A new role as the roads rise: Tiffany Cromwell’s stage five Giro Rosa diary

by Tiffany Cromwell


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. Today Cromwell describes the first summit finish of the Giro Rosa and explains a shift her role and the team’s objectives as the race hits the mountains. All text and images without watermarks supplied by Cromwell.

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.


We are officially into the second half of the Giro Rosa and the mountains are calling. No more flat stages. I have swapped out my aero Cervelo S5 and Zipp 404’s for my super lightweight Cervelo R5 climbing bike with Zipp 303’s.

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Today was the longest stage of the Giro Rosa this year at 128.4km and also the first summit finish of the race, taking us from Trezzo sull’Adda to the ski village of Aprica.

With the stage predominantly dragging uphill the whole way and a 15-kilometre climb to close out the race, it was a day where the climbers and general classification contenders could shine. Five Velocio-SRAM riders lined up hoping to get into the early breakaway, which would mean a head start on the summit finish. Alena [Amialiusik] and I needed to look after Karol-Ann [Canuel] throughout the race, staying with her up climb for as long as we could.

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I had converted from sweeper/sprinter to lieutenant/climber today, and this will likely be my role for the remainder of the race. The joy of being a bit of a jack-of-all-trades is I don’t really get a ‘rest’ day during tours – unlike true sprinters or true climbers.

We rolled out in slightly cooler temperatures today. It was a welcome relief throughout the peloton. The race was slightly delayed getting out of town with a small pile-up in the neutral zone holding up proceedings. Turns out Elena Cecchini (Lotto Soudal Ladies) sliced her chin open in the crash. She needed a quick five stitches sewn into her chin before she could get back on the bike and start rolling again. It’s standard proceedings in the world of cycling. They breed us tough.

Fast from the start, it was obvious that pretty much every team had been told the same thing in their morning meetings – ‘get in the early break!’ It was attack after attack after attack but nothing stuck aside from a short-lived solo move by Sarah Roy (Orica-AIS). With the help of a tailwind, we covered 87 kilometres in the opening two hours of racing.

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My day was spent all over the peloton. Whenever I was on the front, drifting from wheel to wheel, I would have a little look around for Karol-Ann. If I couldn’t see her, I would drift back through the peloton, find her, collect her, and bring her back up the front and out of trouble.

I did this a few times until the race settled down whilst the other girls were busy covering all of the moves. It’s Karol-Ann’s first time targeting the overall classification with full support from a strong team at a race like this. I could tell she was a little bit nervous. I did my best to keep her calm, out of the wind and relaxed ahead of the climb to the finish.

Eventually the peloton calmed down and switched from attack mode to cruising speed. We hit a succession of tunnels where the pace once again increased. I think this happened mainly because people get freaked out riding through tunnels and want to get out of them as quickly as possible.

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During a break from the tunnels I had drifted back to grab bottles for the team, only to find old faithful Mieke [Kroeger] was already on the case. I quickly made my way back to the front and discovered a break had gone clear whilst I was gone.

It took me only a few moments to work out the composition of the breakaway. We didn’t have a rider there, but soon enough I saw Tayler [Wiles] attacking. She had a few riders on her wheel, and they successfully bridged across to the group out front. A third group quickly followed Tayler, and the three groups eventually merged. It was a dangerous move for the overall contenders, and Boels-Dolmans took to the front to start bring it back.

Heavy rain began to fall as Boel-Domlmans chased. The pace was high enough to bring back the break, and we were well-positioned towards the front with Karol-Ann protected as we closed the gap to leaders.

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The rain had stopped and the break had just about rejoined the peloton when we hit the climb. Alena and I were stuck near Karol-Ann, keeping her positioned towards the front.

The climb up to Aprica was quite nice. It was pretty steady and open, and although there were a few sections where it kicked up, it was a fast ascent overall. My climbing has been unpredictable over the last year, but my legs were good today. I wanted to stay up the front for as long as possible before blowing up and leaving Alena and Karol-Ann to finish off our day.

We hit the front and tried to control the pace along with Rabo Liv. When the attacks began, my tired legs felt every blow, but I managed to stay with my teammates as we continued to climb.

Ten kilometres to go, then five. I was still there, and that’s when I started to think that I might be able to make it all the way. It’s fast. It’s hard. There are a lot of attacks. But I just needed to dig deep. And so I dug.

An attack at three kilometres was the final blow. I lost my position, leaving Alena and Karol-Ann to take the reins as drifted back through what remained at the front of the race.

I watched the sizeable group ride away from me as I focused my attention on my ride to the line. It was an impressive late attack by Pauline Ferrand-Provot (Rabo Liv) to take the victory just ahead of the front group. I was happy to hear Karol-Ann and Alena finished safely in the bunch alongside maglia rosa Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) and the rest of the overall contenders.

Our race ended minutes before the start of a second round of thunderstorms, but the riders further back were not so lucky. They finishing their race in the pouring rain.

Tomorrow is one of the toughest stages of the Giro Rosa – and the most important for the battle for the overall. Let the fun and games continue!

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