This article is part of Cycling Weekly's 'the ride that changed me' series. Our writers hear from a range of professional and ex-professional cyclists about that one day on the bike that changed the trajectory of their career for good.
Elisa Longo Borghini is one of a select few riders that can count a huge, Paris-Roubaix cobblestone trophy amongst her collection. Only some of the very best Classics riders - Eddy Merckx, Lizzie Deignan, Peter Sagan and Tom Boonen to name a few - can do likewise.
As the second-ever winner of the women’s edition of the iconic cobbled classic, you would be forgiven for assuming that Longo Borghini would have highlighted her Roubaix win as that ride that changed her. The reality is that the big turning point in her career came far earlier than that fabled day in Belgium.
The Italian Classics star tells Cycling Weekly that one of the biggest turning points in her career came on a rain swept afternoon in Varese, northern Italy.
“So the ride that changed me was [Trofeo Alfreda] Binda 2013 which sounds like ages ago,” she says. “Actually, it is a while ago now and I won that race.”
“It was a very cold, rainy and grey day,” she adds. “It was my first World Cup - because at the time there were still World Cups - victory in all my career and the second victory in my life as an elite rider.
“I was just delighted to win the race, I was really not expecting it because I was coming from 10 days where I was doing only easy rides because I had a problem with my left calf muscle. I just went into the race with no pressure and no thoughts [of winning].”
Riding for the Hitec Products UCK team at the time, Longo Borghini came up against several riders that she would eventually call teammates later on in her career at Trek-Segafredo (now Lidl-Trek).
She recalls that when it came to crunch time and she decided to launch her race winning move, only one of those future teammates could follow.
“I remember attacking on a descent because it was really wet,” she says. “I was like, 'okay, I'll try to make my attack here' and then I went away and only Spratty [Amanda Spratt] could follow me.
"We stayed together for a little bit and then I dropped her on the last climb. When I crossed the line, I was really freezing but I was not feeling anything at the time because it was so much to enjoy.”
Nowadays when crossing the line first, Longo Borghini, like most other riders, would no doubt be seen sipping a recovery drink as she makes her way to the podium. But not back then.
After such a foul day on the bike in bleak conditions, there was only one thing for it. Descend on the nearest restaurant to enjoy good food and drink and celebrate a momentous victory with friends and family.
“After that I remember that we went to a restaurant and we ate two pizzas. I mean, I ate two pizzas,” she says with a laugh. “It was because I was so hungry and my parents were so happy and they were like 'okay, we just eat whatever we want' and I remember eating two pizzas and still being hungry because of the ride.
“So yeah, the reason why I chose this race is because I was really young at the time and I had no knowledge of where I could stand in the elite peloton.
"There I realised that I could actually be quite alright and that my dreams could become true. And here I am now talking about it.”
Join us for the next instalment of 'the ride that changed me' in a fortnight's time.
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