Giro d’Italia Donne a family affair for Elisa Longo Borghini

The double Italian champion on racing on home roads, getting stuck in at the Olympics, and what she and her teammates are doing with the Strade Bianche prize money.

Photo: Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images

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For Elisa Longo Borghini, the Giro d’Italia Donne is a family affair.

The biggest women’s race of the year kicks off in Longo Borghini’s home region of Piedmont on Friday and spends four days in the area before moving east. Her hometown of Ornavasso is just over an hour away from the start of stages 3 and 4, the latter of which is in her Province.

While she’s looking forward to racing on home roads, she’s even happier to be doing it in front of her family and friends – especially after a difficult year.

Also read: Everything you need to know about the Giro d’Italia Donne

“It means a lot. First of all, the Giro is in my country, and it’s already something special. I like racing in Italy. Then I have also stage which is in my province,” Longo Borghini told VeloNews in a telephone interview ahead of the Giro d’Italia Donne.

“For me, it’s always nice to be here because my family and friends will be on the side of the road. After the coronavirus pandemic, it is always nice because they couldn’t come to any race, and now they probably can come. It will be with some restrictions, but they can come and watch the race and I probably will have my nieces and nephews there.

“I really hope they don’t embarrass me for how loud they will be on the road. They are kids, and they love to shout.”

Sport is ingrained within the Longo Borghini family. Her brother Paolo, who is 11 years older than her, was a professional for a decade, while her mother was a cross country skier and her father was a technician for the Italian ski team.

As well as being able to ride in front of her family and through her home region, Longo Borghini will get to ride the “Giro Rosa” with the Italian tricolore on her back in all stages. She didn’t get to do it last year because the reconfigured calendar meant the Italian road race championship was held after the event and there were no individual time trials.

Never mind, Longo Borghini went out and did the double again this year, winning both the time trial and the road race in commanding fashion.

“It’s really an honor because yeah, for me, when you’re in the tricolore there’s always pride and I wear it with happiness every time I’m going to a race,” she said. “I am a bit biased but together with the French one and probably the US one is for me one of the nicest [national jerseys].”

Getting stuck in

Longo Borghini has been put forward as Trek-Segafredo’s GC contender, but she’s playing that position down. Over 10 days of racing, there’s always a chance for a hiccup or two and she’s taking things as they come.

“I don’t always start with a clear idea of what I’m doing because I always have one day of blackout,” she laughed. “I will go into the Giro and just try to do my best and enjoy it. We will see how the race develops, and how we are feeling because you never know. All of a sudden, maybe there was one teammate of yours that is performing better than you and you’re more than happy then to work for her.”

Longo Borghini will need to keep something in reserve at the Giro as she’s likely to be heading to Tokyo, though the Italian Federation is still pondering its final selection. If she does go, she’s ready to get stuck in and tear things up.

“I will go there and have a look, and race on it, and dive into the Olympics that there’s no tomorrow,” she said. “Surely it is going to be different. But I was happy that last year the Games were postponed.

“I still have in my mind the words of Shinzō Abe [the former Japanese Prime Minister -ed]. He said that sport needs serenity, and in this moment the serenity isn’t there and was really true. So yeah, there was no serenity for the sport.

“I also think the sport needed to stop for respect. Sometimes you need to take a step back to respect the entire world’s health. I think it was a good decision. And it was good to, to have a pause and to postpone the Olympic Games.”

Prize money matters

The start of this season saw the topic of prize money, and the disparity between the men and women, rear its head with dramatic effect.

Ahead of Strade Bianche, the first Women’s WorldTour event of the season, a fan launched a crowdfunding campaign to up the prize money for the women’s peloton. In the end, more than €26,000 spread across the top finishers.

Also read: Elisa Longo Borghini to spend Strade Bianche prize money on cycling projects for women

Longo Borghini claimed second behind Chantal van den Broek-Blaak and announced that she would share her piece of the prize pot with projects that would help women’s cycling.

“I’m really thankful to the people that notice this disparity between the prize money of women the prize money of the men. But I don’t feel like the money belongs to me. And it’s like they have someone else’s money in my pocket.,” Longo Borghini told VeloNews.

“We are splitting the money between the riders, and everybody can donate part to what they believe in. It can be an association for women, or we were thinking about a small team that can’t afford PCRs to go to a race or somebody that needs some funds for women’s cycling.

“I know where I’m going to spend my money. But I think it’s nice to do good for good and not make publicity of it. So, I prefer just to give the money and to be anonymous, or just give it to it and don’t show too much on the media.”

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