Why Elisa Longo Borghini’s National Championship victory matters so much

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On a hilly circuit in Breganze Elisa Longo Borghini soloed to her second Italian National Championship title this year and the second road title of her career. Borghini has had an incredible season, winning the Italian Time Trial title in August, the queen stage of the Giro Rosa in September, placing third at the World Championships in her home country, and also landing second at the European Championships behind Annemiek van Vleuten.

Borghini previously won the National Championship road title in 2017. She claimed the ITT title that year as well.

Elisa Longo Borghini winning the Italian National Road title in 2017.

This season Borghini was one of the most exciting riders to watch in any of the races she participated in. In the Giro Rosa, she wore the pink jersey after Trek-Segafredo won the opening stage team time trial only to lose it to Annemiek van Vleuten on a gravel-filled stage two. For the remaining week of the race, she was frequently seen off the front and up amongst the top finishers. When stage 8 finished after a climb to Casa Comunale, Borghini took her first-ever Giro Rosa stage win ahead of the eventual Giro Rosa victor Anna van der Breggen. Despite a disappointing stage two, with almost four and a half minutes of time loss, Borghini still finished third overall at the end of nine days.

In early September CyclingTips contributor, José Been sat down with Borghini to get to know her better. At that point in the season, Borghini had already added the ITT National title to her 2020 palmares but wasn’t banking on winning a second road title. Even before the race Borghini wasn’t sure she could walk away with a new jersey. After the race, Borghini told Tuttobiciweb, “today I knew that I had a 99 percent chance of losing this Italian championship and a 1 percent chance of winning, but I wanted to play this 1 percent very well.”

Probably the best thing to come out of 2020 is the dynamic duo of Elisa Longo Borghini and Lizzie Deignan. The two are similar riding types, together they are like the Hadid sisters on a runway, except their runway is a road. Watching them from the outside creates a warm and fuzzy feeling of joy in one’s belly. A combination of wishing to be part of their gang and wishing they could race together 104907x more often. La Course especially stands out as a race where they competed as two bodies with one mind, when Borghini selflessly sacrificed her chances, with impeccable timing, for Deignan to win the race. In José’s article Borghini said, “When Lizzie won La Course, it feels like I won La Course too, even though I was sixth.”

This National road title is the icing on the cake of an incredible season for Borghini. A season that started after the coronavirus lockdown. Italy was the first European county hit by the pandemic. In an interview with the Freewheeling podcast in March, Borghini explained that her training during her time at home was fueled by her love of her country, that she was riding for those who were sick.

“Sometimes when I am on the rollers I am thinking about all those people that are suffering, and there is no rationality behind my thoughts, but I think to pedal for them. I don’t know why, but when sometimes I am pedaling on the rollers I think that if I finish my training somebody will heal.”

It is for this reason that Borghini winning the Maglia Tricolore is so special and emotional, for more people than Borghini herself. She joined the professional peloton in 2012 with Hitec Products-Mistral Home. Since then she has been on only 2 other teams, Wiggle High5/Wiggle Honda, and her current team Trek-Segafredo. In the time since her career began Borghini has wiggled her way into the hearts of many other riders in the peloton, and many fans around the World.

Her love for her country is inspiring. At the World Championships in Imola, she praised Italy for being able to pull together the event with very little time. “This bronze medal means so much for me, especially thinking about how Italy was considered back in March,” Borghini told Cyclingnews at the World Championships. “We were seen as the virus spreaders of Europe but now we’re seen as an example in the fight against the pandemic.”

With an eye on the Olympics next season Borghini will continue to be among the favorites for the majority of the World Tour races. The day after she won her National road title Trek-Segafredo announced the extension of her and Deignan’s contracts for the next two years, which means we will hopefully get a lot more photos like this…

Elisa Longo Borghini and Lizzie Deignan after Deignan won La Course in 2020.

It’ll be easy to spot Borghini next year, Trek-Segafredo has a track record of recognizable National Champion jerseys, and there is no doubt that she will make sure the Italian flag is at the front of the races. “I am very, very happy about my victory. It is such a nice feeling because I have been chasing many jerseys this year, and finally, I got my National jerseys, which I am very proud of.” Borghini said in the race report by her trade team, Trek-Segafredo. “I will wear my Tricolore with pride next year and try to defend it as much as I can.”

Feature Image of Elisa Longo Borghini racing the 2020 edition of Strade Bianche is by Cor Vos

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