As we come to the end of the Giro Rosa 2015, everything gets more exciting, as riders’ chances for stage glory or GC improvements get fewer. Stage 7 had both, with climbing and a LOT of descents. I caught up with four riders who took time out of their recovery to answer questions about their day, and how the race is going for them: Lucinda Brand, who won the stage with an opportunistic attack and riding 60km solo with a descending masterclass – making that two wins, two podiums and a day in the maglia rosa this Giro; her Rabo-Liv team mate Anna van der Breggen, who’s fighting hard for GC; Bigla’s Sharon Laws, whose team had very bad luck yesterday, but will carry on fighting for Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio’s GC hopes; and fan favourite Vale Scandolara, who tells us about life in the grupetto, and riding with an injury…
Congratulations on your second win of the Giro! How do you feel?
I’m very tired now 😉. But of course I’m very happy with this second win.
It seemed like perfect tactics – make other teams chase while Anna could relax and climb
Well, I knew they wouldn’t really worry since I was at 9 min back. But at least it was more certain I could do something for the team when the others would chase me on the climb.
When you’re out by yourself for so long, what goes through your head?
You want to know what is going on behind you, are they attacking, who is the strongest uphill?
And it wasn’t a boring road so I was a kind of busy all the time.
When did you know you were going to win? I thought if you could get to the top of the last climb it was yours… but did you?
There was a moment when it go really hard on the last climb, and I couldn’t push how I wanted. Koos [Moerenhout, the team DS] came along me and he told me that there was still around 5km uphill. Hearing that, I thought I hope if they catch me, I really can do something and that they don’t drop me straight away. But then the last kilometer of the climb was there, and I still had an advantage – then I knew that if I stayed on my bike without puncturing, I would make it.
What advice can you give to people about riding a long hard descent like that?
Well, stay safe and in control at first. You have to read the road. Signals around the road can tell something about it. And in a race you can watch the behavior of a car/ moto of other riders.
And what’s the secret to your skills in the technical parts of the courses?
In the Netherlands we have a lot of criteriums, most of them are with a lot of corners. I started racing my bike early, and learned quickly. And I still love to ride them. Same as riding descents while at training camps.
How does this win compare to Stage 4?
It’s totally different way of winning. That race was more flat and I had to beat some psrinters.
What are your plans for the final 2 stages – will we be seeing you attacking on Sunday, too?
I don’t know yet – this is something we have to see after tomorrow. How the GC is and then making a plan for the last day.
Read Lucinda’s Q&As after her Stage 4 win.She 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 watch this great little clip of the Rabo team:
Congratulations on another great day! You’re still second in the General Classification – how does it feel?
For now it’s OK, but I’m (and we’re) not racing for the second place. Today we tried to make a difference on the climb and it was a really nice stage. And Lucinda won it! Escaped at the right moment and the GC riders didn’t really care, so a great job again by Lucinda. Getting a gap on the GC riders didn’t work out for me today, so now I’m focusing on the time-trial.
I’m looking forward to the time-trial. Today I felt good in the stage, so let’s hope the same for tomorrow. I like the time-trial because it’s all up to you. No possibility for hiding anymore;)
Last year you were third on the San Domenico di Varzo climb, and were only caught in the last few kilometres – does that help you prepare for it?
A bit. I like the gradient of the climb so that’s nice to know.
What have been your happiest moments in this year’s Giro?
I hope my happiest moment still has to come😁 But I like the stages, the big fight for the General classification and also the girls who are riding for a stage win. Different goals in one big race makes it interesting!
For the rest, I love to eat a lot of pasta, being in beautiful places and travelling with the girls and the staff (they are taking such good care of us every day!)
And any that you haven’t enjoyed?
I like it when it’s hot outside, but this was maybe a bit over the top😵
I hate to see Kasia crashing today (hope she will be fine) and also others girls this week. But for the rest the Giro Donna is again a great race with exciting stages and a really good organisation. Not much to complain about!
The Netherlands isn’t known for hills – how did you learn to climb like you do? And do you wish there were more mountain races?
I did my first climb when I was sixteen. And didn’t liked it because it hurts😏. But when I found out I was pretty good with climbing, I started to like it.
I think on the international calender we have enough climbing races, so I won’t complain. Although I think it’s time to put some climbs in the national championship again 😉
What advice would you give first time Giro riders about how to face the last two days?
If you’re able to get this far in the race, you also will be able to manage until the finish. Good job! And eat a good Italian pizza when you finish the race…
Finally, can you tell us any secrets about your Rabo team mates?
No otherwise they will kill me. The look nice but.. 😜
Anna has daily race updates on her website, and you should also follow her on twitter. Watch her win the Netherlands National ITT Championships, the week before the Giro, on the clip on the NOS.nl report.
How’s the Giro going so far? How are you feeling?
I’m having a very up and down Giro, with a mixture of days when I feel good, and others when I don’t feel good at all. I have really struggled with the heat and found those days very challenging. The Giro seems to get faster and faster and each year, and I think the standard in the women’s peloton has really increased.
Bigla is a whole new team this year – how is racing the Giro with Bigla different to previous years?
We have a mixture of experiences in our team; Clara and Nicole, our young riders, are doing amazingly. It’s their first Giro and long tour. I have been really impressed with their riding and determination. Joëlle, Carmen and Annemiek are the power houses in the team and with the exception of Joëlle have done the Giro a number of times. We were unlucky to loose to Doris as she is such a good climber. Ashleigh is of course our GC rider.
Although it’s a new team for me the approach to racing the Giro is very similar as it was for Garmin/Cervélo and AA Drinks when we rode for Emma Pooley or for UHC ProCycling when we rode for Mara Abbott. The whole team is 100% behind the GC rider and everything we do is for that person. It doesn’t matter where anyone else finishes on the stage or GC so long as they have done their assigned job for the day. Like the other teams I have been on, Bigla has invested a lot into the Giro and we have more staff and resources than we have had for the other stage races. It’s a big priority for the team and exciting to have a podium contender.
What are you thinking about the last 2 stages?
For Ashleigh, the TT is really important as it will be critical to the overall GC. For the rest of us, we will ride it ‘easy’ to save energy to do our job on the last day. The last stage is going to be really important for us as a team to help protect Ashleigh before the final climb. It’s a summit finish and it will be up to the GC riders to fight it out on the climb.
What’s in your Giro survival kit? And what’s the one thing you couldn’t race it without?
My Giro survival kit is an ipod, kindle, cous cous, gogi berries and almond nut butter. I couldn’t race it without my ipod as I listen to podcasts at night to help me fall asleep.
Are you watching the tv coverage everyday? Does watching yourself help you learn, or just make you see mistakes?
Unfortunately with the transfers, massage and dinner we haven’t seen any of the TV coverage. We did watch it every night at the Women’s Tour in the UK. There was 1 hour coverage each night and it was really useful. We would have a team meeting afterwards to discuss how we could improve for the next days.
Tell us some secrets about your Bigla team mates
If I told you they wouldn’t be secrets anymore!
You said on twitter that you’ve been having injury problems – how are you feeling?
I had a crash before the prologue and one during one of the stages, nothing, major but I put my hand down and got some joint problems. It would make my arm numb the first days, till it finally really hurt in the Aprica stage. From there my staff handled it really well, I had massage and saw an osteopath, and Chloe taped it for me. Now I am almost as good as new!
It’s not been the best Tour for ORICA-AIS, you’re down a lot of team mates, so how are the remaining ones keeping spirits up?
Ah it was all planned: my teamies left for different reasons (some are doing Thüringen, some others just have to rest). We are down to four but we still have fun together! Even if for none of us it is the easiest stage race we’ve ever done….
Some questions about the practicality of the day… When you have LONG transfers like yesterday, how do you cope with them? What are your secrets?
I just sit in the car and talk – if the others are not too tired to listen and reply to me 😉 otherwise I just listen to music or read
And when you’re riding along beautiful Italian beaches, how do you NOT jump off the bike and dive in the sea?
Oh I must really stop myself – I think: ok, just some more days, some more days….but how mean is it to make us start here?!
You said other riders were really kind to you when you were in pain on Stage 5 – what’s the nicest thing they did?
Oh they pushed me for half the climb! I couldn’t use my arm and shoulder to climb, so I was very twisted on the bike and they were just taking turns to help me! I so much appreciated that and I will give back!!!
What makes grupetto life easier?
Chatting with people 🙂 it makes time fly! And you make new friends suffering together!
And does anything make it harder?
Yes, people who just attack or pace hard in the climbs… That really pisses everyone off.
Can you tell us secrets about other grupetto riders?
Oh Italians are the loudest… Today we joked about making a whattsapp group called “il gruppetto”. Basically we talk about the course, immediate plans after Giro (holidays), and we insult people who tell us the climb is almost finished when we know we still have 8kms………
What will you do to prepare for the ITT?
We do a pre-race session on the rollers in the morning, and if the TT is late, one to warm up later. We calculate times for eating, and we make sure we have plenty of drinking, cause it is not so easy to get enough during the race. And then we go flat out like a lizard drinking 😉
What’s the best thing about ITT days? And the worst?
Huh… You know you are going to suffer from the first to the last metres, but at least you don’t have the stress of having inexperienced people around like in the bunch, racing that bike feels cool and you can cheer on your teamies before/after your race!!!
Who’s going to win?
There’s never been a Giro as interesting as this year. I really respect all the riders who are contending the GC, couldn’t pick a most deserving one. Elisa cause she is Italian, Guarnier because she is showing how strong she really is and what an amazing team is supporting her, Mara because she is such a nice girl and I still remember what they did to her on Ghisallo climb last year, which was not ok, Ashleigh, cause she is so cool, and the Rabos, they are really strong but it’d be cool to have a different jersey on the top step of the podium this year.
Vale has one of the best twitter accounts of the race, sharing views, jokes and lots of insider information – you have to follow her! Read her Q&As after she came second on Stage 3, 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, too.
The Stage 8 ITT startlist is here, there might be live timings here, and I’ll be following along with the #GiroRosa2015 hashtag and my twitter list of people updating live. Read about the course on Velofocus’ preview, and see riders reactions on twitter with this list. Any questions? Ask me on twitter!