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by Tiffany Cromwell
July 10, 2015
Photography by Beth Duryea
WOMEN'S CYCLING BROUGHT TO YOU BY ORBEA
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 queen stage of the Giro Rosa served up long, steep climbs and winding, technical descents. Cromwell suffered up the mountains, revelled in the downhills and describes it all for you here. All text and images 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.
I’m currently laying here with my feet up, feeling like a buckled unit, trying to recover as we make our longest transfer of the race from the mountains to tonight’s race hotel on the Italian Riviera.
Today was by far the toughest stage we’ve raced in the 26th edition of the Giro Rosa with climb after climb, each followed by technical descents, for the entire 102.3km from Tresivio to Morbegno.
Going into the stage we knew it would be a decisive day for the general classification contenders. With the first climb of the day coming after only 10 kilometres of racing, the plan was to look after Karol-Ann [Canuel], which meant my teammates and I needed to survive the climbs alongside our pocket rocket for as long as possible. Later in the stage it would be up to Karol-Ann and Alena [Amialiusik], who would most likely still be up the front, to look for opportunities to have an impact on the race.
The day began with a three-kilometre neutral downhill from the start village into the valley. Everyone loves a downhill neutral right? They held us at 25 kilometres per hour the entire way down. I think I began to build lactic acid in my forearms from gripping the brakes so hard.
I know the first climb that featured on stage six as it featured in the Giro Rosa in 2014. Last year they only gave us a one-kilometre warm-up into it. At least this year we had 11 kilometres before the pain began. I needed every bit of those extra kilometres. I’m not a fan of early climbs, especially in tours, because my legs take time to ease into the race.
After the flag was dropped, we were graced with one kilomtre of tranquility before you could feel the pace in the peloton lift. Those opening 11 kilmeteres were fast. Everyone knew how important it was to be in a good position into the climb. For some riders their race was to the bottom of the climb to drop off their general classification rider, and, from there, they had to do their best to make the time cut. I’m sure it was a long day for them.
I have to admit I was dreading the climb. Last year, I blew up fairly early on and then had a painfully long chase in a group to get back to the front of the race. The climb is seven kilometres. It’s quite hard to start and then it just drags on up the mountainside with a few switchbacks in there too.
With the climb fast-approaching, teams were doing full-blown lead-outs and the pace was high. I could see Karol-Ann in good position getting ushered around by Loren [Rowney]. The rest of my teammates were near the front, too. I was happy with my position as we entered the climb.
The attacks began on the lower slopes and quickly an early five-rider breakaway was established. Much to my delight, the major overall contenders were happy with the situation, so we could all settle into a comfortable rhythm up the climb. Kilometre by kilometre, I counted down to the top. I knew if I could get this part over with, I would be right for the rest of the stage.
I felt comfortable in the beginning, but as the sweat started pouring out of me, the legs slowly but surely became heavier. I went into fight mode as the ever-shrinking peloton surged. “Just two more kilometres,” I told myself. “You can make it.”
But I couldn’t. Not quite. Not today. I drifted back through the peloton and then just off the back. Finally, I popped with just over one kilometre left to climb, but I still pushed all the way to the top. It’s always a good sign if you can stay in the cars because that gives you a better chance of coming back to the bunch. I knew a fast and technical descent awaited me, and I was ready to take advantage of my descending skills.
Down the other side with a small group, I bombed through the switchbacks and fast corners to make it back to the front. I was happy to see Tayler [Wiles] in the main bunch with Karol-Ann and Alena.
There wasn’t much time to recover. We hit a non-classified three-kilometre climb shortly after the descent. Thankfully, my legs had recovered and I felt much more comfortable up and over this one. As soon as we reached the top, I dropped back for bidons. My timing was perfect. First to the back of the bunch, I managed to avoid the rush hour that followed as riders from just about every team seemed to drop back to take on drinks.
Loaded up and onto the next descent, I made my way through the peloton to deliver bottles to the girls – only to then realize we were about to begin the second classified climb of the day. I wasn’t quite ready. It was a hard climb, and Bigla forced the pace from the bottom.
The peloton quickly split into numerous groups as we made our way up the six-kilometre category two steep mountain. The entire way up I was in the cars, climbing with a couple of other riders. I could see the front group just a little further up the climb, but this time I didn’t nurture much hope of returning to the peloton.
As I settled into my own rhythm, I assessed my situation over the top, knowing we had another fast and technical descent. Cresting the second GPM of the day, I started to feel slightly optimistic again. There were still some team cars around us and a few more up the road. “Maybe I’ll be able to come back again,” I thought. “Maybe I can be of help one last time to my teammates.”
It wasn’t to be. We did a quick descent and chased for a while but only made it as far as the chase group in front of us. That would be my group to the finish. It included my teammate Tayler, a bunch of Italians and a couple of other foreigners.
Occasionally you get the ‘Italian Cup’ race within the race. I feared the Italians were going to start attacking each other up the final climb. I was very happy that this this didn’t happen today. We reached the start of the final climb and settled into an acceptable tempo.
Having spent most of the day on the rivet, I didn’t have much of a chance to take in our gorgeous surroundings. Not working nearly as hard on the final climb, I could take in the scenery. It was stunning. If you watched our race highlights, today, you will have seen picturesque mountains, winding roads, vineyards, and still some snow-scattered way up high.
It was more or less downhill and flat all the way home following the final GPM – and for that I was grateful. Another day down, and we saw a very impressive victory in the end with Japanese national champion Mayuko Hagiwara (Wiggle Honda) taking a solo victory. It was a fine effort. Mayuko was part of the early move, which she then attacked before carrying on solo.
Karol-Ann suffered a bit today and couldn’t quite hang on at the front, but she fought hard. Tomorrow is a new day with more mountains to climb, and I’m sure it’s going to be another tough day in the saddle. Stay tuned!
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