My Giro Rosa (so far)
I figured if anything warranted a blog it was winning a stage of the Giro Rosa. Also, one of my pushy Twitter followers suggested I should write one so here I am.
I’ve started the Giro four times, five including this year. I’ve finished twice. As a sprinter it is not an easy race to finish. As a sprinter preparing for the Qatar World Championships (read; dead flat) when the rest of the peloton are preparing for the Rio Olympics (read; extremely hilly) I was sceptical about my chances of finishing a third.
And to be honest, the first two road stages did little to reassure me. Fortunately however, my past four starts have taught me a thing or two about surviving what is one of the hardest women’s stage races.
After the opening prologue where I finished 18th I knew there were a few tough road stages before the gradient would finally be in my favour.
I decided that after doing my job for the team on the flat — which largely involved ferrying bottles back and forth, communicating with our director, covering any rouge attacks and helping position our climbers into the climb — I would conserve my energy.
Rather than killing myself to stay with ‘grupetto’ I swallowed my pride and filtered back through the peloton. Watching team cars speed by and feeling team directora judgement on my back as they passed was almost enough to make me question my tactics. Luckily, by the time they passed me I was too dropped to question my decision anyway.
This was a tactic I had learnt, but not employed, in the 2014 Giro Rosa. Then, when the battle for stage honours was well and truly up the road I continued to battle to hold onto the group in front of me. By the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th stages girls who had been 10 minutes behind me earlier in the tour were now dancing on their pedals in front of me. Shout out to Iris Slappendel.
In this year’s Giro, with nothing to prove on the climbs, I decided to employ the above tactic.
As Mara Abbott said to me in the team car while we were transferring yesterday; “In reality, for sprinters, the aim should be to do as little as possible without getting time cut”. Coming from a woman who has won the Giro twice, I’m inclined to agree.
Starting yesterday’s stage I was pretty pumped. Thanks to getting myself horrendously dropped the last two days I was feeling quite fresh.
As is common in the Giro, flat stages aren’t necessarily flat. So when you actually do get one you need to make the most of it. Apart from a slight bump around 45km into the 115km course it was — I swear on Chanel — flat.
That’s not to say it was uneventful, however. The winds had picked up and teams like Boels and Rabobank seemed determined to make the most of them to try and catch out other GC rivals, namely my teammate Mara. Unluckily for them, we were on top of it and the bunch was all together as we hit 15km to go.
Earlier in the stage Gio had come to me and said we go for me today. I wasn’t going to argue. I immediately switched my attention to the Canyon SRAM sprinter, Barbara Guarischi or ‘Baby-G’. I knew their lead out train was ace and they would be wanting to get their Italian sprinter up for a stage win. In the end, my assumption paid off because with 3km to go it was just the Canyon train and then little old me with entire peloton strung out behind us.
Tiff and Baby-G are two of the best bike handlers in the peloton, I would be lying if I said I was sure I could stay with them around the final corner…
With a little more than 600m to go it was just Tiffany Cromwell, Baby-G and then me. With 300m to go I knew there was a sweeping right hand corner and a tail wind finish. (Information I was happy to have had thanks to our logistics manager who had driven the course a few hours earlier.)
I was in the perfect position. All I needed to do was not crash. This was a legitimate fear. Tiff and Baby-G are two of the best bike handlers in the peloton, I would be lying if I said I was sure I could stay with them around the final corner. Adrenaline must have won out over fear however, because as Tiff swept through the final corner I stayed tucked onto Baby-G’s wheel.
275 metres to go…
250 metres to go…
200 metres to go…
I didn’t want to wait any longer. I jumped off Baby-G’s wheel even before Tiff had finished her final lead out. With 75 metres left to race I started to worry; ‘Oh man, did I kick too early? Are they about to swamp me?’
What potentially was more satisfying was knowing that my tactic had worked. I may be be minutes down on the GC but I won a stay of the Giro Rosa.