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While the biggest men’s cycling race in the world is taking place in France, the biggest women’s race is happening over in Italy: il Giro d’Italia Femminile, or Giro Rosa for short. We’ve asked Orica-AIS rider Tiffany Cromwell to take us inside the race with a diary after each of the eight stages. Here’s Tiff’s report from stage 1.
Giovinazzo – Margherita di Savoia (117.8km)
Kirsten Wild (Dutch National Team) took out the first stage of the 2013 Giro Rosa as she sprinted to victory, narrowly edging out Marianne Vos (Rabobank) in a fast and hectic finale into Margherita di Savoia. Vos wears the first pink jersey of the tour after claiming bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints and in the finale.
The opening stage of the Giro Rosa started under sunny blue skies in the seaside town of Gioviazzo in Southern Italy. It was a straightforward flat stage that headed inland for the first 40km before heading along the coast up to the finishing town of Margherita di Savoia.
New race organisers have taken over the Giro this year and first impressions suggest they’ve put in a great effort in promoting the event. In women’s racing it isn’t often we get good crowds at our races but today was impressive. The start town was covered in pink in the spirit of the race. Many people came out to cheer us on and the streets were lined with supporters in almost every town we raced through. It is always a nice added bonus to have that atmosphere when we’re racing.
Looking at the stage profile it was almost certain the race would finish in a bunch kick. And being the opening stage, fresh legs and a pink jersey on the line. We came into the race aiming for stage wins and bringing Mel Hoskins as our sprinter we were happy to have a quiet day and keep the race together for a bunch kick.
My job was to keep as quiet as possible, saving as much energy for the harder stages later in the race, and to shadow Mel in the final to stay out of trouble and not lose any time. Having this role allows me to observe a lot that goes on within the race and it was quite entertaining watching the race unfold from within the peloton.
The first 40km of racing were quite fast and aggressive and a little bit hectic with a lot of corners, some bad roads and an intermediate sprint after 10km taken out by Vos to give her an early six-second advantage. This was followed by a ‘mountain’ sprint after 30km of racing; although it could hardly be classed as a climb as the road was about 1% gradient. It was put in more so to award someone with the jersey on the opening stage; Valentina Scandolara (MCipollini Giordana) took out the GPM (“Gran Premio della Montagna” — the Italian equivalent of a QOM).
Once the peloton hit the coast again the racing calmed down and was pretty tame and uneventful. Given the bunch was battling a head wind there wasn’t a huge amount of motivation for aggression. It would go through the motions; every so often the peloton would pick up pace, there would be a few attacks and then calm down again.
The major aggressors were the Italian teams trying to get their faces on TV and you could tell there was an internal battle for the ‘Italian cup’. One rider in particular you have to give some credit — every year she tries to go on the attack but rarely succeeds and today was no different. Valentina Bastianelli (Vaiano) tried at least 20 times — no exaggeration — to try and get away but was always chased down by another Italian team and then everyone would follow, not allowing a break to go.
There was a second intermediate sprint at 57km — once again Vos took it out to further extend her lead but it wasn’t without a little bit of drama. At a right-hand turn with about 500m to the sprint team Hitec took each other out and then it was a very long 500m across a rough pave section before finally reaching the sprint. I think the Italians got their measurements a little bit wrong on this one.
The concentration levels and the chaos began to rise when we reached the finish line for the first time with 30kms to go. We had two laps of a 15km circuit for the finale with a couple of technical sections but a straight and fast run in from 3km to go. We knew we were in for a hectic and fast finale. There was some fighting and a few crashes on the first time around the circuit but for the most part it wasn’t too bad.
The final lap was a whole different story.
With line honors and the pink jersey up for grabs, it was all for one. There was very little organisation amongst lead out trains and girls going everywhere, looking for gaps that often didn’t exist. I was given the tough task of shadowing Mel — this is sometimes harder than being part of the lead out, as not only do you need to try and follow their wheel but also fight off all of the other sprinters fighting for position and some who float wheels if they don’t have a strong enough lead out train.
We managed to get fairly organised for the most part but with 5km to go we lost two of our girls to a crash with Gu, our Korean rider, coming down pretty hard into a wall. She was ok but very sore and unfortunately had to pull out of the race.
It was extremely hard to stay organised and have a train in the final 5km as the pace was high and it wasn’t technical enough to be strung out and there wasn’t enough wind to have an impact either. It was a continual washing machine effect where you would be at the front one minute and then swamped again. In the end it was a bit all for one and Wild managed to get the best run in to the finish to take the win, narrowly edging out fellow Dutchwoman and world champion Vos.
For us at Orica-AIS we didn’t manage to feature in the finish — Mel got boxed in in the run in to the finish and unable to get out. But there were a lot of positives to be taken out of the stage for next time. I happily stayed upright and out of trouble, tested my skills in the finale but for the most part it was a very uneventful and relaxed opening stage for me.