Q&A With Tiffany Cromwell to Preview La Route de France

Sat 3 Aug 2013

Stage racing returns to France as the women’s peloton begin La Route de France on Saturday. A prologue opens the eight day race that covers 834.9km through central France. Coming on the heels of the Giro Rosa and Thüringen Rundfahrt, the French stage race is the last of the longer stage races ORICA-AIS will race this year.

Route de France stage winner Tiffany Cromwell checked in ahead of the race start to answer some questions about the upcoming action. Read on to learn more about the racing that will unfold over the course of the next week.

Q: What would you consider the main characteristics of this race?

Well, we’re mostly in central France, and there aren’t any big mountains in this region. It’s a lot of farms and country roads. It’s typical French racing – bad food, bad accommodations, lovely racing. I have what I’d call a love/hate relationship with racing here. My first two big early results where at French races – the time trial at Route de France in 2009 and a road stage at Limousin in the same year, so I have good memories of racing in France, but the food and the accommodations can make things a bit more difficult than they need to be.

Q: What type of rider do you expect to do well on this course?

We’re looking at a combination of flat stages and undulating stages with no massive mountain days and no summit finishes. I reckon an all-rounder is best-suited for a good result on GC. Italian racing is known for the long, hard climbs and the technical finishes. This is nothing like that. The roads are much wider and more exposed.

Emma [Johansson] is on good form at the moment, and this type of racing suits her. The time trialists don’t have any advantage here. There’s only a prologue, and they won’t be able to open up any big gaps that way. An opportunist can have a go for stages because there are a lot of days that could be for the breakaway, but I don’t expect a surprise winner on the overall.

Q: What’s the team’s objective?

We always race to win. The team’s objective is to win the overall. Emma is on form and has the qualities needed to win this type of race. She didn’t race the Giro because she can’t handle the big mountain days as well as the climbing specialists. She sat out that race and came back to win Thüringen. She’ll be a force to reckon with here in France.

In addition to the overall, we’ll race for stage wins if we can. This gives everyone on the team an opportunity. It’s not all about Emma – it never is. If a break stays away early in the week and another rider puts herself in a good position on the general classification, we can support that rider instead of Emma. We have such a strong team, and we’re happy to support anyone who is capable of winning. It all depends on how the race unfolds.

Q: What’s motivation like at this point in the season?

I think motivation can go both ways. It’s waning for some and for others it’s still really high. The World Championships are a big goal for a lot of the girls, and there are still many riders vying for selection. The Aussie girls will have Brian Stephens on hand this week. He’s directing us for the second half of the race. Brian is a selector for the Australian National Team, so a lot of the Aussies will want to put their best foot forward this week. On the other hand, there are girls that know the selective World’s course doesn’t suit them, and they may be less motivated now.

Our program is much different than the men’s program. We don’t have as many races as the WorldTour teams, so it’s a bit easier for us to race throughout the entire season without needing the big breaks that they seem to take.

Q: There is a lot of talk about a women’s Tour de France at the moment. Where does this race fit into that discussion?

Maybe this race would like to grow into what would become the women’s version of the Tour, but it’s a long way off at the moment. Tell the average Joe Blow that we’re racing La Route de France, and he’d never have heard of it. That’s the main problem. This race lacks the media attention and fan base that the Tour has. Could this be built up into the women’s Tour? Maybe – but it needs more recognition and more of a following.

Personally, I’d love to see the women’s peloton race the Tour de France. When I tell anyone that’s not a cyclist that I race bikes for a living, they always ask me if I race the Tour. I have to say: “No. I don’t. They don’t have that for the women.” I can talk to them about the other races I do, but when the Tour is the only one they know, they suddenly become less interested.

Do I think that we need to jump into a three week race and race the same stages as the men from start to finish? No. That’s not what our racing is like. It would be a disaster for teams to go from one week races to three week races, and I don’t see the point in nearly doubling the length of maximum stage distance. Not many teams could support that type of tour, and I can’t think of many girls who could cope well with that sort of racing. I certainly think something like a ten day tour with half-stages is possible. 

ORICA-AIS for La Route de France:

Annette Edmondson
Emma Johansson
Gracie Elvin
Melissa Hoskins
Sungeun Gu
Tiffany Cromwell