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In addition to daily race reports out of the Giro Rosa, we had Australians Tiffany Cromwell (Velocio-SRAM) and Lizzie Williams (Orica-AIS) checking in with us following each stage of the 10-day Italian Grand Tour. Tiffany Cromwell penned her final diary entry en route to Malta to enjoy a quick holiday following the completion of here eighth straight Giro Rosa – a race in which she supported a team victory, finished on the podium once and in the top ten twice, and entertained in the grupetto. All text and images without logos provided by Cromwell -to whom we owe a huge THANK YOU for keeping us updated and entertained daily.
That’s a wrap at the 2015 Giro Rosa and what a finish it was with the super talented Anna van der Breggan (Rabo Liv) claiming overall honors. In typical Giro fashion, it was a fight all the way to that final finish line on top of the San Domenico di Varzo climb.
Starting on the banks of Lago Maggiore in the town of Verbania, it was more or less a repeat stage from last year. A 92.7km jaunt up the valley, finishing with the 13km tough San Domenico di Varzo climb. We can all thank (or curse) Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda) for today’s course. Travelling through her village, stage nine is Elisa’s ‘home stage’ – and I believe she helped design the challenging route.
It was a very relaxed atmosphere within our team this morning with zero pressure for the stage. The plan was to just go out, have some fun, try and get ourselves in a break before the climb and give whatever fight we had left to the finish.
Despite the collective fatigue, the vibe was great before the stage amongst our team. I think because we knew we were almost done, we all became a little crazy. There were water fights, the staff enjoying gelato, plenty of happy snaps and just general joking around.
It was a super fast stage today with the pace on as soon as the flag dropped at kilometre zero. Last night I suddenly flash-backed to last year and recalled that the opening 15 kilometres were not so easy. Yes, the stage is all about the summit finish but the earlier bits aren’t without their obstacles.
After five kilomeres or so of racing we made a 180-degree turn onto a short climb. The first few hundred metres of the hill included harsh cobbles. From there, the roads continued to undulate, twist and turn until we made it down into the valley.
As you would expect, there were a lot of attacks through this section with plenty of teams trying to establish the early break. I managed to get myself amongst the action and in some of the moves. I also had a crack myself at establishing a break on one of the more technical descents. My efforts were rewarded and a small group, myself included, opened up a gap, but it didn’t last long before we were reeled in and the next attack went.
The race continued like this for the first 90 minutes of racing with average speeds well over 40 kilometres per hour. It just never let up, and it was really annoying that the teams fighting for general classification weren’t willing to let a non-threatening break get established.
Finally a move went clear after around 60km of racing. It was quite a large break but because the pace never completely backed off in the peloton, it was fairly clear it was doomed. With the final climb approaching, I considered the pros and cons of our ridiculously fast pace. Example: Pro – we were coming closer and closer to the race being finished. Con – the brutal final climb was fast-approaching.
About the only change to the course this year compared to last year was a surprise unpleasant climb with just over 20 kilometres remaining. I looked ahead only to see this steep road in front of me, twisting and turning up the side of a ‘wall’. It wasn’t super long, but I knew it would hurt, especially when I had limited fight left in me. Much of the peloton was in the same boat as many riders had the reverse lights on as soon as we hit this climb.
I pushed myself over the surprise climb with the peloton. My goal was to keep fighting right up until we hit the start of the final climb and then call it a day if I truly had nothing left. The climb did some serious damage. Only around 40 riders made it over the top together.
Alena [Amialiusik], Karol-Ann [Canuel] and I were the only ones left from our team in the front, and we looked after each other the best we could. The final five kilometres into the base of the climb were fast and controlled by the likes of Rabo Liv, Wiggle-Honda, Boels-Dolmans and Bigla –teams whose riders were giving one last ditch effort to help position their team leaders into the climb.
Having raced this climb twice before in previous editions of the Giro Rosa, I was very familiar with the final lead-in to the climb and the climb itself. We were approaching fast and before I knew it we had made the right-then-left turn onto the climb and almost immediately the peloton decimated into multiple groups.
The climbers went on and fought it out at the front. The workers into the climb went backwards at a rate of knots. The rest of us found our groups and made our way towards the finish.
It was quite nice to have the company of Alena in my group today to help distract me from the pain of the climb. As we made our way up, I kept telling myself that it was just like finishing off my training ride at home with the Col du Madone, a climb with very similar characteristics to this one.
The first eight kilometres were solid with a gradient that never really backs off until we hit the five kilometre mark. From there, we got slight relief before it kicked up again for the final four kilometres to the finish.
Alena and I set the tempo for our group, keeping it nice and controlled on the front. She also showered me with cold water almost every kilometre to keep me cool. She could see I was suffering. Every time we passed a rider who had dropped back from up ahead, we greeted them and welcomed them to our group. We still knew how to have some fun.
As I climbed up the final five kilometres, I counted down every 500 meteres I complete, and in the the final kilometre, I counted down every hundred metres to the finish. I was so happy to see that finish line that I decided I had to cross in style. I have yet to master the art of popping a wheelie, but I had just enough energy left to pull a short superman over the line.
Overall it’s been another great edition of the Giro Rosa. I was satisfied enough with my own personal performance. I went in with the goal of a stage victory, I didn’t manage that but I did help contribute to a team stage victory. I had my own visit to the podium and two more top 10’s and enjoyed my time helping the team where I could too.
For now though it’s time to sign off. Thanks for coming along for the ride; I hope you enjoyed my adventures. Holiday time for me now … Malta is calling! Until next time.
Read more Giro Rosa content on Ella:
Joyful and triumphant: Checking in with Lizzie Williams after the final stage of her first Giro Rosa
Anna van der Breggen wins the Giro Rosa as Mara Abbott solos to stage victory atop San Domenico
Equipment selection and wardrobe malfunctions: Tiffany Cromwell’s stage eight Giro Rosa diary
Follow Tiffany Cromwell and Velocio-SRAM from the Giro Rosa: