Question Time with Elisa Longo Borghini
Italian National Champion Elisa Longo Borghini on changing the world, milking cows and finding happiness
With a win in Trofeo Alfredo Binda, her home WorldTour race, and second in Strade Bianche, the Trek Segafredo rider has had a stellar start to the 2021 season. Elisa spoke to Rouleur for Issue 101, our women's edition, giving us a unique insight in to the mind of this Italian superstar.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I wanted to be a vet. I love all animals, I just wanted to take care of them. They can’t speak to you, they can’t say where they are hurt so you have to understand them.
What is your hidden talent?
I don’t know if it’s really a talent, but I pick up languages easily: English, a little bit of French, Spanish, I studied German at school and I understand Dutch – and I speak my local dialect.
Why do you cycle?
Because nothing else can give me the same sense of freedom.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
I would try to give more empathy to people. Because right now, we are living too much inside schemes, we are like prisoners of our social structures. Empathy and feelings are falling apart these days.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Teletransportation. For a cyclist who travels all the time, it’d be really handy. If I can go where I have to race as quick as possible, it’s better than taking a flight and waiting hours at the airport.
Have you ever been in trouble with the police?
With myself? No – because I’m actually a police officer [laughs]. Yes, if you’re a good athlete [in Italy], you can join the army and then they support you during your career. When you finish, you can go work for them or the police, depending on the corps you join.
Image credit: Jojo Harper
Would you rather be in the mountains or on the beach?
I love high, high mountains. I live in a town surrounded by them, I love to hike and run in the mountains. I love the silence of the mountains, the fact you are alone with yourself and sometimes extremely lost in the woods – but not lost. I don’t know how to explain it: you connect with nature and just love it.
Related: Women's WorldTour: what have we learnt from the Spring Classics?
Have you ever asked for someone’s autograph?
Only once. Cadel Evans. I was really young at the Trofeo Nobili, a small race held in my hometown. I don’t really remember if I got it, but I definitely asked.
Is he the most famous person you’ve ever met?
No, I’ve met Pope Francis and the president of Italy.
Who would you most like to meet?
Unluckily, I wouldn’t be able to because she passed away in September, but it would be Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was a member of the Supreme Court, she fought for female rights, she was a superwoman.
How many bikes do you own currently?
If I don’t count the bikes the team gives me, three – road, mountain bike and city.
Maybe a stupid question given Segafredo’s sponsorship, but tea or coffee?
Coffee! But also because I’m Italian, I love the taste. The best is espresso without sugar.
What’s the last thing you bought?
A dress for one of my friend’s daughters [Orla, Lizzie Deignan’s daughter] two hours ago. I’m going to visit her soon and I want to give her a present.
Who’s the last person you called on the phone?
What is the most important life lesson you’ve learned?
It’s a lesson my parents repeated: remember who you are and where you come from. Be the best you can be, but always be humble. Look for the sky, with your feet on the ground.
Tell us an interesting thing that our readers won’t know about you.
I know how to milk a cow, as we used to have them when I was a kid. It’s not easy; in the end your arms really hurt. There’s a technique to it. I won’t go into details!
Lastly, finish this sentence: happiness is…
Sharing the most simple, so-called useless moments with the people you love the most.