Longo Borghini primed to defend Strade Bianche title

Italian says she's not in top form but still 'in the game'

Elisa Longo Borghini is hoping for a repeat winning performance when she lines up with her Wiggle High5 team at this weekend’s Strade Bianche. Last year, Longo Borghini became the first Italian to win the race, the third edition of the one-day event for women.

Alongside Longo Borghini at the opening round of the Women's WorldTour will be fellow national champions Eri Yonamine and Martina Ritter as well as Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Julie Leth and Emilia Fahlin. Longo Borghini, the current Italian national road and time trial champion, started her season last weekend with 11th place at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. With some big Classics to come in April, she says that she's not in her best form but she is still up for defending her title.

"I'm looking forward to racing because it's always a nice race, despite the weather. I feel fine, my preparation went fine, and now it's all about spinning the legs as fast as you can," she said. "Just because I'm not in my top form it doesn't mean I'm not in the game. It's just that I'm not in my super shape and I don't expect anything from the races. I'm going with my mind really free to race.

"For sure I don't feel too good, I just feel normal. I feel okay, I'm just going to the race to enjoy it and to try to do the best for my team and for me."

Strade Bianche was Longo Borghini's second major Classic victory after she won the Tour of Flanders in 2015. After crashing hard on one of the earlier gravel sectors, she was part of a five-rider move that broke clear on the penultimate sector of gravel, before eventually being caught by Lucinda Brand and Shara Gillow. The pair attacked in the closing kilometres but were caught on the sharp rise towards the finish at Piazza del Campo by Longo Borghini and her companions.

Longo Borghini's pace proved too much and she distanced defending champion Lizzie Deignan and then Kasia Niewiadoma to take the title. It was an emotional win for the Italian and a moment that she didn't want to forget in a hurry.

"Last year I think it was one of the most beautiful victories of my career," said Longo Borghini. "I don't want to forget how nice it was because it was just a good feeling. It was a victory made in my country, and on one of the most spectacular arrivals in the calendar, and that’s it."

The women's Strade Bianche race will take place on Saturday, March 3.

Wiggle High5's roster for Strade Bianche: Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Emilia Fahlin, Julie Leth, Elisa Longo Borghini, Martina Ritter, Eri Yonamine.

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