Elisa Balsamo upsets Dutch at cycling worlds

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LEUVEN, Belgium — Elisa Balsamo upset favorite Marianne Vos in a sprint finish to frustrate the mighty Dutch squad and claim the world championship title in the women’s road race.

After failing to win the Olympic title in Tokyo, the Dutch had sent out their strongest possible team on the 157-kilometer (97.5-mile) hilly course.

But despite their impressive collective strength, disappointment was once again the overriding feeling for Vos and her Orange teammates after the race.

Balsamo, a 23-year-old Italian, enjoyed an excellent leadout and launched the sprint early with hot favorite Vos in her wheel. Vos, a triple world champion, pushed hard to catch Balsamo but could not match her in the last 50 meters.

“I’m totally speechless, it’s unbelievable,” said Balsamo, who burst into tears after crossing the line. “It was a dream for me after this long season, and my team was so good. After the last corner, I only switched off my brain and said `You have to go full gas.”‘

Balsamo ended a four-year Dutch dominance in the event to give Italy its third gold medal at this year’s world championships after Filippo Ganna won the men’s time trial and Filippo Baroncini claimed the title in the U23 men’s road race.

Vos finished runner-up ahead of Katarzyna Niewiadoma of Poland.

Packed with stars and former world champions, the Dutch squad controlled the race almost throughout and had seven riders in the finale. They took regular turns at the front to keep Vos safe in the leading pack, rode hard in the final climbs and tested their rivals with attacks but could not open gaps before the sprint.

Balsamo wasn’t alone, though,

“It’s really nice when your tactic really happens and you believe in what you are here for,” said Italian rider Elisa Longo Borghini. “I knew that I had to close all the gaps, I felt really well today and I also had to be the last one launching Elisa for the sprint. From the beginning of the day I felt like Elisa could win so when you believe in something and you really work for it, most of the time it happens.”

The race started in the port city of Antwerp and featured a series of 20 climbs on two different circuits in the cycling-mad Flanders region of Belgium.

Spanish rider Margarita Victoria Garcia tried a solo effort in the last 25 kilometers and opened a gap of about 30 seconds but could not resist the peloton’s chase and was caught with 10 kilometers left.

Defending champion Anna van der Breggen was part of the Dutch selection and worked in support of Vos in the final race of her career, crossing the line 89th.

Giro d’Italia to start on former railway line in Abruzzo

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L’AQUILA, Italy — The 2023 edition of the Giro d’Italia will start with an individual time trial on a coastal cycle path that has been recreated from a former railway line in the region of Abruzzo.

At a ceremony in the Abruzzo capital of L’Aquila, race organizers announced that the Grand Tour will run from May 6-28 and begin with an 18.4-kilometer (11.4-mile) time trial on the Adriatic coast.

Almost the entire time trial will be on the spectacular Costa dei Trabocchi cycle path that hugs the coast line before a short climb to the finish in Ortona.

“I am excited at the idea of the Grande Partenza (Big Start) of the Giro in Abruzzo . It is a dream come true, especially with regard to the prologue on the Costa dei Trabocchi,” said Trek-Segafredo cyclist Dario Cataldo, who is from the region.

“I well remember that when the cycle path project was born and I saw the first tracks, I imagined the beauty of a Giro d’Italia passing along the route. It looked perfect.”

Stage 2 is a 204-kilometer (127-mile) leg from Teramo to San Salvo that is hilly in the first part but expected to end in a bunch sprint.

Stage 3 will also start in the Abruzzo region, in Vasto, but it will then head south and will be detailed when the full route is revealed on Oct. 17 in Milan.

The Giro will also return to the region for Stage 7, a daunting climb on the Gran Sasso d’Italia to Campo Imperatore. The high mountain stage, on May 12, will be the edition’s first finish above 2,000 meters.

Australian Jai Hindley won this year’s Giro.

Norway takes gold-medal lead at world road cycling titles

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WOLLONGONG, Australia – Soren Waerenskjold repeated Norway’s gold medal success at the world road cycling championships a day after Tobias Foss finished first in the elite men’s time trial.

Waerenskjold won the men’s under-23 time trial on the second day of the championships with a dominant performance. He clocked 34 minutes, 13.40 seconds over the 28.8-kilometer course to beat Belgian Alec Segaert by 16.34 seconds.

British rider Leo Hayter, the younger brother of elite rider Ethan Hayter, was 24.16 seconds off the pace for the bronze medal.

Foss beat a strong field to win the elite time trial, the biggest win of his career.

Norway has two gold medals, while Dutch ace Ellen van Dijk beat Australian Grace Brown to take out the women’ elite time trial.

The mixed relay time trial is set for Wednesday. The championships conclude on the weekend with the women’s road race on Saturday and the men’s on Sunday.