Elisa Longo Borghini’s (Wiggle-High5) big goal of the season is, like most, a ride at the Olympic Games later this year. Making the Olympics is a rare opportunity for athletes and should she make it to Rio it would be Longo Borghini’s first appearance at the multi-sport event.
Talking to some of her teammates, they believe that the 23-year-old is all but guaranteed a spot in Rio. However, Longo Borghini, who suffered a career-threatening crash in 2013, knows that nothing in this sport is set in stone and she refuses to be obsessed with the idea of competing at the Olympic Games.
“First of all, I need to be selected. You can never be so sure,” she told Cyclingnews with a laugh. “I’m not so brave to sacrifice one whole season for just one race, in this case Rio. I want to be prepared but I don’t want to be focussed too much on one race and have the other races falling apart. Especially this spring, I just want to enjoy things because we are really strong and I want to race hard and to be active in the races.”
Longo Borghini has not yet been to Rio look at the road race course and will head out to Brazil with the national squad in May to scout out the route. It’s a hilly and challenging route that should suit the Italian’s skillset. When asked who would be her main contenders in Rio, if she is picked, of course, Longo Borghini struggles to bring the list of favourites down to just four.
“There are so many I could mention, but if I could pick four riders then I would pick Lizzie Armitstead, Anna Van Der Breggen, Katarzyna Niewiadoma and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio.”
While she is reluctant to let her desire for Rio take control of her season, she has made some alterations to her season. One of Longo Borghini’s final events before Rio will be the Giro d’Italia in July. Unlike previous seasons, she is not going to ride for the overall victory but will, instead, aim for stages in order to save herself for the Olympics.
“This year I’m racing the Giro but not for the GC, I’m going for stages. I would like to try to do well in one stage in the Giro would be nice,” she said.
Longo Borghini, who made her season debut at the Tour of Qatar, is about to begin her Classics campaign this weekend in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. She’s part of a strong Wiggle-High5 line-up that contains former winners Emma Johansson and Amy Pieters. Longo Borghini hasn’t had the ideal build-up to the Classics after she fell ill just before racing in Qatar. She recovered slightly for the Middle Eastern race but became ill once again.
After a course of antibiotics, she appears to have said goodbye to whatever was ailing her and she is raring to get going once again.
“I’m looking forward to racing again. After a while, you’re tired of training, and you just want to race and test your legs,” Longo Borghini said to Cyclingnews. “I want to be a solid helper for the team because I think that the race is better suited to other teammates of mine. Of course, if I have a chance to ride away or if there is a chance to catch then I will try to catch it.”
Longo Borghini’s first big goal of the year will be Strade Bianche next month, the first round of the new Women’s WorldTour. The Classics season will culminate with the defence of her Tour of Flanders title at the start of April. Longo Borghini took an emphatic victory in 2015 when she embarked on a solo break with some 30 kilometres still to go. She would eventually win by 43 seconds.
It is the biggest victory of her career so far and it signalled the start of her best season to date. Going into this year’s Classics campaign, she is viewed in a different way by her rivals.
“Of course, they look at me differently, especially in Flanders, but I’m supported by a strong team. For me, if I win or one of my teammates wins it is the same thing and I am fine with that,” she said. “I want to play the game. Also Strade Bianche, Flanders Fleche Wallonne, I’m looking forward to racing them all.”