It’s been a stellar start to the Women’s WorldTour with Strade Bianche kicking things off a few weeks ago. The exciting battle between Lotte Kopecky and Annemiek van Vleuten as they raced into Siena set the stage for what we can expect from the rest of the 2022 season. Round two took place in the Netherlands with the Ronde van Drenthe, where Lorena Wiebes took the win from a sprint finish after a hectic race rife with cobbles, crosswinds and crashes. The women’s peloton now heads to Italy for the third instalment of the WWT, where it will face the hilly terrain of Lombardy in Trofeo Alfredo Binda on the 20th March 2022.
Last year, Elisa Longo-Borghini delighted a home crowd with a dominating solo win in this race. The Italian champion finished almost two minutes ahead of Marianne Vos who won the sprint for second from a select group of four behind – one which included the likes of Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Kasia Niewiadoma. From a glance through the names in the top ten, it’s clear that this is a race that suits those who can tackle steep, sharp climbs coming in quick succession.
This year is the 47th edition of the race which is named after the great Italian Champion Alfredo Binda, making it one of the longest-running events on the calendar, a true staple in the Women's WorldTour. The race’s rich history, unpredictable nature and attritional course which incites attacks make it one of the most exciting to watch and most prestigious to win. Lotte Kopecky is the current leader of the Women’s WorldTour following her win in Strade Bianche and podium finish in Ronde van Drenthe, so it will be up to Team SD Worx to defend the leader’s jersey.
In a route unchanged from last year’s edition, the riders will tackle the Orino climb six times throughout the undulating 141.8km race. The first ascent comes after just 20.2km of racing, meaning we could expect to see splits early on, depending on which teams are prepared to take on the responsibility of making the race hard. After 20km of rolling roads, the next major obstacle comes in the form of the Cunardo climb via Grantola – a 4km ascent averaging 4.8%.
After very little respite, the riders then reach the Orino climb for a second time before descending towards the finishing circuit which they will complete four times. There are two hills on the 14km lap that will be springboards for any attacks. If any sprinters remain in the group by the time the peloton reaches the finishing laps, these climbs will be the biggest factor in deciding if they will remain in the bunch by the end of the race.
The Orino is the larger of the two climbs – it averages 4.8% for 2.8km. Last year’s winner, Elisa Longo Borghini, holds the current Strava QOM for the Orino segment, completing it in 5 minutes and 52 seconds during last year’s race. It’s a climb that will likely be too long for the Classics specialists, but it may not be challenging enough to completely split the group, so we could see a reduced bunch come to the line (as in 2017 and 2019).
After the final time up the Orino climb, the riders have a 7km descent and flat run-in to the finish town of Cittiglio, which could give those distanced on the climb time to get back to the peloton.
At the time of writing, no official start list for the race has been published, so there is potential for some surprises when it comes to who lines up on the day. With such a busy Women’s WorldTour calendar in 2022, various teams have struggled to field enough riders for races, while others have held back riders to focus on races later in the season.
Elisa Longo Borghini (Image: Getty/Tim de Waele)
However, we can expect the Italian national champion and last year’s winner, Elisa Longo Borghini, to take to the start. She is clearly well-suited to the course and will hope to improve on what has been a slightly lacklustre start to the season by her standards. She will be supported by the likes of Lucinda Brand – this will be the Dutch rider’s first road race of the year following her impressive cyclo-cross campaign – and potentially Tayler Wiles who is also suited to the undulating terrain of the Lombardy region.
Canyon//SRAM’s Kasia Niewiadoma, who won this race in 2018, will not start Trofeo Binda in 2022. However, the team has a few strong options with Niewiadoma's teammates, notably with young rider Mikayla Harvey and Soraya Paladin who finished 5th in this race last year.
Cecilie Uttrup-Ludwig (Image: Thomas Maheux)
Another rider who can handle the climbs that come thick and fast in this race is Cecilie Uttrup-Ludwig. The FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope rider has finished 3rd in this race three times, so she knows the course well. Coming so close on a multitude of occasions could make Uttrup-Ludwig even hungrier for the win, and she will be well supported by her teammates such as Marie Le Net and Marta Cavalli.
We understand that Annemiek van Vleuten won’t be starting in Trofeo Binda, with a post on her Instagram outlining that Dwars door Vlaanderen would be the first race of her next block. This means that Jelena Erić, who finished 11th in this race last year, could be Movistar's chosen leader. Team DSM are one of the few outfits that has already announced its full line-up for the race, with young German talent Liane Lippert leading the way. Lippert finished 13th at Strade Bianche, proving her form is good and she’s building well into the next WorldTour race.Ashleigh Moolman (Image: Getty/Luc Claessen)
Of course, SD Worx will likely be key protagonists in this year’s race. The team will line up with Ashleigh Moolman, an experienced rider who finished on the podium of Strade Bianche. The course may be too hilly for the likes of Marlen Reusser and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, but they will be key domestiques for the best climbers in the team. It’s unlikely that the Women’s WorldTour leader, Lotte Kopecky, will start the race, since she is targeting the spring Classics that come soon after. The team’s young stars, Anna Shackley and Niamh Fisher-Black, will relish the hills of Trofeo Binda and could also be good options for SD Worx.
Marianne Vos (Image: Getty)
Last, but certainly not least, is Team Jumbo-Visma. Marianne Vos, a four-time winner of this race, leads a team that will want to secure its first win of the season. Vos finished seventh in Strade Bianche, which was a solid start for her road racing debut in 2022, and we know that the Dutch rider should never be counted out. Amanda Spratt of Team BikeExchange is another one to look out for, as is UAE Team ADQ’s Mavi García.
Without Annemiek van Vleuten, this year’s edition of Trofeo Binda is wide open, and there are a variety of riders who could take the victory. This should make for an especially exciting watch for those of us at home, but it also makes the race very difficult to predict.
However, going off her form at Strade Bianche, we’re going to bet on Ashleigh Moolman taking the win in Trofeo Binda this year. The South African rider has competed in this race multiple times, so she knows the parcours well. She also seems to be on her best form yet and benefits from a team happy to support her as leader. The SD Worx rider doesn’t have a sprint as punchy as riders like Vos, however, so it will be down to her teammates to race aggressively to tire the legs of faster riders on the hills that come thick and fast.
Trofeo Binda will be shown live on GCN/Eurosport on the 20th March at 13:45 GMT.
Cover image: Alex Whitehead/SWpix