Q&A With Tiffany Cromwell on Tour de l'Ardèche

Sun 8 Sep 2013

While her teammates toiled away at the Boels Rental Holland Ladies Tour, Tiffany Cromwell returned to her roots and raced for the Australian National Team at the Tour de l’Ardèche. The likely leader for Australia at the Road World Championships later this month, Cromwell chose to race Ardèche over Holland in order to test her climbing legs at a critical point in her build-up to the late season goals.

Cromwell podiumed on two stages, spent time in the points jersey and ultimately finished just outside the top ten overall, in 11th place after six days and seven stages of French racing. Cromwell checked in with us following the week and answered our questions below.

Q; How did it come about that you would race Ardèche?

I never put my hand up for the team time trial at the World Championships. Looking at the courses and the preparation required we decided I’d be much better suited to put 100% focus towards the road race. Having made that decision, when we worked on my program, we knew I needed to focus on the hillier races since the Worlds course is very tough and hilly.

It didn’t make sense for the team to take me to Holland. Most of the stages are flat, and they needed to test out another team time trial squad combination. When we realised the timing was right for me to join the Australian National Team in Ardèche, we slot the race into my program. This allowed me to go straight from Plouay to Ardèche and have two days at home before I race Toscana. It’s much nicer to have a really solid race block as opposed to a training block. This has given me racing for nearly two weeks straight leading up to the ten days before Worlds.

Q: What was it like riding with the Australian National Team?

It was certainly a different experience than riding with ORICA-AIS, but in a good way. Racing with the National Team brought me back to when I first raced in Europe and was still learning the ropes. It also gave me the chance to take on a leadership role and give the younger girls a bit of guidance and pass on some of my experience I have learnt over the years.

My teammates helped me where they could, but I was more or less riding on my own when it came to the nitty gritty on each stage. Amy Cure was able to stay with me on a few of the harder hills and Miranda Griffiths was also good support on some of the climbs. Amy will be a great asset to the team in Toscana.

My main goal at Ardèche was to race my own race and see what sort of results I could achieve. This is completely different than the way I typically race with ORICA-AIS. Each of us has a specific role that supports the team’s objective, and I’m rarely the team’s protected rider.

It was nice to be able to come into the national team and have the girls back me, support me 100% and really want to help me as much as they were capable of helping. They’re certainly a strong group of girls and with a little bit more experience in the European peloton, we’ll see some strong results from them in the future.

Q: What do you consider highlights of the week for you?

I started off very strong. I was pleased to see I carried some good form. I was really happy to get second in the bunch kick behind Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda) on stage two. That’s certainly unusual for me to have such a good result in a sprint. I had another strong ride on stage four, and I wore the points jersey for a few days. It’s always nice to be in a jersey.

Things fell apart for me in the final two days of the race. The terrain was relentless and my legs eventually said no more and I lost touch with the front-runners, slipping off of the overall podium. Without teammates that could support me when things got really tough, I had to think differently on where to use your energy and which moves to cover, knowing I didn’t have someone there to back up the next move.

Q: How do you come out of the week better prepared for the Worlds?

It was a good, solid hard week of racing. I think it was a lot harder than most of us expected with a huge amount of climbing. I have more confidence in my form, and I’ve learned more about using my energy in the right way. I’m feeling stronger in both my sprinting and my climbing. There are still a few small things that need work, but I like the improvements that I saw.

I also learned more about being a leader. When we race with Emma Johansson, she’s almost always the leader on the road, so we’re working for her. Last year, it was the same with Judith Arndt. When I raced as the leader for Australia at Worlds last year, it was the first time I was the lone protected rider. It’s good to have more experience in that role in the build-up to Worlds. It’s a very different experience being the one who is making the calls and having to back up the decisions made with a strong performance later in the race.