Equipment selection and wardrobe malfunctions: Tiffany Cromwell’s stage eight Giro Rosa diary

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In addition to daily race reports out of the Giro Rosa, we have Australians Tiffany Cromwell (Velocio-SRAM) and Lizzie Williams (Orica-AIS) checking in with us following each stage of the 10-day Italian Grand Tour. The penultimate stage of the Giro Rosa was an individual effort in the form a lengthy and technical time trial. A hugely important day for the overall contenders, those without general classification ambitions took a variety approaches to stage eight. In her own words, Cromwell takes you through her day below.

Beyond these daily diaries, Cromwell is also responsible for the #TiffTakeover on Ella Instagram. Follow along there for an extra glimpse behind-the-scenes at the Giro Rosa.

I’d like to know exactly who thought it was a great idea to put a super hard 21 kilometre individual time trial on day nine of the Giro Rosa. Yes – for the fight for the maglia rosa, it’s made for an exciting battle all the way to the end of the race, but for the rest of us in survival mode, today was no walk in the park.

With motivation levels waning and fatigue truly settling in, there wasn’t much excitement in the team camper ahead of today’s stage. Upon arrival at the stage start, we kitted up and got on our bikes to see what exactly what we faced.

I had heard it was a tough course and after riding a lap ‘easy’, I could confirm the rumours as truth. The super technical course was run over a combination of good and bad roads with some narrow passageways on paved streets through small towns. There was also a fast descent with switchbacks down to the lake quickly followed by a four kilometre climb back up. Following the main climb, the road proceeded to drag up and down all the way home with similar characteristics to those we faced earlier.

Equipment selection was tricky today. There were numerous factors to consider. Would the gains on the fast flat sections pay off for time lost lugging a disc wheel up the climb? Would a standard road bike with or without clip on extensions be better for handling on the technical descent and faster up the climb compared to the extra weight of a time trial bike on the climb and the advantage you gain on the rest of the course?

Eventually I settled on using my Cervelo P5 with Zipp 404 wheels in the front and back. I feel super comfortable handling this bike over this particular course and confident in the aerodynamic advantages it offered. I’m convinced it was the right option for me.

We had nothing to lose today. With general classification ambitions well out the window and a final mountaintop finish tomorrow, we didn’t need to save ourselves for anything. Our team director wanted each of us to have a crack. It was a great opportunity to see where we were at with our time trialling, even with tired legs.

Trying to psych myself up ahead of getting on the trainer to do my warm-up before my start was difficult. All I needed was 20 minutes before the start, but it was hard to convince myself to swing the leg over the bike and start pedalling. Yet, when I began my warm-up, I immediately knew it was a stark contrast to the prologue at the beginning of the race. I had no troubles hitting the specified powers last Friday. Today, well, let’s just say it was a different story altogether. I knew it was going to be tough to push through today.

A little over 10 minutes to my start, I was finished with my warm-up and my final preparations, which involved getting into full race kit with the help of my swanny Lars. Almost ready to go we had some drama in the form of a little wardrobe malfunction. At first I was calm. “We still have six minutes,” I told myself as we fumbled around attempting a fix. “We should be ok.”

Time check? Three minutes to start. We were running out of time fast. Surely I would miss my start. But somehow we got the problem sorted just in the nick of time. I raced out of the camper, jumped on my bike and sprinted to the start ramp. Luckily the team was set up close to the start!

I had to roll about 100 metre backwards along the race course to get to the start ramp, and I saw the rider who I was to follow pass by, already underway. No time to go around the back, I just went straight up the start ramp from the side I was meant to be coming down, turned my bike around and looked at the clock. I had 16 seconds to spare. I was clipped in and was in the starter’s hands with eight seconds on the clock.

Adrenaline pumping, no time to do final checks, I went out of the gate like the clackers, and, just like that, I was underway. In the end, maybe it was a blessing in disguise. Despite the extra stress, I ended up feeling reasonably okay once I started racing.

I got through the opening drags without any dramas and I could already see my minute marker. It’s always great to have a carrot to chase. Before I knew it we were on the descent, and I knew I could make up time here, so I went for it. I felt so comfortable on my time trial bike and glided through the corners with the help of hydraulic brakes to make my cornering super smooth.

With a couple of turns still to navigate, I caught my minute girl. Coming up to her quickly into a corner, I had to dive underneath, maybe giving her a little scare on the way through, but we both had enough room to exit safely.

Next up was the climb, the part I was least excited about, but I settled into a rhythm and paced myself up the top. It actually was a nice climb with consistent gradient that snaked back up the hill. My speed was acceptable, and my legs were still feeling strong enough. I did lose a little bit of pace in the last kilometre, but I got back on top of things over the top.

The next section of the course was run over really bad roads, and it was hard to find a fast line. The road twisted and turned, rolling up and down, with one drag that stung the legs. With every twist and undulation, I did my best to find good rhythm and continue to push myself.

Six kilometres from the finish and the worst of it was over. Every time I hit a technical section, I went in with confidence. I tried to avoid the brakes and keep the speed as high as possible to make the most of the section where I could to gain back time. Despite all the climbing, the course was a lot of fun.

I passed under the two kilometre to go banner, and it was essentially downhill to the finish from there. Yippee!! I gave one last push to the finish and then collapsed. Well not really, but I was very happy to see the end. My race went far better than expected, and I was relieved to have it done and dusted.

It was an impressive ride by Anna van der Breggan (Rabo Liv) who absolutely blitzed the course to victory and took over the pink jersey. With one more mountain to climb to the finish, it’s going to be one hell of a battle all the way to that final line tomorrow where a very worthy winner will be crowned.

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