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ROUBAIX, France (VN) – Elisa Longo Borghini had some 35 kilometers to think of her victory celebration on the roads into Roubaix on Saturday.
And it was with a few rueful knocks of the helmet that the Italian marked her monument victory as she rolled over the finish line of Paris-Roubaix Femmes, a literal nod to her own “wood head.”
“I am a very, stubborn person, and since my spring wasn’t ideal, I was a little bit angry. And we say in Italian that I am a little bit of a ‘wood head,’” Longo Borghini explained to reporters after the race. “Just my head is really like, tough. And yeah, I was thinking like, ‘my tough head has brought me here.’”
— Trek-Segafredo (@TrekSegafredo) April 16, 2022
Longo Borghini’s ride was that of the archetypal phoenix from the ashes.
The Italian’s northern classics campaign was ravaged with illness, leaving her out of shape and off the back through the block of Belgian races where she otherwise would have thrived.
But wooden-headed persistence and a free role paid off when Longo-Borghini’s huge long-range move converted into the biggest win of her career Saturday.
‘The beginning of the season wasn’t ideal for me, I got sinusitis and couldn’t really breathe. I had to take a step back to go forward,” she said.
“I wasn’t supposed to come to this race, but the team asked me and I had no pressure at all, but in the end, it felt really good. I did everything good this winter but in spring I was just sick for the entire spring basically. And couldn’t perform in the way I am supposed to. As soon as I got healthy, I performed well”
Also read: ELB goes long for Paris-Roubaix victory
Longo Borghini is no newcomer to the Paris-Roubaix podium.
The 30-year-old finished on the bottom step of last year’s race behind teammate Lizzie Deignan and the now COVID-stricken Marianne Vos. And with both Vos and Deignan absent Saturday, it seemed fitting that Longo-Borghini took two steps higher on the winner’s platform in the 2022 edition.
But this year’s race was altogether different from the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes.
Dry, dusty cobblestones make for fast and furious racing through the “Hell of the North” in a dynamic altogether different from last year’s race.
Longo Borghini attacked the moment a dangerous escape move from Lotte Kopecky, Marta Bastianelli, and Lucinda Brand was brought back at around 35km to go, and was never seen again.
She said it was an acceleration forged from racing smarts rather than team directions to react to the jury’s decision to DQ world champion teammate Elisa Balsamo for taking a “sticky bottle” in the moments before.
“It was pure instinct. I saw the break was caught and I thought It was a good move to be on the front and to put Lucinda in the best position to just follow wheels and to make SD Worx do the chasing chase wheels,” Longo Borghini said. “I just went full [gas] from there on…. It’s special.”
“I believed from the beginning, otherwise, if you don’t believe in your attack, you’ll never win,” she added when asked about the tentative gap she nursed over the chasers for much of the race toward the Roubaix velodrome.
Like Longo Borghini said herself – she’s stubborn.
‘The Domane is the perfect bike for Roubaix’
But it wasn’t just a wooden head that brought Longo Borghini the iconic cobblestone trophy.
The Trek-Segafredo star paid tribute to the newly reconfigured Domane bike that carried her through some 29km of the harsh bone-jarring pavé.
“We have the best bike for this type of race. The Domane has been projected especially for Roubaix. The equipment makes a huge difference,” she said.
“We are testing the [equipment] during the winter, in terms of performing the best in this race. And then we have the technical staff who put a lot of work into it, and I’m thankful to them – and it’s work that you don’t see, and it’s not very much highlighted, but it’s really fundamental for us.”
“They are trying to get us on the best bike ever. And I think they did. Honestly, I think the Domane is the perfect bike for Roubaix.