Elisa Longo Borghini, the Italian fighter who learned the trade in Belgium

Elisa Longo Borghini, the Italian fighter who learned the trade in Belgium
Elisa Longo Borghini, the Italian fighter who learned the trade in Belgium

It was the first thing Elisa Longo Borghini (32) said on Sunday after she had won the Tour of Flanders in a sprint against the Polish Katarzyna Niewiadoma and her Dutch teammate Shirin van Anrooij: that she wanted to dedicate her victory above all to her trainer Paolo Slongo, “because he is simply a top performer”.

Slongo, known in cycling circles as the former coach of former Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali, is the man who helped Longo Borghini’s career get back on track after a very difficult 2023. In the spring, the Italian had to stay out of competition for a month due to a corona infection. But especially since the summer, she had seen black snow, with first a retirement from the Giro after a heavy fall while she was second in the rankings, and then an early withdrawal from the Tour due to a skin infection while she was in the running for a podium place. .

The Tour of the Emirates in early February was only the first race she completed successfully since she won the national jersey in June last year. “Paolo first restored the human being and then completely rebuilt the athlete. While I sometimes told him that I would never be the same again, he continued to believe in me. He got me winning again,” said Longo Borghini, who had already finished third in the sprint behind Marianne Vos and Lotte Kopecky in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and had last defeated Kopecky in the Strade Bianche.

Sporty genes

Longo Borghini, from Ornavasso (Piedmont), received her sporting genes from her mother Guidina Dal Sasso, who participated three times in the Winter Olympics as a cross-country skier between 1984 and 1994. Elisa’s brother, who is eleven years older, paved the way for cycling: Paolo Longo Borghini was part of the professional peloton until the end of 2014 and assisted Liquigas, among others, at the start of the Tour de France three times.

Elisa Longo Borghini won Flanders Most Beautiful nine years after her first triumph in Oudenaarde. “In 2015 I was still a young girl and I didn’t know what was happening to me. Now I have more maturity and am more aware of what I realize. Nothing can be taken for granted in cycling, just like in life.”

The two-time Tour winner calls herself very indebted to Belgium. “I owe the fact that I have become the rider that I am to the fact that I came here at a young age. I learned to race on these roads. In Belgium I also learned what bad weather is and how to deal with it.” At the beginning of her career, Longo Borghini lived with her then boyfriend in the East Flemish village of Pollare (Ninove).

The four-time Italian road champion is known for her fighting spirit and big engine. “I’m not very fast, but after a long and hard race like the Tour of Flanders it comes down to efficiency and freshness. I would also like to thank Jacopo, who trained me with board sprints (towards traffic signs, ed.) helped sharpen my final shot.” ‘Jacopo’ is Jacopo Mosca, the teammate at Lidl-Trek with whom she married last autumn.

In Paris-Roubaix?

She could not fully confirm at her press conference on Sunday evening whether Longo Borghini will go for the double in Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. “Normally Roubaix was not on my program (Longo Borghini also participates in the Ardennes classics, ed.) and I was first reserve, but unfortunately Lizzie (Deignan, ed.) in the Tour already fell on the first cobblestone section and broke an arm. I will hear what the team wants from me now.”

The situation is reminiscent of two years ago. Even then, the Italian’s name was added to the list of participants just a few days before the start of the Hell Classic. Longo Borghini had been struggling with sinusitis for a long time that spring and was forced to skip a few classics. However, it did not prevent her from using the velo after a solo of more than thirty kilometersdream of being a winner.

Her victory gesture then – she patted herself on the helmet – and especially the explanation she gave were telling: “I had to take one step back to take two forward, but I have a hard head.”

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Elisa Longo Borghini Italian fighter learned trade Belgium


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