Elisa Balsamo is the reigning women's road world champion and wears the rainbow jersey in her inaugural season with Women's WorldTeam Trek-Segafredo. She completed an impressive hat-trick this spring by sprinting to victory at three one-day races - Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Classic Brugge-De Panne and Gent-Wevelgem. Recently crowned the new Italian road champion, Balsamo will next compete in her first-ever Giro d'Italia Donne. She shares insights from the peloton in a blog series for Cyclingnews.
Spring is over and, for me, June was like a new beginning. When I think back to the first months, it is hard to add more to what has already been said in so many interviews, but I still want to reaffirm my happiness with how things have gone. I am super satisfied and partly surprised because everything, including the races, went beyond my best expectations.
I say this because after the victory in the World Championship in Leuven so many things changed. As a person, in general, I feel I am a little insecure and the rainbow jersey was scaring me a bit. I was hearing about the pressures, the attention, the expectations and all the stress that goes with it.
Starting with a bang in my first race with Trek-Segafredo and continuing with a series of victories gave me an awareness of my own means. I realized that I could play with the strongest in the world. Not that this is easy; it always takes work and commitment. But I knew I could do it. And then I was so happy to have experienced and motivating teammates by my side who, in the race, reminded me that I could make it.
I have found a perfect balance and that has been the key to success. I have surrounded myself with people I trust who have created a kind of buffer for me to handle everything that the jersey entails. This is awareness is a huge accomplishment.
When it comes to racing, however, some question marks remain, especially after a rest period and a training camp, as happened to me between May and June. While giving the body rest was necessary and essential, the idea of an altitude camp was not exciting. I never like training camp too much, but it definitely helped. I worked without stress, taking care of every aspect of my preparation: training, stretching, nutrition. And then I was able to study to give my last exam at the university [University of Turin -ed.]. Mission accomplished, and now I can think, without too much stress, about graduation in the fall.
In the comeback races, RideLondon Classique and Tour de Suisse, some pressure was felt. It was a bit like going back to the beginning of the season. I did not know how the body might react to the first intense efforts and what my performance level was. However, everything went well and I received the confirmations I wanted. The victory in the Italian Championship was the icing on the cake.
Preparing for big events, to me, means training not only legs but also head. For me, keeping my feet firmly planted on the ground is the mantra. I think an athlete should rightly enjoy her successes. In the end, we are people not robots, and victories make us aware of our strengths. What should be avoided, however, is the sense of exaltation that successes can bring. I think it is normal and human that this can happen. And I believe that to avoid this, an athlete must work hard on herself or himself. That's what I'm doing: reminding myself every day who I am, where I come from, that I’m changed just because I have a world champion's jersey and I'm an athlete capable of winning.
The first big event to come is the Giro, my first Giro! It will be the beginning of a historic and memorable double, along with the Tour de France Femmes (but about that, for now, I'm not thinking).
Step by step. I have studied the route of the Giro well and I am confident that I can have my say, especially in the first part. With only a few hours to go before the start, I am going through a healthy tension.
Winning the Italian Championship title has done nothing but shine more headlights on me. So, many will expect to see me win but, personally, I am living it well. I know I am in good shape and I know I have a very strong team by my side with which to share the burdens and honors of this race.
I am calm, as I wanted and hoped. The time will come, then, to think about the Tour. For now, I want to fully enjoy my first Giro d'Italia.
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Elisa Balsamo surprised the cycling world - and herself - when she outsprinted Marianne Vos to win the 2021 World Championship road race in Leuven. The Italian had already signed a contract with Trek-Segafredo and for 2022 brings the prestigious world champion’s jersey into the team. A highly-decorated Junior in both road and track, Elisa’s promise continued when she entered the pro ranks, taking victories in GP Bruno Beghelli (2018), a stage at the Tour of California (2019) and the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta (2020). The 2021 season was a breakthrough year for the 23-year-old, winning GP Oetingen and a stage at the Women’s Tour alongside the World title. Possessing a fast sprint, hard one-day races suit her best.