Interview with Tiffany Cromwell

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Last weekend, Orica-AIS rider Tiffany Cromwell won the women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in a two-up sprint against Rabobank’s Megan Guarnier. Last night, she sat down for a Skype interview with CyclingTips in which she spoke about her Het Nieuwsblad victory, the season ahead, running a marathon with only a month’s training, riding with Formula 1 drivers, and more. We hope you enjoy!

So you’re still in Belgium, right?

Yeah, we’ve got a few races here at the moment. He have another one Sunday and next week we have two in Holland, so they [Orica-AIS management] have kept us on the road for these two weeks.

What’s it like racing in those cold temperatures? It’s not something you were born and bred with growing up in Australia.

Ha! Quite the opposite actually! I don’t think I’ve ever raced in so many clothes in my life. It takes a lot out of you but so far it’s been okay. It’s certainly mentally tough when you’re getting ready and lining up and you have to stand around in sub-zero temperatures. The initial part is the hardest until you get warmed up, but once you get going it’s okay.

Well, you’ve certainly done well so far in the cold temperatures. Congratulations on your first Classics win at Het Nieuwsblad on Sunday.

Yeah, thank you. It was pretty special crossing the finish line. Everybody knows the Classics and to be able to conquer one is pretty special.

Would you consider this the biggest win of your career?

It’s certainly my biggest one-day win and it’s probaby bigger than my Giro win last year. That would be a close second though.

Tiffany rates her win in stage 5 at the Giro d'Italia Femminile last year as one of the biggest of her career.

Take us through the final kilometers of Het Nieuwsblad when you attacked and found yourself in the lead with Megan Guarnier.

Coming off the final cobbled sector we still had a group of 16 riders and then we had four of us [Orica-AIS riders] in there and we were talking about what we were going to do. We knew we wanted to be aggressive and that we had the numbers. There were still a couple of strong sprinters from other teams there so we wanted to get a smaller group away with someone we were confident we could win with, but if that didn’t happen we were going to wait for Emma [Johannson].

We tried again and again and never found the right selection, or too many riders were in it. Finally I did one last attack and I knew I had somebody on my wheel, but I wasn’t sure about the rest of the peloton. I went really hard for a little bit and then I looked back and realised that there was only one other rider with me and I thought to myself “this is perfect”.

It was Megan on my wheel and I was uncertain if I could beat her in the sprint but once I got her rolling through I knew she wasn’t riding that strong and thought I should be able to win it. I really pushed our break hard and when we came to just under 1km to go I forced her to the front and just sat there.

I sat there and waited, but I was worried that the peloton was coming quick from behind since we had slowed down quite a bit. I saw that we had 300m to go and I said to myself “I’m going now”. I went and it was a long sprint but luckily Megan barely responded. ‘Perfect, I can enjoy this’, I thought.

And just the other day you got fifth in the bunch kick at Le Samyn des Dames.

Yeah! I know, that was a bit of a surprise! It’s a tough sprint at Le Samyn beause it’s a great big road and a bit of an uphill drag. Ellen van Dijk was away solo and then there were three riders going across and Emma [Johannson] was in there and we were supporting her.

I asked Loes [Gunnewijk] because she was our leader on the road, “What should we do for the finish from our group?’ because there were still UCI points up for grabs for the top eight. I asked her, “Should we lead out for Gracie [Elvin]?”, beacause she’s normally our next sprinter. But she wasn’t feeling so good so Loes said, “We’ll lead out for you”. I said, “Oh, okay.”

But they gave me a perfect leadout and I went at about 200m out and was like “Wow!”. So that’s exciting. It’s good knowing that I’ve worked on my weaknesses and I’m now closing that gap to becoming a more well-rounded rider.

Tiffany won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad ahead of Megan Guarnier and teammate Emma Johansson.

You’ve sounded surprised so far at these great early season results. Are you really surprised, or have you been working hard at this all along?

I have been surprised actually. I was very motivated for Het Nieuwsblad and I love the Spring Classics. There’s just something about them I love. The atmosphere, the style of races — they’re fun races to race. They’re hard and you have to be on your toes all the time.

So I was motivated and trained really hard, but I didn’t expect to be going this well. In a post-Olympics year you just never know how well everyone is going to go early in the season. You know personally how you are, but until you’re actually in the field and racing you never know where you sit.

I’ve done really hard work in the pre-season and have been motivated to have a really big year this year. It’s good that it’s paying off early and I hope I can keep it going. Obviously the World Championships [to be held in Tuscany, Italy] are the big goal this year so I have to keep it going through until October.

There looks to be about 25 races in your calendar this season. In women’s racing are you able to hold your form for all races throughout the year? Or do you plan for peaks and dips like the men do?

We can be fit across the whole season. The top girls are usually consistent all the way though. The season’s not full-on all the way through and we don’t have three-week tours that you have to completely build up to and base your whole season around.

We have so much one-day racing on and only two ten-day tours in there so you can target to be going well for almost every race throughout the year. Sure you have to have a couple dips where you won’t be in amazing form, but the way our racing works you’ll have a few peaks in the season but you can keep good form all the way through if you manage everything right.

Which races on the calendar are most important to you?

Yeah, I’ve got a handful in there. Certainly the World Cup races. The second of the World Cup races I’d like to target and then it’s straight into Flanders. That’s the big one. Then Flèche Wallonne as well. The Giro in the middle of the year is a special race and the biggest tour we have in the season. After that is Plouay [GP de Plouay-Bretagne] and I’d like to do one better in that this year [ed. Tiffany came second to Marianne Vos in 2012], and then of course we’ve got the Worlds.

Tiffany does a turn at the front on her way to winning the 2013 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

With four new girls on the team this year (out of a total of ten), how’s the team getting along this early in the season and where’s the team at?

So far everyone is getting along really well. It’s a good group of girls. The beauty of this team is that we all have trust in each other and we believe in each other’s capabilities. We always sacrifice our chances for our teammates and I think that’s what makes us so successful. We all get on well together off the bike too. It’s like a little family.

We have a good mix of experience, younger riders, and the core group from last year as well. Emma [Johannson] has fit in really well — she was the strong drawcard with our international riders and then the track riders will come in soon. The problem with last year was that we didn’t have a pure sprinter for most of our races. Our sprinter was Mel Hoskins and she was in the track program for most of the year with the Olympics. But now we’ll have both her and Netti [Edmonson] so we’ll be able to go into races with a strong sprint plan as well as our regular aggressive approach.

It’s a really good group and we’re so well supported with guys like Gerry [Ryan] and Shane [Bannan] along with all the equipment we have access to.

Is there any crossover with resource-sharing when you’re at the same races as the Orica-GreenEDGE men? Are there any comforts that you might enjoy when then men are racing on the same weekend?

It depends on the race. For the most part we keep pretty separate. They have their stuff and we have our stuff. We were staying at the same hotel as the men at Het Nieuwsblad so we get to catch up with each other. But we keep things like vehicles and stuff pretty separate. We’d like to have use of the bus, but … When we were at Plouay last year they let us use the bus, but it’s not practical to both share it at the same races. We’re inside our little van chipping away before the races, as all women’s teams do.

How often do you train with your teammates outside of the races?

Not a huge amount. Unless we’re at a race block together like we are now, where we’ll do training in between the races and most days we’ll go out together. But once we’re back at our home bases, I’m back to Monaco and I don’t have any teammates down there. The ones who live in Italy will train together a fair bit and the girls in Girona will train together. For the most part, when we’re not at races, we’ll go off and do our own thing. We’ll have a couple training camps throughout the year too.

Who do you train with?

I’ll train with all sorts of people in Monaco. I’ll bump into Gerro [Simon Gerrans] the odd time, sometimes Richie [Porte], and some of the other Aussie boys. We also have some of the F1 drivers down there too. They’re always good value.

I went riding with Jenson Button last week. He’s really strong and pushed me really hard. Sometimes I’ll head out with Gilbert and sometimes Lizzy Armstead — she’s good to train with. Just a whole mix of people really. We have a nice group down there [in Monaco].

Despite only having run a total of 80km in training, Tiffany managed to run a 3:34 marathon.

What was it like running a 3.34 marathon with only 80kms of base training and with a longest training run of 13km?

Yeah, it was cool. I’ve always had a bit of a running background and I thought it would be cool to do a marathon. Everyone who knows me knows that when I get a crazy idea I’ll go through with it. It was fun actually. There were over 10,000 people running it. Being the competitive person I am, I had no idea about pace or anything — I was just trying to catch everyone I could and kept pushing myself to catch the next pacegroup.

Eventually I cracked, but I was going strong for the first 21km. I always like that whole cross-training side of things. It keeps it interesting. I like to get out on the mountain bike and at the start of last year I went snowboarding before the season. All these things have a positive impact on the bike — that’s what I think at least.

Have you kept up with your running since the marathon?

*Laughs* I haven’t actually. I’ve done a couple of rare ones. I actually noticed that next week is the Monaco 10km and I briefly thought, “Ooh, maybe I should race that!” But nah, I like to do that [running] in my off-season, but once it comes into the race season I stay away from it. If you’re not doing it consistantly enough you’re absolutely buckled for a week afterwards.

Now that you’ve ticked the marathon off your bucket list, what’s next outside of your cycling goals?

I want to do a cyclocross season. I’m really interested to do that. There was a mountain bike race at the end of the season in Costa Rica. That could be a good one! There’s a whole range of things. I’d like to do that adventure race in Patagonia one day too. It would be full-on, but something to do one year.

How’s your fashion label, Tiffany Jane, coming along?

I’ve got a renewed enthusiasm now that I’ve teamed up with Tristan Wright from Seight Custom. He gave me the opportunity to work with him and to really develop my women’s label and take it to that next level. We’ve worked pretty hard to develop the cut and designs to get it back out there. The plan is to have a performance range come June of this year starting with online sales and then getting into stores. I’m excited about that. Then I’ll develop some patterns and work on an urban cycling wear mix.

What other profession would you like to attempt outside of cycling?

I think of things every day *laughs*. I’m always thinking about other sports. I keep thinking it would be cool to be a pro snowboarder or something like that. I’d love to go back and do my fashion studies properly. I started fashion design but couldn’t do it properly because it’s such a hands-on course and when travelling I couldn’t do it by correspondence. I also love photography, design … anything on the creative side of things.

And what profession would you never want to do?

Any 9-5 office job. Anything that doesn’t let me go places. A normal job – I don’t think I could do that.

Tiffany was good enough to send CyclingTips the SRM power data from her win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Click here to see the data and a breakdown by cycling coach Helen Kelly.

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