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In His Own Words: DS Martin Barras on Toscana Stages One & Two

Fri 13 Sep 2013

Editor’s note: Apologies for the delays with race reports and social media updates in the last 36 hours. Your digital content coordinator was dealing with the fall-out from flash floods in her hometown. Below please find a report on the first two road stages of Giro della Toscana. Sport Director Martin Barras shares his perspective on all the race action.

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ORICA-AIS put two riders in the top ten on the opening road stage of the Giro della Toscana. Italian sprinter Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda) survived the hills and outkicked the elite group that had taken shape over the stage one circuit. Tiffany Cromwell and Emma Johansson were the top finishers for ORICA-AIS. Both were part of the nine rider group that contested the finish with Johansson narrowly missing the podium in fourth place and Cromwell rounding out the top five.

Cromwell hopped up one place on the general as she moved from fourth place to third place, 10” behind race leader Marianne Vos (Rabobank Liv Giant). Johansson saw gains of her own, jumping up to fifth place at 12”. In his own words, Sport Director Martin Barras describes stage one.

Today, no surprises!

Stage one was raced exactly the way we expected, in conditions we expected and with an outcome that was predictable if you have followed women’s racing for the last few weeks and the last few years.

It's fall. We are in the final build up to the Worlds and the Italians are going nuts on home turf before their home championships.

The secret to enjoying Italy is to understand the Italian way. When driving, this means that although you are going insanely fast on tight roads, you also know that everyone will do and expect exactly the same things to happen. As long as you drive to the plan, all is predictable and all is fine. Italian traffic might look chaotic but it is a highly ordained ballet.

The Italian way with women's pro cycling is that you spend the winter resting, the summer training and then go really hard and crazy leading up to the most important race of the season. As the last hard race before Worlds, Toscana is the epitome of this adage.

Unsurprisingly, Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda) won today. She is the ultimate expression of the Italian way – or is she?

Today's stage was 126km and covered the La Molina climb four times. It's a tough climb that shares many characteristics with the Fiesole climb that will be used for the World titles. Anyone who can get up there in good condition will be a threat for Worlds.

Bronzini made the select group that including race leader Marianne Vos (Rabobank Liv/Giant), Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini-Giordana), Tatiana Antoshina (MCipollini-Giordana), Rossella Ratto (Hitec Products UCK), Evie Stevens (Specialized-lululemon), Anna Van der Breggen (Sengers Ladies) and our own Tiff and Emma. This is the group that got over the final climb and presented for the finish with Bronzini beating out Ratto (second) and Vos (third) for the top step of the podium. 

For a sprinter like Bronzini, surviving that climb four time and winning the stage from an elite group is a significant feat. It adds to the impression she has built over the last six weeks.

This stage was run through some of the worst traffic I have ever witnessed in a race. We come to expect this here every year but it is a small miracle everyday that we get through without getting the body bags out. That the Giro della Toscana is awarded the highest rating the UCI can bestow on an event is puzzling, to be polite.

For us it was a mixed day. Tiff (fifth) and Emma (fourth) raced well and smartly. They made the front group without drama. This close to the Worlds, there are a lot of games being played on the road (and anyone who knows me also knows I lurrrrrve games!!!). Our girls are enjoying their fair share.

On the other hand, we lost Sungeun [Gu]. She broke her bike at the 20km mark and made her way back in the bunch just as it was starting the first climb up La Molina. She got dropped again and the group she was in was pulled out of the race at the 75 km mark as the traffic made it too dangerous for them to continue. You get that around here!

Coming back to Bronzini, I looked at hiring her for our team for our first season. I was told she could not do it as Italy then required it's elite riders to race only for Italian teams: the Italian way!

Since then, the rule has been ditched and Giorgia has signed for her first foreign team (Wiggle Honda). She is having the best season of her career and has been winning races ALL YEAR! She dared to challenge the way things are done here and is getting rich rewards for it. I think all of us, this week, are ready and should dare to do the same. It serves as an important reminder that risking something new can have huge benefits.

Finally, continuing with the Amy Cure diaries, it became apparent today the electronic gearing configurations is still a work in progress for our stagiaire - either that or she likes to ride really big gears up really steep hills!! Watching her ride makes me happy to have a manual transmission in the car. It's that hard to watch, really, but pretty funny if you don’t have to ride. There’s always tomorrow. I’m sure she’ll get the hang of it soon.

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It was quiet day in the bunch for ORICA-AIS. Stage two of the Giro della Toscana ended in a bunch sprint won by race leader Marianne Vos (Rabobank Women). Vos extended her race lead thanks to bonus seconds on the line.

After three days of racing, Vos leads Bronzini, in second, by 18” while Cromwell sits in third place 21” behind the Dutchwoman. Johansson remains in fifth place overall and was the best finisher for the Australian outfit on Friday, just outside the top ten on the stage.  

In his own words, Sport Director Martin Barras describes another day on the bike for the team in Northern Italy.

Despite my best intentions and wishes, today was always going to be an uneventful stage...at least on the sporting front.

The race went from the Rox factory in Porcari (where riders were presented with a pair of fluffy sandals: Tiff thinks they are immensely cute and will wear her pair non stop until the end of the tour) to Pontedera, where we completed five laps around town.

The route was flat, and long stretches of straight road with short stretches of crosswind were never gong to provide much to race on. Combine this with a couple of teams intent on a bunch sprint (Argos Shimano for Kirsten Wild and Wiggle Honda for Giorgia Bronzini ) and a lot of riders wanting to get back in the race after being shelled yesterday, and the predictable outcome of a race that sends itself to a gallop was realised.

The finish itself was challenging and very fast. Riders came down an overpass at 300m to go, took a slightly off camber right turn at full tilt to then end up on a wide straight to the finish. I have to admit, I was expecting carnage there.

Our intentions were very conservative. With both Emma and Tiff having a high GC position and the anticipation of a fast flat race, we elected to make ourselves as inconspicuous as possible and stay fresh for tomorrow's decisive mountain stage.

The race itself went without surprises. Noteable moments of the day include: Faren Kuota having a mechanical for EVERY rider on the team, race director Brunello Fanini handing out packs of hand made caramels to all teams during the stage (ours is already finished) and the mozzarella ball served for lunch. Marianne Vos won in a photo finish from Shelley Olds (Team TIBCO) and Barbara Guarischi (Vaiano Fondriest). Vos made a daring and technically difficult move on the inside of the final turn and it paid off. This girl is a seriously good bike handler. Emma was our best placed on the stage in 11th,

Then there was the eternally bad traffic. Thankfully the bunch stayed together until the very last lap, which helped to keep all safe. Riders are telling us they are afraid to ride into corners at speed, as they do not know what awaits them around the corner. I had a word with the officials before the race and, apparently, they are aware there is a problem. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that one.

The irony of all this? There was a crash today AFTER the finish line. Chloe Hosking (Hitec Products UCK) hit at full speed a camerawoman who was standing on the road after having rushed off her bike to get pictures to promote the race. Incredibly, Chloe came out of it with only minor injuries. The same cannot be said about the other casualty.

It's sobering to think of how much the girls put up with for their genuine love of the sport and the dangers they face. For all the scares we have had on the roads here, this accident essentially happened " in house" and that’s unacceptable.

Tonight, after work, I am going to get a nice bottle of Chianti and have a toast to the good health of Chloe, the camera girl , my team and all of us in the race. Then I am going to get on with the business of finding a way to win this race : that's tomorrow, on the roads up the Valgiano climb.

Don't miss it!




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