Elisa Longo Borghini soloed home to a spectacular victory in this year’s Women’s Tour of Flanders. She attacked 35km out and left the rest of the elite field trailing in her wake, winning with a 43 second margin. “I’m convinced that she was trying to destroy cobblestones rather than ride over them,” tweeted an ecstatic fan.
The 23-year-old Italian rides for the Wiggle Honda team and was following up her impressive third place in the Women’s Strade Bianche. The youngster has clearly announced herself for the team that also includes former World Champion Giorgia Bronzini, as well as British Olympic star Danni King.
Now if Alexander Kristoff had done the same thing in the men’s race we would be talking about it in amazement for years to come. We would be telling our grandchildren about having seen it. That’s the point really. We didn’t see the punchy Italian’s triumph as it wasn’t broadcast live, not in the UK, in any case.
Longo Borghini is brings the same passion to her advocacy of women’s sport that powers her up those Flemish climbs. “It’s important for women’s cycling. I have given the sport attention for the Italian media and also the world media,” she told Australian cycling website Cycling Tips.
But we didn’t see it. And that means that the sponsors have not got their “free” TV advert. And that also means that Longo Borghini’s mighty feat was rewarded with a derisive fraction of the prize money awarded to the men’s winner. She won €1,213 compared with Kristoff’s €20,000.
Women’s cycling is still the poor relation, and progress, though there, is slow. The Women’s Tour of Britain was a TV and sponsorship hit. Longo Borghini’s feat proves the quality is there, but without more coverage of elite events and elite riders, like this one, the sponsors’ hands will stay deep in their pockets.