praise to Van Dijk, Longo-Borghini and Van Anrooij for their support after the final climb up the Kemmelberg: “They were so so strong and I really want to say thank you to them.”

She played down her chances for the Tour of Flanders saying it is a “very hard race” but didn’t say she won’t ride as she now has a “week of rest” before the monument.

Gent-Wevelgem In Flanders Fields WE Results

1BALSAMO ElisaTrek - Segafredo4:02:12
2VOS MarianneTeam Jumbo-Visma 0:00
3CONFALONIERI Maria GiuliaCeratizit-WNT Pro Cycling0:00
4KOPECKY LotteTeam SD Worx0:00
5NORSGAARD EmmaMovistar Team0:00
7ANDERSEN SusanneUno-X Pro Cycling Team0:00
8DRONOVA-BALABOLINA TamaraRoland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad0:00
9PERSICO SilviaValcar - Travel & Service0:00
10COPPONI ClaraFDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope0:00
11CANT SannePlantur-Pura0:00
12FIDANZA AriannaTeam BikeExchange - Jayco0:00
13DEMEY ValerieLiv Racing Xstra0:00
14BOOGAARD MaaikeUAE Team ADQ0:00
15GEORGI PfeifferTeam DSM0:00
16SIERRA ArlenisMovistar Team0:00
17BORGSTRÖM JuliaAG Insurance - NXTG Team0:00
18MACKAIJ FloortjeTeam DSM0:00
19MARKUS FemkeParkhotel Valkenburg0:00
20DUVAL EugénieFDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope0:00
22SMULDERS SilkeLiv Racing Xstra0:00
23GASPARRINI Eleonora CamillaValcar - Travel & Service0:00
24BOSSUYT ShariCanyon//SRAM Racing0:00
25PALADIN SorayaCanyon//SRAM Racing0:00
26KASTELIJN YaraPlantur-Pura0:00
27POIDEVIN SaraEF Education-TIBCO-SVB0:00
28BARIL OliviaValcar - Travel & Service0:00
29LACH MartaCeratizit-WNT Pro Cycling0:00
30NEYLAN RachelCofidis Women Team0:00
31NIEWIADOMA KatarzynaCanyon//SRAM Racing0:00
32CROMWELL TiffanyCanyon//SRAM Racing0:00
33REUSSER MarlenTeam SD Worx0:00
34UNEKEN LonnekeTeam SD Worx0:00
35MAJERUS ChristineTeam SD Worx0:00
36VAN DE VELDE JuliePlantur-Pura0:00
37BROWN GraceFDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope0:00
38LIPPERT LianeTeam DSM0:00
39LABECKI CorynTeam Jumbo-Visma 0:06
40BREDEWOLD MischaParkhotel Valkenburg0:06
41CAVALLI MartaFDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope0:09
42VAN DIJK EllenTrek - Segafredo0:12
43LONGO BORGHINI ElisaTrek - Segafredo0:12
44VAN DEN BROEK-BLAAK ChantalTeam SD Worx0:14
45MARKUS RiejanneTeam Jumbo-Visma 0:15
46CECCHINI ElenaTeam SD Worx0:15
47HENDERSON AnnaTeam Jumbo-Visma 0:15
48VAN ANROOIJ ShirinTrek - Segafredo0:41
49DE WILDE JuliePlantur-Pura5:15
50VAN DER DUIN MaikeLe Col - Wahoo5:15
51BUJAK EugeniaUAE Team ADQ5:15
52WATERREUS KylieLotto Soudal Ladies5:15
53SCHMID KaiaHuman Powered Health5:15
54DELBAERE FienMultum Accountants Ladies Cycling Team5:15
55DOCX MiekeLotto Soudal Ladies5:15
56BERTEAU VictoireCofidis Women Team5:15
57GERRITSE FemkeParkhotel Valkenburg5:15
58PLUIMERS IlseAG Insurance - NXTG Team5:15
59MEERTENS LoneAG Insurance - NXTG Team5:15
60MEIJERING MareilleMultum Accountants Ladies Cycling Team5:15
61KOOL CharlotteTeam DSM5:15
62VAN 'T GELOOF MarjoleinLe Col - Wahoo5:15
63VIECELI LaraCeratizit-WNT Pro Cycling5:15
64LETH JulieUno-X Pro Cycling Team5:15
65BORGHESI LetiziaEF Education-TIBCO-SVB5:15
66BARNES AliceCanyon//SRAM Racing5:15
67ERATH TanjaEF Education-TIBCO-SVB5:15
68HOLDEN ElizabethLe Col - Wahoo5:15
69OTTESTAD Mie BjørndalUno-X Pro Cycling Team5:15
70BORGLI StineFDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope5:15
71BRENNAUER LisaCeratizit-WNT Pro Cycling5:15
72CONSONNI ChiaraValcar - Travel & Service5:15
73SÜßEMILCH LauraPlantur-Pura5:15
74ARZUFFI Alice MariaValcar - Travel & Service5:15
75KASPER RomyTeam Jumbo-Visma 5:15
76TEUTENBERG Lea LinCeratizit-WNT Pro Cycling5:15
77MANLY AlexandraTeam BikeExchange - Jayco5:15
78SANGUINETI IlariaValcar - Travel & Service5:15
79JACKSON AlisonLiv Racing Xstra5:15
80BIANNIC AudeMovistar Team5:15

Results provided by ProCyclingStats.