Elisa Balsamo: ‘Super worlds’ is not a good program for me
The multi-discipline world champion on balancing her road and track ambitions in 2023.
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The “super worlds” in Glasgow this August will be a bumper festival of cycling for fans, but it is posing a bit of a headache for some multi-discipline riders.
Current team pursuit world champion and former road world champion Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) is one of those riders trying to fit in varying targets on the track and road.
Balsamo and her teammates are keen to defend their team pursuit title, which they claimed emphatically in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines last year, but the track program comes just four days after the Tour de France Femmes.
In the likely event that the road race route suits her, the Italian will have another four days to get back into road mode.
“For me, it is not a good calendar, not a good program, because if you want the athlete to do track, MTB, road, and also others, this calendar is not good. Of course, we will try because we have the rainbow jersey, and we want to defend it. We are also waiting for the profile for the road race, and then we will see,” Balsamo told VeloNews.
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While she would prefer to have track and road worlds in their usual place, the event this August could work as a practice run for the Olympic Games in 2024. The route for the Olympics in Paris has yet to be unveiled but there is a realistic chance that it will suit Balsamo.
The event is a bit too far down the line, though, and with some 18 months before it gets underway, it’s full steam ahead for the 2023 season.
Track racing will still form a part of Balsamo’s season as she needs to make sure she’s done enough to qualify for the Olympics, but it’s the road where her primary goals lay.
“I’m trying to do both. The qualification for the Olympic games on the track is important, but of course, for me next year, the road will be the most important. I will race three races on the track and then all the others will be on the road,” she said.
Balsamo is getting ready for her second year with the Trek-Segafredo squad after signing a three-year contract with the team ahead of the 2022 season — just before she took her world road title in Flanders. The Italian notched up eight victories on the road in her rainbow jersey and took the Italian national road title for the first time.
It was by far her biggest season to date and she’s hoping to build on that as she takes on the new year.
“I’m very happy about my season and, of course, it was the best one till now. I felt so good in the team and I’m very happy about my choice and I think I achieved some big goals,” Balsamo said. “I really enjoyed the rainbow jersey from the first day to the last one. So, for me, it was just beautiful.
“I’m trying to grow up step by step and every year become a better athlete. And so yes, also with my training, I am trying to improve every year. I going to be 25 soon, so it’s a good time to achieve big goals and I really want to fight for them.”
The first major goal for Balsamo is the classics, where she enjoyed a strong run of form last year, winning Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Classic Brugge-De Panne, and Gent-Wevelgem back-to-back.
She is planning a similar program to the one she rode in 2022, though she is not sure if she’ll race Paris-Roubaix again, where she was disqualified last year for a “sticky bottle”.
“The most important part is the classic season and I know that is not easy to win again, which is what I want this year, but of course, I will try,” she said.
“I don’t know if I will race [Paris-Roubaix]. I think that it can be a good race for me. Maybe I need some more years to improve for such a hard race. Last year, we made the mistake and we paid for it. I will not make it again. It’s always easy to judge when you are on the TV, but the situation was not easy.”
Balsamo is also looking to resume her relatively friendly rivalry with Lorena Wiebes this year after the Dutch sprinter switched to SD Worx over the winter. Balsamo was one of the few riders who got the better of Wiebes during the 2022 season and it’s likely to be another close-fought battle this year.
“She’s a very strong rider. I’m working to improve, and I hope that we can make some good sprints also with the other sprinter and have fun all together,” Balsamo said.