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by Tiffany Cromwell
July 5, 2015
Photography by Tiffany Cromwell and Beth Duryea
WOMEN'S CYCLING BROUGHT TO YOU BY ORBEA
In addition to daily race reports out of the Giro Rosa, we’re lucky enough to be able to offer you two rider diaries out of the on the only women’s cycling Grand Tour of the season. Australians Tiffany Cromwell (Velocio-SRAM) and Lizzie Williams (Orica-AIS) have agreed to daily check-ins out of the 10-day race. Cromwell’s second story is below –and what a story it is! Cromwell rounded out the stage podium milliseconds after her teammate Barbara Guarischi took a stunning stage win. All texts and images supplied by Cromwell from Slovenia.
Beyond these reports, Cromwell is also responsible for the #TiffTakeover on Ella Instagram. Follow along there for an extra glimpse behind-the-scenes at the Giro Rosa.
Wow! One word to sum up today: INCREDIBLE!
Where do I start? What a day for my Velocio-SRAM team with victory on the opening road stage by my teammate Barbara Guarischi. As an added bonus I had the joy of sharing the podium with her, taking third on the stage after an amazing team effort to deliver us to the line perfectly in a fast and hectic finale.
Coming into the stage today all signs were suggesting that it would be a bunch sprint in the finale. A predominantly flat stage through Slovenia from Kamnik to Ljubljana with one classified climb a little over halfway through the stage; it didn’t look too difficult on paper.
The plan today was to work for Barbara in the finale with the team committing to a lead-out for her. I was reserved as a back-up if she didn’t feel up for it. My job was also to “sweep” her wheel at the back of our train to avoid other sprinters without strong teams being able to take advantage of our work.
During the tour I’ve been given the role of team captain, meaning my role is to keep the team together and be the eyes on the road, making the calls and the decisions if something needs to happen or tactics need to change during the race. It’s a role that can be daunting at times as it’s a lot of responsibility, but the more I play this role, the more I enjoy it, especially because I have such a great team around me that trusts my decisions.
Another hot and humid day greeted us for racing. As we lined up at the start, everyone was searching for any piece of shade to try and keep cool as we awaited the neutral start. This time is always great for a bit of banter between friends from other teams, to catch up on the latest gossip or find out what they’ve been up to since last chat. Well this is what I get up to, some people are a little more serious or nervous prior to race start.
Today’s race was characterized by an early break that was quickly established not too long after the neutral section. As the leaders steadily built a comfortable gap, the peloton was fairly relaxed behind them. Without any major GC threats or big teams up the road, the break just needed to be controlled, and my teammates and I could simply sit back, relax and let the other teams with ‘jerseys’ do the work.
Sounds easy right?
Well, eventually the time came around where we had to switch on and start thinking about winning the race. With the pace increasing in the peloton, the gap to the leaders began to close quickly as the kilometres ticked by. We all made it over the classified climb without any dramas, and I spoke with Barbara at that point. I was happy to learn she was feeling confident for the sprint. All our efforts turned towards the finish.
As we entered the final 10-15 kilometres, we started to find each other and ride together. This gives us strength in numbers and helps us stay out of trouble, ideally towards the front.
The opening sprint stages of any tour can be very hectic with so many fresh legs in the peloton. Everyone is willing to fight hard for position for their chance at stage glory. There is a lot of argy-bargy, leaning on one another, screaming and shouting.
Then, there is the added challenge of being a sweeper for a sprinter like Barbara. She is an incredibly talented bike handler and isn’t afraid to ‘own her space’ so to speak. I’m pretty confident in my bike handling abilities, but at times when I follow Barbara, I close my eyes and hope for the best -gluing myself to her wheel, fending off anyone trying to take the wheel from me, holding my breath until we safely make it through some of the gaps we take.
As we entered three kilometres to go, I was feeling fairly happy with our position. The whole team had worked really hard to put us in a good spot and we had our Belarusian missile Alena [Amialiusik] keeping Barbara calm and holding us tight but protected alongside the Rabo Liv train.
The most important part of the finale came just before one kilometre to go where there was a right-hand turn into a 600-metre straight-away before a final right-hand turn with 300 meres to go. We were perfectly positioned in third position behind two Rabo-Liv riders with Alena, Barbara and I all together.
I will admit that I did start to get slightly nervous when I saw 400 metres to go and knew the right-hand corner was approaching before we had began our full final lead-out, but Alena had it all under control. Accelerating just before the corner to put us even with Rabo Liv at the front, Alena forced Lucinda Brand (Rabo-Liv) to jump early and start her sprint out of the corner. Barbara was able to put herself straight into Brand’s wheel on the exit, ultimately giving her the perfect lead-out as I tagged on the back continuing to sweep.
It was so fast on that final straight and I was impressed that we had nobody swamp us from behind as I watched Barbara time her sprint to perfection, coming off the wheel at 100 metres and taking a huge win.
She let out the loudest roar -typical Italian full of emotion.
It’s really special when you are part of a victory that is truly a team effort and you see the happiness shared by everyone -the riders and staff. When it works out so well, and with two of us on the podium, now that is just an added bonus.
Eight stages still remain though. Hopefully this is just the start.
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