We are now within six weeks of the start of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and while some federations have already announced their Olympic rosters, many athletes around the globe are nervously waiting to hear if they’ve made the selection for this pinnacle event.
The wait is almost over as each national Olympic Committee must submit their final selection to the Rio 2016 Organising Committee by the deadline of July 18. For Australians, however, that announcement will come next week on July 5.
For rider Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon-SRAM), this means she’ll get the word five days into the Giro Rosa, women’s cycling’s biggest tour.
Ella CyclingTips caught up with Cromwell before the tour to find out how she’s dealing with the nerves.
“To be honest, I’m actually quite relaxed,” Cromwell said. “Rio obviously was a big goal of mine but I’m in a much better frame of mind than I was earlier in the year.”
“I had a couple of rough months and I’m finding my form now, which is good for the games,” Cromwell continued. “But I also know that I haven’t really proven myself in the past couple of months. So if I make the team, awesome, if I don’t, there are plenty more bike races and another Olympics in four years time. I’ll be disappointed, of course, but it’s not the end of the world if I’m not selected.”
Cromwell has been outspoken about her Olympic goals ever since she narrowly missed the Olympics selection for London 2012 games. She even attended the official Olympic road cycling test event last year to scope out the courses in Rio.
“Now that I have had a little taste of Rio, I want this even more. It makes me hungry to go back and to represent Australia,” Cromwell said at the time. “I want to be there and give it absolutely everything I can.”
That pressure to perform, however, may have been too much and her performances suffered.
“In the Classics I didn’t achieve what I wanted to achieve, and the Tour of California was a down point for me. I had a terrible race.
Each performance was getting me down and into a hole,” Cromwell said. “I have come to realize that my performance went downhill because I was stressing out too much about it all. It was like having a monkey on my back. I really wasn’t in a good mindset.”
Following the tour of California, Cromwell realised things had to change and she decided to take a break and go for a change of scenery in the hopes of finding her legs again.
“I had put myself in a hole and I had to find a way to climb out of it,” said Cromwell, who chose to train in Aspen, Colorado.
Training and sleeping at altitude upwards of 2500 meters, Cromwell said she suffered a lot until she found a turning point.
“For the first week or so, I could barely pedal my bike. But I worked carefully with my coach and focused on recovery more than anything because I have over-trained a little bit, too,” said Cromwell. “But toward the end, things started to come around and I was getting my legs back, starting performing again and gained a new mindset. And I think that was the key.”
After Colorado, Cromwell joined her teammates on the East coast for the Philadelphia Classic and in Britain for the Aviva Women’s Tour where she felt like herself again and her confidence grew.
“I was able to play a good supporting role and take opportunities, too, so things are starting to look up and I’m feeling like myself again,” said Cromwell. “I’m in a lot better mind space about it now.”
What this means for the second half of her season will depend on the Olympic selection.
“It’s a matter of taking it as it goes,” she said. “Whatever happens, happens. If I make it to the Olympics, great, if I don’t I’ll go on a holiday. It’s still a long season; there is still a rainbow jersey at the end of the year and other goals to strive for.”
The Olympics has the entire peloton in a stronghold but in the end, it’s a single one-day race, Cromwell pointed out.
“[The Olympics] is the pinnacle of women’s cycling, and it’s what everyone looks up to, but it’s also just one day, one race. That’s what we have to remember, and not judge everything based on that. It’s what I got myself too wrapped up in,” she said.
That is not to say that she won’t be disappointed to sit it out, but she wouldn’t be devastated either.
“I’ll be disappointed, of course. Because it’s been a big goal of mine, I have talked about it a lot and I know I could do a very good job there. But I also know how my season has gone, and the [Australian] girls have really stepped up this year,” she said. “It’s a credit to them that the selection will tough. We have seen a lot of great performances and it’s good to see. It’s a reflection of our world ranking and there are a lot of other deserving athletes, too.”
But for now, Cromwell is off to Italy where she’s hoping to help her team earn a stage win or two. Follow our Giro Rosa coverage here, and be sure to tune back in on the fifth to see if Cromwell made the Australian selection.