Elisa Balsamo (Trek Segafredo) ripped past Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) in the final millimetres to take Stage 2 at Giro Donne.
The world champion left it late to launch her sprint, but made her Trek-Segafredo team-mates' tireless work worthwhile as she denied Marianne Vos (Jumbo Visma) with an impeccably timed throw to the line.
Having finished third in Thursday's time trial, 10 bonus seconds awarded for the victory was sufficient for Balsamo to seize the leader's pink jersey from Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange–Jayco). The Italian now leads Faulkner in the overall battle by four seconds, with the American's team-mate Georgia Baker eight seconds back in third.
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The smart money was always on the Giro Donne’s second stage concluding with a big bunch finish. Taking the race from the south-east tip of Sardinia to roughly halfway up the island, the 106.5km course hugged the coast the whole time. Though not quite as flat as the opening day TT, the only official altimetric obstacle (or opportunity) was a 1500m, 5.2% hill known as Castiadas, classified as a Cat. 4 climb.
That came just 6km into the stage. The single point it offered at the summit was taken by Franziska Brausse (Ceratizit WNT) who will wear the Queen of the Mountains jersey on Saturday, the final stage before the race departs for mainland Italy.
Rather than act as a springboard for a breakaway, the climb served to settle the stage down. The views across the Med may have been sumptuous, but it took until the stage was 40km old before they were reminded that this was a bike race. Matilde Vitillo (Bepink) and Cristina Tonetti (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) were fastest out of the blocks.
To have the faintest hope of fending off the bunch until Tortoli the duo, with a combined age two years shy of the race's elder stateswoman, Olga Zabelinskaya (Roland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad), was always going to need at least twice as many legs to share the load.
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Their wishes came true 10 kilometres closer to Tortoli. Four riders, Inga Cesuliene Aromitalia (Basso Bikes-Vaian), Beatrice Rossato (Isolmant-Premac-Vittoria), Marta Jaskulska (Liv Racing Xstra) and Francesca Pisciali (Team Mendelspeck) detached themselves from the peloton then wolfed down Vitillo and Tonetti's lead. Halfway through the stage there were six riders at the front.
And before anyone knew it, the sextet had a very healthy lead of three minutes.
Not panic stations but certainly action stations was the response from the bunch behind. Trek-Segafredo sprung into action with just over 40km remaining. Sharing the work somewhat with Jumbo-Visma, the two super teams were able to rapidly erode the breakaway's advantage. Whether Pisciali was worried they would get overwhelmed before the intermediate sprint, or was merely overeager, she set off for the line a full kilometre out. That proved far too soon, as the Italian came away with nothing, as Jaskulska claimed maximum points.
In the real race to the finish, Trek-Segafredo were not messing around. They received little help from the other teams, but still ticked a two-minute gap into a thirty-second one in the space of 10 kilometres - much faster than the rate by which a lead is normally assumed to fall.

With 15km remaining and the bunch finish all but assured they were able to take a breather, allowing the peloton to squash from a line back to a blob, as the other sprinters' teams organised themselves.

The break's day in the sun done at the 10km marker, the battle for sprint supremacy began. Jumbo-Visma and Team DSM jostled for position, as Trek-Segafredo kept their cool and Balsamo's powder as dry as possible. Under the flamme rouge and the Dutch outfit lost control, and Vos' lead-out, forcing her to take it up herself. In the end the GOAT may have spent too long in the wind and had to do too much.
In contrast, Trek-Segafredo played it to perfection as Lucinda Brand and Elisa Longo Borghini teed up Balsamo for a memorable sprint victory on home soil.
As Vos fought to extend then maintain any sort of gap, Balsamo, wearing the green points jersey rather than the rainbow stripes, activated her tracking beam and darted across the road towards the Dutchwoman.
A brilliant bike throw and a quarter of a wheel was all that separated them. Vos will have to wait for her 31st win at the Giro Donne.
The race continues on Saturday with a 112.7km ride from Cala Gornone to Olbia.

Balsamo denies Vos on Stage 2 after epic work from Trek-Segafredo

General classification

  • 1. Elisa Balsamo (Trek Segafredo) 2:44:54s
  • 2. Kristen Faulkner (Team BikeExchange - Jayco) +0:04s
  • 3. Georgia Baker (Team BikeExchange - Jayco) +0:08s
  • 4. Lotte Kopecky (Team SD Worx) +0:10s
  • 5. Marianne Vos (Jumbo Visma) +0:12s
  • 6. Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek Segafredo) +0:13s
  • 7. Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) +0:14s
  • 8. Lucinda Brand (Trek Segafredo) “
  • 9. Riejanne Markus (Jumbo Visma) +0:15s
  • 10. Leah Thomas (Trek-Segafredo) +0:16s
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