Giro Rosa stories – Katarzyna Niewiadoma and Jessie Walker
The 2015 women’s Grand Tour, the Giro Rosa, is done and dusted for another year, but how are the riders looking back on it? I asked two of the young riders all about their experiences – Kasia Niewiadoma, who came home from her second Giro with the Best Young Rider’s jersey, 5th place on the General Classification, and the knowledge she’d helped her Rabo-Liv team mate Anna van der Breggen win the maglia rosa – all at just 20 years old; and another 20-year-old, Jessie Walker, who went from having a surprise late call-up to race for Servetto-Footon, to being the top British finisher. They were kind enough to answer some questions about their experiences in the race…
Congratulations on being the Best Young Rider & 5th place overall – how does it feel?
Thank you so much. It’s a really nice feeling, but I think I am more happy about our Anna who won the GS! She was amazingly strong and every day she showed it, so I think there was no other girl who deserves this victory as much as she did 🙂 The past 10 days were not only about racing for us, but about making a special atmosphere that I really appreciate in our team – just a lot of support and fellow-feeling. My 5th place made my family superbly happy – so for me that’s the biggest reward.
This was your second Giro – apart from the jersey, how was it different to last year?
This year my team let me save my energy during the first flat stages, so I could focus more on the last hard ones, where I had to be in front group and be with Anna. Last year I was not confident enough and really scared, so I didn’t enjoy racing as much as this year. I also made lot of small mistakes which I tried to not repeat this time.
What was your favourite stage to ride this year?
I think the Stage 8 time trial. To be honest, I didn’t expect a result like this… I knew I had to go deep, in pain and just suffer as much as possible, and I was happy that I managed to do it. Stage 7 was also one of my favourites 🙂
And what was your favourite moment off the bike?
Dinner!!!!! 🙂 We were there with the whole team talking and laughing and enjoying the time together! Everybody had a story to talk about, and we could get our heads out of the race a little bit.
Was there anything you didn’t enjoy about the race?
The first days were hard for me to get used to the temperature! I had a bit of a hard time, but then it only got better and better.
It’s been a great season for you, winning your first UCI stage race, the Emakumeen Bira, and such a good Giro – what’s the secret to your success this year?
When I stared my first preparation for this season, I knew I had to do everything properly. I was really motivated and focused on trainings and rest days as well – I have such a great team and teammates who are the biggest example for me, that you can only only achieve something with hard work, but you also cannot forget about being human… so make time for your family and your personal life.
What are your next goals? And does getting 5th make you want to try for your own win next year?
I always want to be as prepared as possible for the important races, I never put a number in my head that I want to achieve, because its easy to disappoint yourself, I always do my best and fight till the end, and then I’ll see what my placing is, and what I missed for example. I have a lot of small and big goals which give me power and motivation
What advice would you give any riders who want to race the Giro for the first time next year?
Looking back at my first Giro, I didn’t take enough care of myself, I didn’t drink enough, and then I had a lot of cramps on stages which is not nice feeling 😀 So first of all, take care of yourself, because it’s 10 days of racing 🙂
What do you pack in your Giro survival kit?
SPECULOOS<3 It saves my life in the mornings 🙂
Follow Kasia on her twitter, and on her facebook, read about how she got here on this Cyclingnews profile of her, just before the Giro started, and watch the Stage 9 highlights, with Kasia on the podium in her white jersey. Finally, check out this little Rabo-Liv video, which opens with her:
You’ve just finished your first ever Giro – how does it feel?
I feel very proud of myself to say I finished in the top 50 out of 150, in my first Grand Tour. It’s been an emotional week and very, very tiring physically and mentally.
When you got the offer, what was your first reaction? Did you do any research about the Giro, either this year’s race or previous years?
My first thoughts were “No way, I can’t believe I’ve got the opportunity to do the Giro. That’s a dream!” I didn’t have much prep going into it. I was only told about 3 weeks before that I was doing it, so all I could do was look at the profiles and think “OMG this is going to be tough, what have I got myself into” 😂 I also read a few riders blogs from previous years to see how they found it.
Going into it, what were you expecting?
To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it might be a good thing because I’ll be quite fresh physically and mentally, due to not doing a lot of races at the start of the season. So I thought it could go one of two ways: I’m fresh and it works to my advantage, or the lack of racing will mean I’m not strong enough to keep up. Luckily it went the first way 👍
And what was it like? Different? The same? What was the biggest shock?
The biggest shock was the heat. We don’t get it anywhere near as hot in the UK, so it took me a while to adjust to that. But all the girls were in the same boat, so I just had to man up. Also the climbs feel like they are never ending. Again we don’t get that in the UK.
You were the top British finisher, and got a top 20 place – were you expecting that?
I was hoping for a top 20 because I’ve previously got 18th in the Women’s Tour in 2014, so I wanted to match that. But this tour seems like another level so I’m really happy about it. I just found it amazing to be riding amongst the World’s best and mixing it up in the sprint with them was insane.
What advice were you given about it before you started, and from who?
I got a little advice from the British girls. Lizzie Armitstead told me to make sure I eat and drink as much as I can, as it can soon catch up on you a few days down the line if you don’t. Hannah Barnes said take lots of morale food 😂👌 which was good advice. I did enjoy some chocolate a few of the nights.
What was the hardest part?
The last day was the hardest part. I can genuinely say I don’t think I would have lasted another day. On the start line of stage 9, I didn’t think I was going to do it. I was so mentally drained, and I knew what a hard day it was ahead of me. But the whistle blew and I was off then everything was fine.
Were there any times you didn’t think you could make it? What kept you going?
Every stage was a battle, but I tried to just take it day by day. I only looked at the profile of each stage on the morning of the race. Then I gradually got through the days and was really positive that I could finish the tour. However the last stage was a killer. On the last 20km climb I was fighting all the way just to keep going. But I just knew how good it would feel to say I finished, so that’s what kept me going.
When you look back at this race, what will be the memories that make you smile?
My main memory will be crossing the line on the last stage. I gave it every ounce of energy that I had and felt so emotional crossing the line. But smaller things, like all the teams eating dinner together at night. Also on the start line every day chatting to riders. It was overwhelming to be there. The views were amazing too. One stage had 11km neutralized along the promenade with everyone coming off the beach to cheer us on.
What advice would you give any future first-time riders?
It’s a long tour, so conserve your energy as much as you can. You’ll be grateful for it on the last few days. Eat and drink as much as you can and sleep on transfers. It makes time go a lot faster and also gives you more energy.
What would you pack in your Giro survival kit, knowing what you know now?
iPod is essential. Perfect way to switch off from everything that’s happening around you. I listened to music at night to fall asleep. Also a pillow for sleeping in the car 👍 sweets or chocolate for a nice treat at night as well 🙊
What will you do next? Any more races? What are your goals for the rest of the year?
I’ll spend the next few days resting then get back into training. It was tiring just walking around the supermarket today so think I need a lot more sleep haha.
I’m waiting to see what my next race is from the team as they wanted to see how I went in the Giro before they planned ahead. My next goal would be to make the selection for the World Championships 😁
Read Jessie’s Q&A after Stage 3 – and find out more about her on her website. Follow her adventures on her twitter, and give a big thank you on her behalf (and maybe a donation too!) to the Dave Rayner Fund for supporting her.
All my 2015 Giro Rosa coverage, including the daily collection of videos and photos, is here, and you can read and listen to my other recent interviews here. I’m able to do my women’s cycling writing thanks to the generosity of my Patreon supporters, who I appreciate endlessly!