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Elisa Longo Borghini would like to see Giro d’Italia Donne moved closer to men’s Giro

The Italian champion is targeting stages at this year's Giro d'Italia Donne as she builds up to a GC bid at the Tour de France Femmes.

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Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) would like to see the men’s and women’s Giri d’Italia develop closer bonds in the future.

Unlike the respective Tours de France, the two Giro d’Italia events are distinctly separate entities. The men’s event is run by RCS while the women’s is organized by the national federation, meanwhile the former takes place in May and the latter primarily in July.

RCS has previously expressed interest in working with the Giro d’Italia Donne organization to forge a closer relationship, and perhaps move the women’s race forward by around a month. Nothing firm has been announced yet, but Longo Borghini would be happy to see it happen.

“It would be very cool to see the Giro in May, as or like early June. But this is something that they also in the UCI they have to discuss, because then surely the women’s will need to move,” Longo Borghini told VeloNews. “It’s all about getting the Giro in the right spot, but I think I would be really happy to see the straight connection between the men’s Giro and the women’s Giro as much as the Tour is with the Tour de France Femmes.”

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It’s not only about better bonds between the two Italian grand tours, but providing a calendar that makes better sense, too. At the moment, the season’s biggest stage races are crammed tightly together with just two weeks separating the Giro d’Italia Donne and the Tour de France Femmes and then the new Tour of Scandinavia happening just over a week after that.

For Longo Borghini, moving the Giro d’Italia Donne forward by a few weeks makes practical sense as well and should give more riders the opportunity to do both grand tours.

“I think in the end, it will be better for the peloton. Because right now, people really have to choose between riding the Giro or the Tour de France. And so far, I have spoken to many girls that said that they’re doing one or the other. They are not doing both and, you know, maybe if we move the Giro a little bit earlier, they will do both,” she said.

Longo Borghini is one of the few that has decided to take on both races this summer. However, unlike rival Annemiek van Vleuten, she’s being very selective with how she’s approaching it.

For now, she’s planning to target stage victories at the Giro and save her full might for a tilt at the Tour de France Femmes GC.

“I’m going in the Giro with a pretty relaxed mindset and going only for stages. And then the to the fans, maybe for the GC. But this is something that you also see when you are there and you just look a little bit around and you see how you feel because, you know, cycling can be pretty unpredictable,” she said.

“For me, doing the Giro is honoring my nation. It’s the most important race in Italy and it’s a good way to train yourself because you never get such good training as you do in racing. It’s nice to be at a race and to try and go for four stages instead of GC and it’s important for also having a good block before the difference.”

Since the classics, Longo Borghini has focused all of her efforts on her bumper race schedule over the summer. She decided to skip racing in May entirely and instead took on her longest-ever altitude training camp, which lasted three weeks in Sestriere.

With a growing calendar for women’s cycling, choosing the right battles is an increasingly important part of the season.

“I can’t race everything all the time, and you need to make choices. You can’t do the entire spring and then the racing in May and then do the Women’s Tour, Giro, and Tour, you need to you really need to select your races and to understand where you want to peak and to and to be good at,” she said.

“For myself the kind of rider I am, I can’t just go for both stage races for the GC, I need to choose. So one will be for stages and one for the GC, because not everybody can compete for the GC in both.”

Italy’s rise toward the top

Alongside Longo Borghini, Italy will have some strong representation at its home grand tour with the in-form Marta Cavalli and the world champion Elisa Balsamo also set to ride. The 2022 season has been a bumper year for Italian women’s cycling, and it is quickly closing the gap on the Netherlands as the top female nation.

Building to this success has been a long process and Longo Borghini believes that the UCI needs to work to protect the development structures that have been built, not only in Italy but across the sport.

“This is the result of a process that lasted many years. and the result of investments of small teams like Valcar, which really invested in young talents and helped them grow the right way. They gave them experience abroad, because they were racing all the time in smaller Belgian races where they could learn to race with people of their level and stuff like that,” Longo Borghini told VeloNews.

“You see the results. Now Marta Cavalli is winning and she’s coming from Valcar. Elisa Balsamo from Valcar is the world champion. Small teams like that need to exist, because otherwise, we will end up having an elite group of good riders, but not the base to have the access for talent.

“These teams are so important, and I really hope that somehow the UCI will try to protect them because they are the key for cycling.”

Italy’s annus mirabilis coincides with the Giro d’Italia Donne’s return to the WorldTour. It was demoted last year due to its failure to provide a live broadcast for the race, as is required by UCI regulations, but stepped up its game last year following increased investment.

This year will see more money pumped into the flagship Italian race with two hours of live coverage promised on top of a larger prize pot for the riders.

“It seems like it’s making good progress. I’m happier about the broadcast, and the fact that is going to be live than the prize money,” Longo Borghini said. “I’m not complaining if there is good prize money, because everyone deserves good prize money, but if I can choose between prize money and the minimum salary for everybody, then I would choose the minimum salary because this brings up the level of the peloton.

“If the level of the peloton goes up, then more sponsors are interested in women’s cycling, and they will invest and then prize money will be a consequence. That for me, if we push for more prize money, is doing things the other way around. But still, I’m not going to complain if there is good prize money at a race.”