There is considerable excitement ahead of the Tour de France Femmes avez Zwift, but while the race is a big target for Elisa Longo Borghini, she is not getting caught up in the hype.
"It's nice, I love there's a women's Tour de France. It seems like we are going to the moon. We are going to France and racing, not any different to what we do anywhere else in the world."
And racing is what she does best: her 34-kilometre solo attack over dusty cobbles to win Paris-Roubaix is still fresh in her mind. "I've had more than enough time to let it sink in. I'm really proud of my victory and my team because that day we rode really well together," she said.
She kept it in the Trek-Segafredo team, too, following friend and teammate Lizzie Deignan as the winner. "Lizzie really wished she could be there," she said. "When I went into the shower, I took a picture of the plaque and messaged her, saying 'it's an honour to shower here, I wanted to stand next to you.'"
Longo Borghini had not originally intended to start at Paris-Roubaix, but the triumph put her spring back on track after a sinus infection which started after Strade Bianche and forced her to miss several key races.
Thrown that curveball, Longo Borghini was helped by her strong mental approach. While Trek-Segafredo have added Elisabetta Borgia as a team psychologist this season, the 30-year-old has been working with her since 2019.
"It's nice sometimes to be able to face hard situations and just focus on the moment instead of only the pain you are feeling," she says about how Borgia has helped. "You only focus on your cadence, what you can control, instead of what you can't control. Some small tricks that can eventually flick your mind a little bit."
Overall, it was a stand-out spring for Italian racers, with Longo Borghini winning Paris-Roubaix and the Women's Tour, Marta Cavalli on top at Amstel Gold and the Flèche Wallonne, Elisa Balsamo winning the Trofeo Binda, Exterioo Classic and Gent-Wevelgem, and Chiara Consonni victorious at Dwars door Vlaanderen.
"It's not the last 18 months, it's been a long process. It's been an effort that the small teams made, making young talents develop in a good way, not rushing them. And now we see the work coming out," she says.
Longo Borghini, who herself started her career on Top Girls Fassa Bortolo back in 2011, singled out Valcar-Travel & Service and their manager Davide Arzeni. "Cavalli and Balsamo came from that team. I think he's doing a very good job. We all need to give them kudos for this because they make a big effort and don't have a big budget. They're always there at smaller races in Belgium where the girls can learn a lot."
Up next, Longo Borghini is building towards the Giro d'Italia Donne (30 June-10 July) and Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (July 24-31), but first there is an opportunity to defend her national champion's jersey on June 26. "I'm a proud Italian, as we all should be because we are a great nation and honestly, it's been the biggest pride I have to bring my tricolore around the world," she said.
Racing aside, there's one more challenge – finding a place for her Paris-Roubaix cobblestone trophy.
"I haven't been home for a month so my boyfriend [Trek-Segafredo teammate Jacopo Mosca] and I are still figuring out where to put it. We're too scared to place it on a shelf because it's really heavy, we don't want it to fall on our heads. We need to find proper furniture for it!"
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Formerly the editor of Rouleur magazine, Andy McGrath is a freelance journalist and the author of God Is Dead: The Rise and Fall of Frank Vandenbroucke, Cycling’s Great Wasted Talent (opens in new tab)