Elisa’s Blog: One more year, one more step forward

New year but same good habits. Elisa Longo Borghini will document her season through a blog. On the eve of her debut, enjoy the Italian's first article.

Here we go again… finally.

In the heat of the UAE my new season begins tomorrow, number 13 as a professional. I arrived in Abu Dhabi two days ago, after a month of wandering. I started the new year in Gran Canaria with my boyfriend Jacopo, to train in a mild climate away from the cold of my home town Ornavasso. I then moved to Calpe for a ten-day camp with the team and finally I headed to Tenerife for my first high altitude camp on Mount Teide, almost fifteen days of solo training with my coach Paolo Slongo supporting me.

A training camp is always a training camp – eat, train, rest and repeat – but this time it was different. Maybe because I was pedaling alone, maybe because of the peace of nature, of the silence that surrounded us when the sun goes down and you get an incredible sense of tranquility. It’s hard to explain in words and what matters, even more than the uniqueness of the experience I had, is the result. I trained well, riding over 1,200km up and down the volcano preparing myself as I wanted to for a long and demanding season. In short, I am ready!

Elisa in the 2023 kit (©SamNeedham)

The first edition of the UAE Tour will be my springboard followed by the first taste of Belgium, then Strade Bianche, Trofeo Binda, the Cobbled Classics and the Ardennes ones. In early May I will go to Spain for the Vuelta Femenina, the first Grand Tour on the women’s circuit. After that I will take a breather to prepare for the Giro d’Italia/Tour de France double. After that I will draw a line and figure out the rest of the season; we’ll have time. Of course, I will also work to earn a call from the National team for the world championships in Glasgow.

Yeah, the world championships. Last year in Australia was one of the most difficult times of the season, besides the period leading up to Roubaix. I’ve never hidden the fact that the rainbow jersey is a goal I’d like to achieve before I leave cycling and last year the conditions were there to achieve it. I was feeling good, the course suited me but, you know, one-day races are like a game of roulette. It took many days, weeks I would say, to put it all behind me. I felt empty, sad, almost guilty for not finishing off my teammates’ work.

Elisa during her training camp on Mount Teide

I reflected for a long time and when I started racing again at the Giro dell’Emilia, it was like a bungee jump effect. Kind of like what happened in Roubaix. Having touched bottom I climbed back up, as if by momentum, and pulled out the best performance I could. But it was not easy, although the result was great (after Emilia I won also the TreValli).

I found myself coming to terms with an aspect of our lives as athletes that many, almost none, see. We have an idea of sport as something that only ever makes you strong, ready to face any situation. And that’s true, in the end. But the process that gets you there also makes us go through a hard face-to-face with our weaknesses. It lays bare our fears, makes us discover how vulnerable we are and, quite simply, what it means to be human and to care deeply about something. Sports do not make us super, but it does shape us, through successes and defeats. It makes us more aware of strengths and weaknesses. In the end, what could be more beautiful than discovering and knowing each other fully?

One more year is a step forward. From here, we start again.