Elisa Longo Borghini Wins Inaugural UAE Tour Women’s Race

By Megan Flottorp

After four days of wild and windy racing, Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) made history by securing an overall victory at the inaugural UAE Tour Women’s race. The first of its kind in the Middle East, the four-day event was the third round of the Women’s World Tour, following the kick-off in Australia at the Women’s Tour Down Under and the Cadel Evans Road Race.

Organised alongside the men’s race, which has been held since 2019, the UAE Tour Women was, as promised, a sprinting spectacular parade featuring one decisive and epic ascent of Jebel Hafeet. Longo-Borghini’s impressive 1-2 on said climb, with outstanding support from teammate Gaia Realini, sealed the deal.

Charlotte Kool (Team DSM) was a thrill to watch in the sprint finishes, outperforming the formidable Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx) on two occasions. Wiebes did manage to claim a stage for her own, though, marking what will surely be an excellent sprint showdown this season.

Stage One

Stage One of the UAE Tour packed plenty of excitement. In addition to being the opening northern-hemisphere Women’s World Tour race of 2023, it was our first opportunity in 2023 to see some new team combinations in action. Playing out on a super flat sandy desert course, teams battled on the wide roads to keep their sprinters in contention.

Two crashes threw things into question at the end when favourite Lorena Wiebes was taken down with 3.8 km to go. But, in an impressive demonstration of fortitude, the incredible sprinter was not deterred and was back on her bike and in position on her team’s lead-out train in a matter of seconds.

As Movistar and SD Worx raced towards the final corner, Pfeiffer Georgi guided sprinter Charlotte Kool out in perfect position. As Wiebes attacked for her final sprint into the headwind, Kool came up inside, carrying enough speed to bring her alongside Wiebes. Ultimately, Kool sped to the win in the first head-to-head battle with her former teammate.

Stage two

Day 2 offered more sprinting and a chance for Wiebes to make up for her performance the previous day. Ultimately, she powered to her first victory with the powerful Dutch team since transferring from Team DSM. Team DSM secured second and third place with stage 1 winners Charlotte Kool and Pfeiffer Georgi on a windswept race into Al Mirfa.

Stage 3

Longo Borghini set herself up for overall success with victory on the stage-3 mountain finish to Jebel Hafeet with a dominant ride with new teammate Gaia Realini on the 11-kilometre climb. Demonstrating the climbing prowess that got her a three-year contract with the women’s World Tour squad, the tiny 21-year-old Italian climber rode the peloton off her wheel on the Jebel Hafeet climb and then continued to set the pace for Longo Borghini.

Realini and everyone at Trek-Segafredo were delighted with the team’s results.

“Today was a very hard day. For me, it was an incredible day, the first year in this big team, the first race this year, and this result – that’s very, very good. Elisa and I had a good rhythm on the climb, it was a big day for the team,” Realini said.

Stage 4

The general classification was determined on stage 3, so stage 4, covering 119 km through Abu Dhabi and its surroundings, delivered slightly less action. Trek-Segafredo worked hard to protect Longo Borghini and Realini and ended up capturing a critical early-season World Tour win.

Longo Borghini thanked her teammates for their help during the four-day race.

“I am very happy about this and also really proud of my team and the way we rode this week. I think we really showed team spirit,” she said after lifting the winner’s trophy and pulling on the red winner’s jersey.

“Today was quite an easy day in the beginning but then it got a bit hectic, especially in the last few kilometres where the speed was high, we were in the middle of the city with all the corners, and there were cat eyes in the middle of the road.”

Thanks to her second stage victory, Kool also won the points classification, while Realini was the best U23 rider. Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka (Canyon-SRAM) took home the black jersey for the intermediate sprints classification, and UAE Team ADQ won the team classification.