Culture

Day in the life: Elisa Longo Borghini

We spoke with the Trek-Segafredo rider from her home in the hard-hit Piedmont region of Italy.

For the past two months, we have reached out to pro riders and other personalities from the sport to get a glimpse into their lives during the shutdown in our Day in the Life series. Now, with a potential race season on the horizon, we’re asking about their fitness and forward planning.

Elisa Longo Borghini describes her hometown of Ornavasso, Italy as a place “forgotten by God.”

“It’s far from everything, away from everything. Nothing really big happens. We are not in Rome, we are not in Milan, and my area is really calm,” said the Trek-Segafredo rider.

However, when snow-seeking ski tourists brought the coronavirus to the region in early March, the world’s attention shifted to Longo Borghini’s forgotten corner of the world. She remembers realizing that if the pandemic had spread to Ornavasso, then no one would be immune.

“We were all touched, everywhere in world. No one has been excluded and everyone is the same,” she said.

Location: Ornavasso, Piedmont region, Italy

What are the current regulations where you live about going outside?
We can train alone outside every day. For normal life, we need to use masks and gloves when you are touching something. They have opened almost everything, but you still can’t move from region to region. They will open the borders on June 3, but Lombardy, Piedmont, and another region will stay closed for another 15 days because they have the highest numbers of sick people. So, we’re kind-of free to leave again. I wouldn’t say we can move normally because it’s not normal, but it’s better than it was before

What does your new racing schedule look like?
The team is working on it. We will try to do the best out of the races that we have right now.

What was it like to ride outside for the first time?
It was terrific. It was really like breaking out of a bubble. I think I will always remember the day I went out on the 4th of May. The night before, I couldn’t really sleep. That morning I was up really early. I was thrilled. When I was riding at first, I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to stay upright. After two months on the rollers, ‘can I still turn? Can I still keep the balance?’ And then it was like watching the world in a totally different way. Strange but totally beautiful.

I’ve been riding every day outside since then.

I think that every day from now on, I will avoid the rollers. I have been doing so many hours on the rollers that now when I think of doing a short training ride on them, it’s like ‘only two hours!’

Elise Longo Borghini

“Breaking out of a bubble.” Photo: Elisa Longo Borghini

What race are you most excited to do once the season starts again?
At the moment, I’m excited to do any kind of race. Fleche Wallonne is one I love the most. Paris Roubaix, as a team we have a very good chance to win it.

What’s your opinion on the tentative plans to bring racing back?
I think we have to try and start the season in any case. Cycling needs to start again. If they see that things are not possible, they won’t do them. That’s the thing. You need to have a schedule. If the situation is dramatic, the races won’t happen. We have to try to start again because otherwise we collapse.

What part of your fitness is missing right now?
I’ve been doing a good training period, even on the rollers for two months. First, we started with an easy week to lose a little bit of form because I was ready to race. Then back to base with some power training in the gym which I luckily had in my house. Also, intervals on rollers, alternating this type of training.

I can afford to do good training now because I’m in good shape. I didn’t miss that much. Of course I’m not ready to race at the moment, but I have a good base and I can actually work now.

day in the life

For two months, this was Longo Borghini’s training. Photo: Elisa Longo Borghini

How has your experience over the past few months shaped your worldview or perspective on pro cycling?
Sometimes, as pro cyclists, you live in a bubble and you don’t really realize what’s going on around you. I love to be informed and I love to read the newspaper and know what’s going on politically in my country and others, but with all the travel and racing and training, you become really self-concerned. Sometimes we forget that there is a world outside. With the coronavirus situation, I felt really touched. At the beginning, it was something really far from me. But then I saw people getting sick in my town. I live in a very forgotten place of the world. Normally, nothing happens here. I saw my community suffering from coronavirus and I’m like, ‘that’s really close to me.’ And you don’t really realize it until something touches you.

I really felt for my country. I had days where I was thinking about all the people that were suffering and I was like, ‘What could I do?’ I only knew that I could actually do what the government was asking me. Staying at home, protecting others. Trying to concentrate on being careful with everything, not going out for stupid reasons. So, I  really focused on training. Motivating myself by training and thinking about people that were sick. I always said, ‘if I finish my training today, someone will heal.’ That was my everyday goal. It might sound silly, but it motivated me.

In your opinion, is holding the Strade Bianche on August 1st feasible? What’s the sentiment on the ground in Italy?
You know August is close, but it’s still far. In my opinion, we need to be calm and see how the situation is going in June until the middle of July. June will be a key month in order to understand what is going on and how things will develop. They have just opened everything and people are reuniting and assembling again. I think June is the key month to see if it’s possible to race in August or not. I really hope so.

I think people are willing to get normal life back but on the other hand they’re scared to go back to March.

Inside myself, there is also a debate. I would be really really happy to have a race in August. But then I have my doubts about having foreign people coming to Italy and being in the peloton. That’s why I think June will be the key month to see how things will go and develop. It will give time to the doctors on the team to really think about a protocol to apply to all the team members. We already have this, but maybe they can work more deeply on it.

How are you dealing with the uncertainty? 
I’m alright. I need to do my job and train and I’m eager to race, but on the other side I know there’s something bigger than racing. I will be ready when the races start. If they don’t, this is all hay that I have put in my barn for next year.