Peloton Watch
  Elena Cecchini targets Olympic selection and winning a spring classic in 2016  
  November 27th 2015  
  Elena Cecchini had her best season to date in 2015. A successful defence of the Italian National title, a win in a UCI race win that has eluded her for over two seasons and a fifth place finish at Ronde van Vlaanderen among the highlights.

After starting her season in early January at Gran Prix San Luis Femenino, the first UCI race of the year, Cecchini has clocked up 67 race days. The most of anyone in the women's peloton after finishing her road season at the Giro dell'Emilia, nine months to the day after starting her season.

Despite riding more than anyone else Cecchini had an incredibly consistent season. A look at her results shows 34 top 10 finishes. Including four at World Cup rounds with fifth at Ronde van Vlaanderen the stand out, and just outside the top 10 in two others. Showing a busy season didn't stop her claiming results in big races.

A long chased win finally came at Festival Luxembourgeois Elsy Jacobs in May came after self doubts started to form about her ability to finish off a race. "I went so close to winning so many times that I nearly stopped believing I could win," explained Cecchini.

An impressive display at the Italian Championships allowed Cecchini to claim back to back titles after she held off the chase by Elisa Longo Borghini, who many had favoured to take the win. After missing the race last year she then lined up at the Giro Rosa sporting the tricolore jersey.

Eighteenth at the World Championships, where she lead home the second chase group 17 seconds behind the winning selection of nine. Cecchini finally wrapped up her season at the European Track Championships in October and after a month off the bike is back training ahead of the 2016 season with a focus on the spring classics and selection for the Olympic Games.

PelotonWatch: Started your season back in January in Argentina and were racing all the way to October at Giro dell'Emilia. 67 race days how did you find the race load?

Elena Cecchini: Actually, I was quite surprised when I was tagged on twitter as having the most race days. I think I enjoyed my season both races and my team so much that I didn't realise that maybe I raced a bit too much. But I didn't always race 100%, some races like Trophee d'Or and Holland Ladies Tour were just really good training for some goals I had ahead. To be honest at the end of the season I was quite tired and at the European Track Championships I was totally without power and concentration. But that's ok, I'm very very happy about my season and the performances I did, especially in some races! So I just enjoyed a well deserved one month of total rest and now I'm ready to start training faster and harder for a good 2016.

PW: Consistent across the season finishing on the podium and in the top 5 from start to finish. What do you put that consistency down to?

EC: I love training, I love working hard, both on the bike and in the gym. I try to eat clean and healthy, to sleep as much as I can to recover from trainings. I especially love doing some long rides and some specific work during the winter and honestly I think that my consistency comes from this.

I think that if you start the season in good shape, then if you can manage during the season to have some rest if you feel tired after some races or have some days off if your body and your mind need it. This is in my opinion is the kind of approach that gives you consistency without having so many ups and downs.

PW: Won a stage of Festival Luxembourgeois this year how did it feel to be back on the top step after a lot of close results?

EC: My thought in that moment was "finally!!". I went so close to winning so many times that I nearly stopped believing I could win. But was super special as all my sponsors team were there to cheer for us and despite being my first time there, I really loved Luxembourg!

PW: Finished fifth at Ronde van Vlaanderen this year in first main chase group behind a solo Elisa Longo Borghini. Happy with the result and is it a race you would like to really target in the future?

EC: My fifth place at Ronde van Vlaanderen was one of the best memories from 2015 season. That day I was a bit disappointed as I missed the podium in the last few metres, but right now I'm so happy about my result and my performance. Of course it is a race I will target in the future, I would like to say near future. I love spring classics, I like cobbles and short steep climbs, and so it is one of my favourite races.

Elisa is one of my best friends, so as she already won Ronde this year, I'm confident she will help me next year to achieve this goal. Ahahah!

PW: Successfully defended your Italian title in June what did it mean to win back to back?

EC: I was so surprised to win the Italian Championship again! Wearing the tricolore is something I'm really proud of, in every race and every day I train with it. That day was special and full of emotion, I cried after the finish line because the climb was so hard that no one really believed I could resist Elisa's come back from behind! But I was quite strong as well and I tried to be as focused as I could and everything went well.

PW: After missing it last year due to a clash with the European Championships how did it feel lining up at the Giro Rosa in the tricolore jersey?

EC: I could not expect more from my first Giro Rosa! There were lovely spectators, really hard but nice stages, a lot of travels around Italy with my team and a magic atmosphere. It was special. In many stages I had my family and my boyfriend [Elia Viviani] at the side of the road cheering for me, and it's something that doesn't happen really often during the season!

Wearing the tricolore jersey was a plus on top of all this. I enjoyed it especially when I went on the podium and when I had a really bad day on the bike the day after my crash and I even could not pedal on the climbs. Everyone on the side was cheering for me "go Italian Champion go!!"

PW: Finished the Giro 24th overall and took two podium finishes are you happy with how the race went for you?

EC: Yes I'm really happy! I was there to try and get on the podium or win a stage, not for the general classification. It was a good and hard week on the bike, the race gave me a lot in terms of shape and my level improved after the giro.

PW: Have signed with CANYON//SRAM for 2016 what made you want to join the team?

EC: Everyone involved in cycling know that Canyon//SRAM will be one the best teams in the world with great sponsors support, really professional staff and super strong and talented riders. I just want to be part of this group and improve with their help and experience.

PW: Four teams in five years. Your new team has secured backing for three years have you signed with them on a multi year deal or just for 2016?

EC: I signed just for 2016 because I'm also part of a military team in Italy - Team Fiamme Azzurre. Every year I have to discuss and decide my future with them.

PW: Olympic year next year what are your goals for 2016?

EC: Racing the Olympics will be my main goal next year. I would like to win a spring classic and continue to step up in my general level as a cyclist. But most of all I want to keep having fun on my bike!
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