Just before she won Stage 3 of the fantastic Bay Crits, I interviewed Italian star Valentina Scandolara, about her Australian adventures, setting up her own Aussie team, escaping in the 2015 Road Worlds, and what she’s hoping for from 2016, including with her new team, Cylance Procycling. You can listen to that interview here, but because she’s so much fun, I’ve written it up as well.
ProWomensCycling: You’ve been having a fun time in Australia – you were all over the podium in various races before Christmas, and now you’re racing in the Bay Crits.
Vale Scandolara: I always try to have fun, with cool people, and nice places, and races to do. I did some races before Christmas. I was focusing on training, and I went to these races with the Roxsolt team, and Carlee Taylor and Julie Leth, and some other Australians and New Zealanders, and it was lots of fun. I saw some new places, like Bright, in the mountains in Victoria, and it was amazing. Not quite Italy, but it was quite amazing!
PWC: I saw from your twitter that you’ve been forcing yourself to endure the horrors of the beach too
Vale: It’s very hard – you have to work on your tan-lines, but I’m coping!
And then I had the chance to organise a team, Alé Cycling, for the Bay Crits. It was very nice for me, I got in contact with my ex-sponsor when I was in Alé-Cipollini, Alé clothing in Italy, and they got in contact with Alé Australia, and they were really interested in my proposal to make a team for Bay Crits, so I called some girls. Carlee Taylor was supposed to race with us, but she was sick and is resting before Nationals, so I’m sorry she’s not here, but we’re having a fair bit of a laugh as well.
PWC: It must be very exciting to be able to do that – to say “I want to race” and be able to make that happen
Vale: I was really proud. Also because it’s a brand from my town, so to be able to wear it on the start line in Australia is really special for me. And to get to choose the girls who are racing with me is amazing. We make a really good group, and we already raced two criteriums, with two to go, and I’m really enjoying it.
PWC: So who’s on the team with you?
PWC: Last time you were down here racing the Bay Crits, you were racing with ORICA-AIS, and they’re the biggest Australian team, so what’s it like, racing against them?
Vale: It’s really weird, actually, and it’s a bit sad, to see someone with my jersey, and having to chase, but I made this choice, and I’m really happy I made it, and I needed it. I still love my ex-team-mates, and the people I met on the way. Now I’m seeing it’s really different racing against them, especially in Australia where of course they’re the biggest team and they smash the race. They keep attacking, and they have numbers, and really good riders, but I’m having fun trying to beat them!
PWC: It’s a strange thing, in the Aussie races, because you have such big teams like ORICA and the High5 Dream Team, and then teams like yours, which have only raced together once or twice – that makes it an interesting dynamic.
Vale: We work really well, for a team that’s just got together. And you know what? At the end of last year I got to race with with some Mixed Teams, and I found out sometimes a Mixed Team is way better than a normal team, when you find the right people, and the atmosphere is great, and you win races and you are really positive, you are in a really energising environment. It sounds strange, because it’s people who just come together to race, but sometimes the atmosphere that it creates is really great. I wouldn’t have believed it before trying it, but it’s true.
And also we knew each other before the races, here, and that’s why I wanted these people with me. So it’s an amazing time, and that’s what it’s all about for me
PWC: Last season, it felt like your second half of the season was much better, once you had that podium on Stage 3 at the Giro Rosa, you were all over the podiums, in all kinds of races, with all kinds of teams. Did that feel good to be hitting that again?
Vale: Last year I probably made some mistakes in my preparation. I really trained hard during the winter, to be able to be strong during the Spring, to be able to help Emma Johansson, but then I basically burned out when I thought it was my moment to get results. I really wanted to be good in the European Championships in Baku, and the Giro, and National Championships, but I was just too tired.
In the Giro I got this podium, yes, but it was not expected. It was a sprint in a breakaway, but I was not feeling good in this period, so after that I went to altitude, and I had to reset everything. I was starting to think about changing environments for this year, and that was really heavy on me. Livigno was really important for me, to relax, and train well, and rest a little bit as well. And when I came down from Livigno, I was really strong and I could get some podiums in the Tour of Norway. I was feeling in really good shape at the end of the year, and at the Tour de l’Ardèche and Giro Toscana, I had really good times, and the World Championships was one of the best races I ever did, not in terms of results, but in terms of how I was feeling. So I really understood this year that mind is the first thing, and it’s where everything begins.
PWC: In the World Championships, when you and Lauren Kitchen were away in the final breakaway, I was just yelling at my television for you two both. I loved that you were in the break and other girls were giving up, but you two didn’t, you were going to die trying. How did that feel?
Vale: It felt amazing, and I have to say that I was really thinking we would get the jersey and the silver medal, because I thought the group was far away. It was like a replay of our Junior World Championships, me and Lauren, and we joked about it. Then the Dutchies decided to close the breakaway, and of course they helped Lizzie Armitstead. Lizzie was absolutely the strongest in the race, but she was without team-mates at this point, so I don’t know why they helped her so much! She was the one who deserved the World Championships, let’s be honest, but it was an interesting tactic!
But when I crossed the finish-line, lots of people were saying “I’m so sad for you, it’s a shame”, and I was like “People, why? I’m so happy!”. I wouldn’t change anything, I would do everything I did in that race again. It was just not meant to be, I’m happy, I’m just super-inspired by my race.
PWC: And you made it such a good race as well. The women’s peloton always makes Worlds a very good race, but it was so exciting. Like you say, great for the British that the Dutch helped Lizzie out so much!
Vale: I think that! Of course they had Anna den van Breggen and lots of strong people, but to chase the breakaway like that instead of attacking a single person is a risk, you know. They decided to take that risk, and it was bad. I hope for them it’s better next time, but I also hope it’s better for Italy next time!
PWC: I always love watching the Italians race worlds, because it very much feels like the Italian team doesn’t care who wins, as long as she’s wearing the Italian jersey
Vale: It’s our strength, because we don’t have the strongest individuals, but for sure we have the most competitive team, and when we have a tactic we follow it, and that’s the strength of the national team.
PWC: You have such a problem, the Italians and the Dutch and maybe the Americans, because in any other country you’d definitely be going to the Olympics, but you have so many good riders – is it something you’re thinking about, getting to Rio?
Vale: Of course. In Italy and Holland it’s so difficult to get into the selection, because so many people are strong. In my view, there aren’t enough spots, because you go to the Olympics and 60-70 people are racing, and to me, that’s not a normal race. You have much more talent in the peloton that deserves to go the the Olympics.
But of course it’s my dream to go, and and it’s my target for this year, to get selected, and that’s also why I came down to Australia to train, because I would like to have some good results at the beginning of the season. The Spring is difficult for me, those races are not what my body likes the most, so I hope I will be good in the beginning of the season, so I can relax a little bit, train a lot in the Spring, and of course race, but race without the stress of having to have a result. And then to be good again in June and July, and to make the selection. So it will be difficult, but I’m sure we will have a great team for the Olympics, whoever will go.
PWC: And I’m sure Italy will be one of the teams to watch, whoever’s there, and I’m sure you’ll make the racing exciting, like you always do.
So you’ve got your new team, Cylance, how are you feeling about that?
Vale: I’m really excited. When I was choosing which team I would be racing for in 2016, I was looking at a lot of teams, but Cylance was really exciting for me because it’s a new project and I like how they’re building the team. Omer Kem, the team manager, and Manel Lacambra, the Directeur Sportif, are choosing the people not only for their performance on the bike, but for their characters as well.
So we are a team with a small number of riders, but they want to create this core group, and then in the next years, just add people when the group dynamic is good for us. The aim is not to change too many people during the years, to keep the group really going well together. And that’s what I really like
And also speaking with Manel and Omer, I really like their plans for us, because they want us to develop, and for me to take more responsibilities as a team leader, and I was really looking for that, and I think it was time to try something like that, to try to go to some races to try to actually win them.
And then also, what I really appreciate about the Cylance Procylcling Team is that Omer Kem was a professional himself, but then he managed a men’s team, and last year he got involved with a small women’s American team, totally by chance, and he told me that when he went to the races, he told me he saw an environment that is really really growing, and lots of people show interest in that, and he was really amazed. He thinks men’s cycling has reached a plateau and isn’t growing any more, whereas women’s cycling is really growing, and he wanted to invest in that, and to create a really good team – and that’s why Cylance was born. And I hope this will develop into a really strong team.
PWC: Exciting! You’re down in Australia, in a house full of cyclists – what’s going on there?
Vale: We got accommodation for Bay Crits, and it’s my team, Alé Cycling, plus Kimberley Wells, who came for a coffee. She won Stage 2 yesterday, so if she wins today, I’m going to say it’s because of my Italian coffee! It’s always a bit messy and noisy, and laughter – it’s really fun, I love this environment!
Vale: Of course! First of all, it will be my first race with Cylance, so I’m really forward to meeting everybody. They fly to Adelaide on the 12th of January, and I’m really looking forward for them to come.
At the moment I’m in Melbourne, so I will finish Bay Crits, then go and watch some friends in the National Championships, then fly back to Adelaide, and stay some days with Nettie Edmondson, and then I meet my team. First of all, it’s the first race with the new group, and of course I won it last year, and I would really like to try to win it this year as well – or do well, it’s a race I really care for.
Vale: We can’t do the Cadel Road Race, because we’re on a team camp in California, but then we will ride Qatar.
PWC: So when will you get to go back home to Italy?
Vale: Well, my travel plan is… “active”, I’d say! From Australia I fly to California for seven days, then I get to go back home to Italy for three days, and then Qatar, and then I go back with the National team to Colombia straight away. So it’s really busy. I don’t know how I will cope with so much jet lag change. It will be tough!
PWC: Five continents in a month, that’s impressive!
Vale: It sounds crazy, but we’ll see!
PWC: And a final question – are you going to be making more videos this year? Because we loved them last year!
Vale: I’m working on that! I have a new programme and I’ve been a bit lazy learning to use it, but I promise I will do my best. I want to do more videos.
Make sure you follow Vale on her adventures with her twitter and instagram, and keep an eye on her YouTube for the very best rider-made videos out there. And for more Vale, read her Q&As after she came second on Giro Rosa Stage 3, listen to my longer interview with her from last January. Vale’s 2016 team is Cylance – make sure you check out their website, and follow their instagram and twitter too.
Watch Vale win Bay Crits Stage 3, and talk about it after the stage:
Catch up with all the news, photos and action from the Bay Crits so far on the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic website, and video highlights on SBS Cycling Central – and follow the last stage with the #BayCrits hashtag, and via the @SummerOfCycling twitter, who’ll also be keeping us updated on the Santos Women’s Tour. There’s a lot more information about the Aussie January races in this podcast with Monique Hanley.
I’m funded to do these interviews thanks to my wonderful Patreon supporters – thank you so much! If you want to join them from just $2 a month, there’s more information here.