Getting a world championships medal five years after winning her first would be the cherry on the cake of her best-ever season, according to Elisa Longo Borghini. The dual Italian time trial and road race champion is one of the pre-race favourites in the road race and says she's ready to go all in for another bit of hardware to add to her trophy cabinet.
"I think my season has been one of the best of my career," Longo Borghini told Cyclingnews from her home after returning from the Madrid Challenge last weekend. "It would mean the world, it would be the cherry on the cake for the season, but I don't know. I will fight for it so hard, and I will try my best. But at the end of the day, if I go home with a medal or with a 10th place, what will matter is that I gave my 100 per cent."
Following the European Championships, Longo Borghini completed an altitude training camp before heading to the Boels Rentals Tour. She was sat comfortably in the top 10 before she pulled out on stage 6 to avoid going too deep after her training block. The Madrid Challenge, which was won by her teammate Jolien D'hoore, was added to her calendar to split up the gap between the two-week run from her last racing until the Worlds and to provide an opportunity to get “some speed” into her legs.
The next few days will be about spinning the legs and keeping herself fresh, but she believes that she's on the right track. "I feel that I need a bit more recovery from the past weeks and training at altitude, and then I will be ready to go to Norway."
The road race course in Bergen is one of her best opportunities to get onto the rostrum since she took bronze at the Valkenburg Worlds in 2012. The single climb of Salmon Hill will likely prove to be a major factor in the selection process. Longo Borghini's third place in La Course is cast iron proof that she can hang with, and beat, the best at the climbs, but her sprint has never been among the top riders. She thinks that the flat run to the finish could be her undoing if it comes to a small group.
"Yes and no," Longo Borghini said when asked if the course suited her. "The TT course is of course very hard. It's something that is very nice for me. The road race looks like it would be too fast in the last kilometres. There is this Salmon Hill, which is quite hard if you have to do it eight times, but then it's very fast into the final. Maybe it will be a small group coming into a sprint. You never know, because the weather will be very challenging, so you never know what will happen. I will be there."
Longo Borghini takes heart from her fourth place at the World Championships in Richmond, where she had to mix it up in a sprint finish after a mechanical problem ruled out her teammate Giorgia Bronzini. The 25-year-old believes that Bronzini is a serious threat in the road race, saying that she was made for a course such as this. She also says that fast finisher Elena Cecchini will be another card to play for the azzurri, and she's looking to taking on the powerhouse of the Dutch squad.
"I think we have the second best team after Holland. They are the people to beat, but that is not a surprise because they are always the people to beat," she said. "I think it is going to be so fun and so interesting to see how they will race. They will make the race hard and fun, until the point that I start suffering and then I won't find it fun. Or maybe I will. I think I do start having fun when I'm suffering."
Coryn Rivera, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Lotta Lepisto are among the riders that Longo Borghini sees as major rivals in Bergen. She also had Boels Dolmans rider Lizzie Deignan picked as the overarching favourite, but her performance is in doubt after she had an operation to remove her appendix last month.
"I honestly hope that Deignan has recovered from the appendix problem that she had because this race would be the best for her. I actually bet on her for the victory if she hadn't had the appendix attack," said Longo Borghini.
As well as a podium finish in the road race, Longo Borghini has her eyes set on a best ever finish in the individual time trial. "It's a hard TT. There is a hill of 1.2km, if I'm not wrong. It's something that suits me. I've never been top 10, and I would be very happy to get one at the World Championships."
The UCI Road World Championships begin this Sunday in Bergen with the team time trial, which Longo Borghini's Wiggle-High5 team is not competing in.