Van Anrooij and Longo Borghini evolve into dangerous duo: "They are 100% committed to each other" Cycling

Van Anrooij and Longo Borghini evolve into dangerous duo: "They are 100% committed to each other"

Van Anrooij and Longo Borghini evolve into dangerous duo: "They are 100% committed to each other"

Shirin van Anrooij was hugged and warmly welcomed back at the team bus on Saturday after Strade Bianche, arriving about an hour after her finish. The 22-year-old Lidl-Trek rider finished fifth in Siena but told afterwards that this performance gave her the confirmation she had been looking for.

Van Anrooij had already finished fourth in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad the week before, and after Strade Bianche, she speaks of "the final confirmation". "This really shows that I've taken a step up, that I can keep up with the top five riders on that final gravel climb. I actually had to let go, but I had just enough power left in my legs to push myself across. Then I came to a halt, but I made it," she says with the broadest smile of the women's peloton.

"I'm very happy that I managed that level in the Omloop and that I could confirm it today," she says. "I've really taken that step to be there at the decisive moment. I hope now to be able to continue this trend and get a bit further every week. In theory, the best is yet to come, although you never know how much you can still improve when you're feeling good. We're now going to train for another two weeks in Spain, where I hope to take that final step forward leading up to the classics in Belgium."

Van Anrooij and Longo Borghini form dangerous duo

It all sounds super positive, and not without reason. Alongside Van Anrooij, Italian champion Elisa Longo Borghini also demonstrated that they have an incredibly strong classics core at Lidl-Trek. "As a team, we were in it and really controlled the race well," Van Anrooij asserts. "Elisa was up there with Kopecky, which was good. I told her through the radio to believe in herself, but Kopecky was just a bit too strong. I was with Vollering and Niewiadoma and said that we would never catch up again. The race was between her and Lotte, so she had to believe in it and go for it. She had nothing to lose, so I tried to give her confidence."

Van Anrooij and Longo Borghini evolve into dangerous duo: "They are 100% committed to each other"

The interaction between Van Anrooij and Longo Borghini was also noticeable in the Omloop. They took turns attacking and broke Kopecky. That strategy did not work out on Saturday, but there is potential in the duo. "It was cool that the two of us were there again. We didn't really talk about it before the start of the Omloop, but I feel like Elisa and I are similar types of riders. We both love to attack and are well in tune with each other. We know what we can expect from each other, and I'm learning a lot from her. It's cool to be in those finales together, and if we can learn a little more from each other, we can be even more valuable to each other. That went well today. We're already quite in sync and are 100% committed to each other. We honestly share how we feel, and whoever is feeling the least out of the two of us takes the lead for the other. That can only get better this season."

How tough was Strade Bianche?

It is telling that the Lidl-Trek duo had the legs in one of the toughest editions of Strade Bianche in years. "It was very tough, and mentally challenging too, because you need to stay focused all the time and there’s always something happening. Positioning is super important, so it was great how we rode as a team. I felt very secure the entire time and could always rely on my teammates' wheels. Physically, the last climb in Siena showed just how tough it was. Just short of pulling a Van Aert, I managed to stay upright. You know you just have to get over it. As you approach, you know the steepest part is yet to come. I wasn’t necessarily dreading it, but I wasn’t looking forward to it either. I was just happy with where I was."

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