Stage 4 of the 2015 Giro Rosa was the last chance for sprinters to enjoy the flat before the race hits the mountains, and it’s also the exact halfway point of the race. I caught up with three of the riders who have animated the race so far for some Q&As. Dutchwoman Lucinda Brand came second in the Prologue and again in Stage 1, wearing the maglia rosa for Stage 2, before winning from the Stage 3 breakaway… ahead of Italian Vale Scandolara, whose second place was her
first ever second Giro podium. Meanwhile, waiting for her chances when the race goes uphill is another Italian, Elisa Longo Borghini, who was fourth on Stage 2, and is fifth in the General Classification, just 13 seconds behind leader Megan Guarnier. All three of them very kindly answered some questions about how the Giro has been so far, and what the second half of the race could bring, with advice for first-time Giro riders thrown in…
You started the Giro with a bang, coming second on the Prologue, and then again on Stage 1 – how did that feel?
Of course I felt good before I came to the Giro and some other prologues this year had gone well. But I didn’t expect such a good prologue. So that was a great start.
On the second day getting second was special. I came with the wish that I maybe could ride for one stage win, but the team had so much trust in me and set me off in a good position. I couldn’t win the stage but taking pink with the bonifications was so special!
After helping defend Marianne Vos and Annemiek van Vleuten’s maglia rosas in the past, how did it feel to wear it yourself for Stage 2?
It was a day I never will forget! It’s special the team help me to have the change to wear it.
What were your emotions like when you won Stage 3? How was that day for you?
We expected a bunch sprint and because in the first stage I was going well, I could go for that again. But then I jumped with an attack and it was the break of the day. I didn’t have to ride because Claudia [Lichtenberg, of Liv-Plantur] was there for the GC. So that made it even better for me.
I was riding to finish in a sprint. It’s always difficult, you know there will be attacks and they also will watch me. A difficult game to gamble that attacks don’t came too early and so on. In the end I had to close a gap, but could manage to get in a wheel before the last corner. To beat two fast Italian riders in a sprint is not usually something I can do. And it also made a good Giro even better by taken my first Giro win ever.
What was Stage 4 like to race today? It sounded chaotic, with surprise extra kilometres and route changes along the way
It was a tough day. It felt like a Dutch criterium (corners/ speedbumps/ roundabouts) but with bigger laps, and of course longer. That, together with a high speed. Everybody wanted to be at the front because of the difficulty racing at the back. That means you’re busy the whole day getting drinks, coming to the front, braking, picking up the high speed again. Nope, no easy day like you can have if it is going to be a bunchsprint.
What are your plans for the rest of the race? Are there any stages you’re looking forward to? Or dreading?
I take it day by day, like I try to always do in the Giro. It’s a race where a lot can happen and there are always surprises. I came here to help the GC contenders, so that is the priority. We’ve had some hard days already, but the toughest days on paper are coming up now.
You’ve been on the podium in 3 different ways this year – prologue, bunch sprint and breakaway – but what’s your favourite kind of racing?
I like racing because you have to play a game. A decision you make can turn out well or not. Of course you also need the legs. All different disciplines have their own charms, but I like a breakaway or sprint more then a prologue. A prologue is such a lot of work for a short effort and you know it will hurt you from start till finish, that’s not a nice note. I’m not saying the other two don’t hurt, though 😉
What advice would you give first-time Giro riders about the mountain stages that are coming up and surviving the second half of the race?
Well, first of all it really depends what kind of rider you are, and what the team expects of you. But when you know your work is done, and you’re not able to stay at the front, I would say let the group go before you’re total empty. Find a “nice ” speed and group ride to the finish. Take care of your arm (so doesn’t hang on a car 😉) and afterwards, Eat, Drink, sleep and next day do it again.
Can you tell us any Giro secrets about your team mates?
The bus is our “secret” – before the race the beatbox is on mostly with DJ Roxane 😀 After the stage we can take a nice cold shower to cool down straight away.
Lucinda has daily stage reports up on her website, and you can follow her on twitter too. The Rabo-Liv mechanic Sem Versteeg is fantastic at live race updates, and there are lots of post race reports on the Rabo website and twitter. And if you want to see how Lucinda won the Dutch national championships just before the Giro began, watch this, this, and her post-race reaction video:
Yesterday you were 2nd on Stage 3, your first Giro podium. Congratulations! How did that feel?
It felt great: even if I did some mistakes in the sprint, and you keep thinking “what if” afterwards, but I started the stage feeling knackered from the day before, so I really didn’t expect to step on the podium and that’s the lesson I took home yesterday: to never give up and never cut yourself out!
When you were in the breakaway, did you know it would work? Can you tell us a bit about the stage?
Well I counter-attacked on my teammate’s attack on a hill, and the people who stayed at the front weere all really strong. We rolled together for a while, and we quickly gained advantage… The bunch didn’t chase hard till it was clear we (Lucinda and Claudia) were threatening Guarnier’s Maglia Rosa, but at that point I was pretty sure it would have stayed away, even if Lucinda was not contributing to it, covering her GC riders.
What was today like on the road?
(very)(super)(incredibly)Warm, hectic, chaotic, nervous, messy (we realized towards the finish the stage was actually 15km longer than the route details…). I crashed in the first part of the race, as many others did…it was just crazy. It started full gas from the word go, ’til my teammate Lizzie Williams‘ breakaway got up the road. Thanks God! Then with 30kms to go Cipollini started to chase hard and the breakaway got back. A bit of mess with the kilometres to go (we saw a sign for 25 when we expected 10) and craziness again in the sprint. My teammates actually left me in the perfect spot-behind Velocio’s train- but with 1.5kms to go they took a bad corner and me and Barbara found ourselves on the front, with 10m on the bunch 🙈 from there, many people managed to come back and it was chaos everywhere again… I didn’t contest the sprint.
You’re at the halfway point now – how does that feel? Can you feel proud you’ve made it halfway, or are you worried about the mountains?
I live day by day. I was feeling really bad on the second stage – that made me doubt I could make it through the first part of Giro! Mountains stages are sometimes “easier” to approach: once the climbers are gone, the gruppetto ride becomes even pleasant 😉
In the prologue you were SUPER fast – do you like that kind of distance, or does it just remind you of the effort it takes to attack all the time?
I like that short distance, and cornering and lifting speed up after them…
Is it strange racing without Loes? What’s the team plan, or is that a secret?
I definitely miss Loes, our captain! But Spratty got her role now, and she’s pretty good at it: more than once, she gave me the confidence I needed when I was feeling very tired! I call her Grande Puffo now, cause he is the boss in the Smurfs’ village. Our tactic is to go for stages more than GC, since Katrin had some troubles in the second stage and now is down in GC. Everyone has chances and that’s working really well!
What advice have you been giving your Aussie team mates who are racing the Giro for the very first time? What have you told them about the mountains?
First: nutrition and hydration. Eating and drinking is crucial in a stage race, and even more in those extreme conditions (the heat). Then, a very important point that I am still being convinced about is that things can turn around pretty quickly in a Tour: you can feel awesome one day, then suffer like hell the day after, or the opposite. You must live day by day and make sure you do your best to recover well, not letting your head “decide” you are too tired – because there’s also a good chance than everyone else is, too!
What’s the best thing about racing this year’s Giro? And the worst?
So far, the Giro has been amazing: the start in Slovenia was incredible, we did a team presentation almost like Tour the France’s style, with a huge pink stage! People were amazing! Hotels are pretty good as well, and apart from the oven-conditions and my nightmare-day on the bike, I really liked the stage in San Fior, and our accomodation at Francesca Cauz’s hotel Calinferno.
The worst thing so far are the mistakes on the maps and the kilometres (like today), and how nervous the bunch can be on these dangerous roads!
What secrets can you tell us about your team mates?
Well… I can tell you that Kat overthinks and calculates everything (typical “German”+TimeTrialist 😉 I always make fun of her, we laugh at each other all the time 🙂
Spratty is my wise and conscious twin, she makes sure I’m not late to meetings cause I stop and talk to everyone I find 😉 and she controls what I eat and drink enough, too! 😂
And Roy has the biggest biceps in the team, hands down.
Follow Vale through the Giro on her twitter, where you’ll see things like this…
and make sure you keep an eye on her Youtube, because she has the hands-down best ever rider videos I’ve ever seen. Follow her team ORICA-AIS on twitter, and you can watch all the videos from Stage 3 here.
Half way through the 2015 Giro Rosa… how do you feel?
I feel WARM. It’s really hot in Italy right now and everyday is a battle for catching all the fresh water bottles. Aside from this, I feel okay! Thank you!
The team hasn’t had good luck, with Jolien D’hoore crashing in the Prologue, and both Audrey Cordon and Anna Sanchis breaking their collarbones – how does the team recover from something like that, and what’s the atmosphere like now?
We were really unlucky with Jolien’s crash and Anna and Audrey abandoning. We’ll miss two really good riders for the second part of the Giro. But we are still confident and we keep the atmosphere happy!
What can you tell us about the next half of the race? Are there any stages you’re looking forward to?
The second half of this Giro will be really hard. Some mountains are waiting for us. I’m looking forward to the ITT in my home area; I like to be honest and rational so I can’t say I will win it, but the lap is a really interesting one I want to race on.
I really love having the last stage in home area, but the climb to San Domenico is THE climb that I can’t go over. I don’t know why, but I find it for myself unclimbable… So that is something I don’t really look forward to. 🙂
Can you tell us about the team’s plans? Who’s the GC leader, you or Mara Abbott – or is that a secret? 🙂
Mara is the strongest in the climbs…
The race will be coming through your home village, Ornavasso – what’s that like for you? Will we see the Zampine – and for people who don’t know who they are, can you describe them please?
For me it’s a big emotion because I have all my family and friends on the road. It’s a boost! There will be the Zampine at the sprint in Ornavasso and also on the climb. They are a group of friends of mine who are following me, the local volleyball team and some other sports events around my area.
What advice would you give riders who’ll be facing the Giro mountains for the first time tomorrow?
Get well hydrated and find your pace.
Elena Cecchini said that training with you helped her take a big step up this year – what do you think about that?
Yes, we like having training camps together. Elena is really smart and strong. We learn from each other and motivate each other. Plus I have a lot of fun with her! 🙂
Your Ronde van Vlaanderen win was beautiful – looking back, how does it feel, knowing you’ve won what many people think is the best race in the world? Did winning the Ronde change the way you ride, or how you feel about your racing?
I don’t win races often. I’m always a loser in the races. For me winning De Ronde was a dream, but it changed nothing. I just want to try to win again and again!
Finally, can you tell us any Giro secrets about your team mates?
There are no secrets… We try to be as united as we can. Only together we can win!
Follow Elisa on her twitter, through her team Wiggle Honda‘s website, twitter, and their daily Giro videos on their youtube. All the videos from her 2015 Ronde van Vlaanderen World Cup win are here – or just watch the highlights: