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Elisa Longo Borghini wants to leave it all on the road in 2022.
All-or-nothing attacks have become a bit of a trademark for the Italian road race and time trial champion, and they have been reaping some big rewards for her in recent years.
After a season that saw her ranked second in the world, Longo Borghini is brimming with confidence and she’s not about to step off the gas just yet. In an “interview” with herself on the Trek-Segafredo website, the 30-year-old reflected on her development as a rider.
“Over the past couple of years, there has been a change in my style of racing, that’s true. And when people tell me I race aggressively, I like it. I’ve gained a lot more confidence in myself, in my potential,” Longo Borghini said.
“I’ve realized what I can really do. I owe this to the people who have been close to me, Jacopo [Mosca – her partner] first of all. They have given me an awareness that it’s better to attack to try and win, rather than stay on the wheel and fight for a podium. In 2022, I want to finish the races I target with the feeling I’ve given everything to try for the victory.”
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In an unusual format for cycling interviews, Longo Borghini chose to assign colors to her 2022 goals and they’re not the ones you might imagine.
There is no yellow in sight, but the Tour de France Femmes is definitely a highlight of the season. The Ardennes classics, where she has come so close to success in the past, also have their own color.
While it might be unconventional, color-coding her targets speaks to the emotion with which Longo Borghini competes. Racing is not just a black and white battle of numbers, it’s also about heart and soul for Longo Borghini.
“First of all, I will choose red and match it with the Ardennes classics, the first big goal of my season,” she said. “Red because these are places where there is a very strong passion for cycling and where, many years ago, people battled for freedom. Red because to win you need a lot of heart because these are races that exhaust you.
“Then I chose blue and pair it with the Tour de France. An electric, sparkly blue because it’s something new and super cool to attend.”
Longo Borghini also has rainbows in her mind ahead of the 2022 season. She doesn’t care if it is herself or a teammate that will ultimately get to wear them come September, but she wants to play a part.
“It’s too early to say what might be for me on a route that, on paper, is not suited to my characteristics, but I do know that I’d like to be there, in Australia, as a protagonist. That doesn’t mean being the leader but, as experienced in 2021 with Elisa Balsamo, might mean being at the service of someone who takes the win.”
Racing with body and mind
Longo Borghini might love racing with her passion, but in conversing with herself about the season to come, she also accepts that she must use her head to close the fine margin between winning and losing.
In her comments, she describes how the tactical mistake she made in the finale of last year’s Amstel Gold Race — which saw her go from a potential victory to seventh place — was one of the regrets of her 2021 campaign. Her other regret was sitting up when she was caught by Lotte Kopecky on the final stage of the Challenge by La Vuelta.
Longo Borghini still wants to race with passion, but she wants it to be guided knowledge.
“[I can] be a little smarter. More rational. Use the head a little more than the instincts,” Longo Borghini said. “You know how thoughtful I am, but there are cases where you must be able to read race situations differently. Maybe, taking a thoughtful glance to manage my attacks in a better way. In the end, there are always a few riders in the game to win, mainly the same. It doesn’t take so much to turn a podium into a victory.
“I’ve worked hard and with a lot of determination. I don’t think I need to do anything special to improve more, just persevere. In December, we had a team meeting with Luca [Guercilena — Trek-Segafredo’s general manager], and he said a sacrosanct thing: the key to getting far is discipline. It’s a different concept than motivation, which gives you momentum, but then you need consistency.”