In the final kilometre of the women’s road race at the 2021 UCI Road World Championships, the Italian team flocked to the front of the peloton to deliver Elisa Balsamo (then Valcar-Travel & Service) to the rainbow jersey.
It was Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) who unleashed a final lead out so fierce that it resembled a last-minute attack, propelling Balsamo to the world title. As well as riding on the same national team, Balsamo and Longo Borghini will both race for the same trade team, Trek-Segafredo, in the upcoming 2022 season.
“I’m very happy to have her in the team,” Longo Borghini said when asked about her younger compatriot. “We have a good relationship because we are also in the same police department and we race in the Italian Championships.
“Working for Elisa at the World Championships was, for me, an honour. I’m still [excited] about the victory that we got there because it was really a team victory. Having her in a team will be a very good addition. She will bring strength and a good mindset into the team.”
Balsamo will not be the only World Champion at Trek-Segafredo next season. The rainbow jerseys of cyclo-cross World Champion Lucinda Brand, and time trial World Champion Ellen van Dijk also decorate the team’s roster. Among such company, Longo Borghini believes that Balsamo “can still grow a lot and can grow into a very good Classics rider.”
So far, like many young Italian cyclists, Balsamo’s development has occurred within the Valcar Travel & Service team, which also launched the careers of riders such as Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) and Chiara Consonni (Valcar Travel & Service). For Longo Borghini, Valcar’s fostering of young Italian talent has enabled this new generation to emerge.
“The team is like a development team that has good, young Italian riders, and they let the riders grow steadily,” she said. “They have a lot of dedication and a very good calendar, and my opinion is that it is a very good environment for a young athlete to develop.
“So a special mention from me goes to Davide Arzeni, who is the Valcar team’s manager, because he can really teach the girls who to be athletes, and then you really get the results, and then you get the champions. I have a teammate with the rainbow stripes on her shoulders. It’s not that they are arriving, they have already arrived.”