FEATURE: A workhorse in a Grand Tour

Fri 5 Jul 2019

As Mitchelton-SCOTT women begin their main goal of the season today, the 10-day Giro-Rosa, the only women's GrandTour on the racing calendar, 33-year-old Sarah Roy looks ahead to many kilometres of riding on the front in support of her teammates.

The pleasure of commitment and sacrifice

The team have openly shared their high ambitions of trying to defend their 2018 victory with Annemiek van Vleuten which means for teammates like Roy, a whole load of sacrifice, commitment and pain in an attempt to deliver Van Vleuten into the best position each day.

“Cycling is a team sport overall, our roles and opportunities change depending on the race. I’m lucky that I get to switch between roles. Often I have my own opportunities but then I am also a worker, like at a race like the Giro-Rosa. I find sometimes when I am working for somebody else that I can actually go a lot deeper and come back, time after time, after being dropped, to do what more I can to help out.

"If I am given a job and I am expected to get to 80kilometres for example then I’ll do that, but I always try to come back and I find you’re often capable of doing that because it is for somebody else and it becomes greater than just you." 

The role of a team worker

Alongside Roy for company on the flatter roads, pacing and fighting for a good position heading towards the climbs will be two other powerhouses in Moniek Tenniglo and Grace Brown. The trio will need to play a crucial role in protection the climbers of the team day in day out, making sure they are always well supported in various ways.

“My job during a race like the Giro-Rosa is making sure each day our leaders are safe, happy and always have everything they need. During the race I’ll be talking to them a lot, asking if all is okay and I like to tell them they look really good and give little mental boosts like that.

"I'll ride near them, keep them out of the wind and make sure they always have enough food and drink. Something might happen through the feed zone, they might drop their bottle or musette so I just have to make sure they always have everything they need. They may ask me to go back to the car to talk with the sport director and all these small things all add up and can be crucial, espeically during a 10-day race.

“In terms of actually racing and tactics, it’s about closing down attacks, watching all the moves, teams, riders and basically make sure that on the flatter days the leaders/climbers have the easiest day as possible and can save their energy ready for the mountains.”

A motivating leader

At one of the hilliest and hardest edition of the Giro-Rosa, Roy understands what is expected of her and her importance to the team in such a demanding race, but with such a superstar for a team leader, it is easy to stay motivated. 

“When working for Vleuty it’s easy, she’s the current women’s WorldTour leader, defending champion of this race plus the current world and national time trial champion amongst all her other race victories.

“Last year we made the best memories from the Giro-Rosa, it was one of my favourite racing memories, and probably a career highlight. The way we approached the race, the whole team, the staff, everything.

“I think I’m more nervous this year, defending the title puts more of a target on our backs. Last year we took a lot of control and even riders from other teams would come up and say well done, recognising the work that we’d done on the front and the work that we’d done as a team. We named ourselves the ‘big dogs,’ the workers.

“It is a bit nerve wracking coming to the race this year, knowing what it takes, but if you’re going into the race working for somebody like Annemiek, it does make it easier. She is a really humble leader and she is always so thankful for our hardwork and that is what makes it very special and motivating to work for her.

"I think she is in an ever better shape than last year so we are all really confident and ready to give 100% for each other.”

We wish Roy and the rest of the team the best of luck in the Giro-Rosa as they start stage one 18kilometre team time trial later today.

- You can keep up to date with all the Giro-Rosa race action with our usual live social media updates and in our daily post-race videos here:

 Photo courtesy of Getty Images