Sweeper turned sprinter: Tiffany Cromwell’s Giro Rosa stage four 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 gives an in-depth account of the final sprint in which she narrowly missed the podium, crossing the line in fourth place. All text and images, save one, 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.


Left, right, left, right, roundabout, swerve to dodge the pothole, bunny hop over the speed hump, right, left.

That pretty much sums up today’s race, a flat kermesse style obstacle course on the outskirts of Milan.

It was another super hot day of racing at the Giro Rosa and, most likely, it was the last chance for the sprinters to have an opportunity for stage victory. Beginning tomorrow, the roads begins to rise.

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With 103km of racing from Pioltello to Pozzo D’Adda on the cards today, it was the flattest stage of the Giro, and our plan was simple. Word on the street was that some teams wanted a breakaway, so we would look to put one of our riders into the early move. Then, if it came down to a sprint, we would have a similar approach to stage one, sprinting for Barbara Guarischi while I played sweep and backup sprinter if needed.

There wasn’t much time to warm the legs into the stage with only a 300-metre neutral section before the flag was dropped to begin racing. I started in my typical position–down the back, which wasn’t exactly the best place to be in today as it was fast. The peloton stretched out through the constant corners on the opening 11-kilometre circuit. Add in a little crash mid-field to hold us up and force us to chase, and you begin to understand the start to my day. Lucky for me, I saw that I was in good company when I looked around, so I didn’t fear that we would have any trouble getting back.

Eventually making my way up the peloton, I was happy to see all of my teammates alert on the front and ready to pounce on any attacks. With the pace high, it took a good 20km before the attacks began, and it was Orica-AIS once again trying to create a move today.

Through the corners, I could see someone on the attack and one of my Velocio-SRAM teammates going away with them. “Perfect,” I thought. Turns out it was our young German rider Mieke [Kroeger]. They quickly gained a small advantage, and it was a great situation for us. A rider in the break meant pressure was off us, and we only had to follow.

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A few more riders and teams tried to jump across, and eventually two riders succeeded in joining the breakaway, creating a move of four at the front. The gap was never really allowed to blow out like yesterday, and the pace in the peloton remained steady.

Even with a break up the road, you couldn’t just sit in and relax today. The corners and obstacles were non-stop, which required constant focus. I also had my teammates stay attentive to any bridge attempts. While the situation was good, if more riders tried to jump across, I wanted to put another one of our riders in the move to give our team extra strength at the front.

We went around in circles a lot today. I generally take in my surroundings when I’m riding unless I’m completely on the edge and fighting for wheels. I kept noticing that we had been on various roads numerous times. I think we even did one of our loops one time extra than we were suppose to, as the race was a surprising 10km longer. As I’m sure you can imagine, everyone was thrilled about this.

The break hovered between one to two minutes most of the day, gaining a maximum advantage of about 2:30 during the second hour. Boels-Dolmans controlled the front before Alé-Cipolini took over with the help of some Wiggle-Honda riders, clearly wanting to bring back the move for a sprint finish.

With 25km remaining, it was all back together. Immediately, there were a few counter attacks, but they were quickly shut down. It was looking like it would be a sprint finish.

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Mieke was amazing today. After spending the day up the road, she quickly returned to domestique duties. She has been the queen of keeping us hydrated, collecting bottles constantly throughout the Giro. When she was back in the peloton, she found me almost immediately and asked if I needed bottles. I was surprised, thinking she would be spent, so I told her not to worry about it. Before I knew it, she dropped back to the car and returned with nine bidons and two cans of coke for the team. She quickly handed out bottles to get us to the end of the race. It was a super effort for such a young rider in her first Giro.

As the kilometres were ticking down, the focus turned to the finale. We had the chance to preview the finish line once. it would be a technical sprint with a couple of tight corners in the last 1.5km.

The team found each other quite early and I just glued myself to Barbara’s wheel once again. It was a little tougher being sweeper today due to a combination of race fatigue and the fight for her wheel. Turns out winning a Giro sprint makes you a popular wheel to follow. I had to put my best battle amour on to fend off everyone attempting to steal her wheel. Sometimes I would be unsuccessful and would then have to come back and push the riders off her wheel to reclaim what was mine. It was stressful, and I was starting to get jitters. I’m not sure if it was the coke or I was just nervous as I awaited the sprint. It’s still a slightly new experience being a ‘sprinter’.

At the 5km mark, we had hit the front with the entire team. We looked great all lined up together but with a slight headwind, I think it was a little bit early. We had a number of teams trying to battle us for front, and it became really hectic.

We knew it would be an all out sprint to the 120-degree left hand turn with 1.2km to go – and that it was. With team coming up the inside and teams around the outside, we came into it hot – a little too hot as riders over shot the turn and went straight, including Alena [Amialiusik], our final lead-out rider.

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Barbara and I made it through, but we came out of the corner at the front, still with one kilometre to go. We slipped into the Rabo Liv train but we were getting chopped up everywhere. I lost Barbara’s wheel coming into the final corner at 400 metres as we were stuck on the inside, slipping back to around 10th wheel on the exit. Alena made an amazing recovery, bombing up the outside to try and get back to us, but the final corner turned out to be open slather with no real control by any team.

I knew I was starting a little bit too far back coming into the sprint but I managed to put in an effort to get back to Barbara just before she started to come off the wheel for the final sprint to the line. We left our charge to the line a fraction late, though, as three riders jumped on the left just before we jumped on the right, I came off of Barbara’s wheel with around 150 metre to go, but the finish line came too quickly. I had to settle for fourth place.

It was a shame to come close to another podium and just miss out, but as a whole we were happy with the team effort on today’s stage. Our lead-out wasn’t as perfect as the one that won us stage one, but we can learn from it for next time.

We might have a next time in this Giro Rosa, though. Now it’s time for our climbers to shine. Tomorrow we have our first summit finish.

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