Cremona – Cremona (16.7km ITT)

Dutch national time trial champion Ellen van Dijk (Specialized-Lululemon) powered to victory to take the final stage of the 2013 Giro Rosa in Cremona. Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-Lululemon) made it a 1-2 for the team as our teammate Shara Gillow (Orica-AIS) gave us a podium finish, coming in 3rd.

Mara Abbott (USA National Team) comfortably held on to her lead in the overall classification to be crowned the 2013 Giro Rosa champion ahead of Tatiana Guderzo (MCippolini Giordana) and Claudia Hausler (Team Tibco).

With just 16.7km left to race in the final stage of the Giro it was time for the pure time trialists to have their day. The course was pancake flat with long straights, fast sweeping corners, wide-open roads, one hairpin bend and a nice little rough pave section for the last 300m to hurt the legs a little bit more. It had all the elements of a very fast course that would suit the girls with pure power.

The task for today was straightforward: go as hard as we could and give everything we had left, as there was nothing remaining to save ourselves for.

We arrived early and had plenty of time to get out on the course to do a lap and test out the conditions. This is always important so you can see the best lines to take, work out the areas where you can potentially gain or lose time and test out your equipment. More importantly it is also an opportunity to experience the wind conditions to help with your front wheel choice.

For me personally, the wheel choice is always a gamble. The choice was between a C50 and a C75 and being a smaller rider the deeper the front wheel, the harder it can be for me to handle if the wind picks up. You end up spending more energy fighting to control the front end than the gains of having the deeper wheel if it is too windy.

I opted for the C75 this time around as, being a non-technical course with so many straight faster sectors, it was an ideal wheel for the course and the wind conditions were holding ok for me to be able to handle it.

stage8

I had plenty of time to relax before I needed to warm up. Being high on GC I wasn’t off until later in the afternoon. As I was second overall in the mountains classification behind Abbott, the pink jersey wearer, I still wear the green jersey by default. This is so all the jerseys are on show.

I was hoping to get out of this one — on the road stages it is an advantage because it gives you a front row start but in a TT more often than not it is a slight disadvantage as the skinsuits the organisers provide are nowhere near as aerodynamic as the team ones. Regardless, a lovely green skinsuit was delivered to our warm-up area, so I had the pleasure of looking like a leprechaun for the final TT.

We also had another one of the ridiculous UCI rules fully enforced today where they decided to ban shoe covers in time trials. In most races so far this season the rule hasn’t been enforced but today, as with most of the race, the commissaries were very strict. We still have no idea what made them bring in this rule, but then again we do question many of the ideas and the rules the UCI have.

After a short and intense warm-up it was finally time to get down to business. Before the stage I knew I could potentially move up one place on GC as 11th was only 20 seconds ahead of me. If I had a super good ride 10th was reachable at 50 seconds, but it would take a big effort. The top 12 riders in a UCI 2.1 tour receive UCI world ranking points so every place higher brings extra valuable points.

Overall it was smooth sailing. I got off to a strong start and, as expected, it was very fast out on course. It was not a course that suited my strengths — I prefer a much more technical or hillier TT. It was important for me to try and push a big gear while holding good cadence to try and match the bigger, more powerful girls and limit my losses.

I was happy with my ride. My legs felt decent considering it was the end of an eight-day tour and I took the corners well and for the most part rode good lines. A couple of times I found myself riding through potholes but that was the fatigue setting in and the concentration drifting.

To be honest the TT did feel like a bit of a blur as I have no computer or power meter on my TT bike to focus on. Instead I ride just on feel and I think today I was more eager just to have it finished. In the last couple of kilometers the legs became heavier and I was happy to see the final kilometer and better yet the finish line as my body shook over the final few hundred meters of rough pave.

Ellen Van Dijk powers to victory on stage 8 of the Giro Rosa.

Ellen Van Dijk powers to victory on stage 8 of the Giro Rosa.

The course suited van Dijk down to the ground so I wasn’t surprised to see her take the win. It was a strong ride by Shara to give our team a podium result from the race and her effort was strong enough to move her up to finish 4th on the overall classification — a great result for her and the team.

In the end I managed to put in a strong enough effort to jump one spot to 11th overall in the final classification, by a mere 1 second, equaling my best overall result in the Giro. My goal was a top 10 so I was satisfied with the end result considering my preparation wasn’t the best coming into it.

Fighting a chest infection a week out from the start put a small spanner in the works. I just got over it in time and I was surprised that I was able to bounce back and have a strong Giro. To be honest I wasn’t overly confident in my form before the start.

The Giro remains highly ranked amongst my favourite races. It is a beautiful race with this year being no exception. Although we had long transfers, it was worth it for the diverse terrain and scenery we experienced throughout the race.

It was hard, fast and exciting racing and I was happy to see a number of different stage winners as opposed to a one-rider or one-team total domination. There were many laughs and a good ambiance within the team throughout the entire tour. I am lucky that I have a great group of teammates and staff to work with at Orica-AIS.

My personal highlights from the race would have to be the crowds on the opening stage, taking over the mountains classification for a day, and stage 3, despite its disappointing ending. To be in the winning move, testing my limits and then going on to battle Vos one-on-one gives me a lot of confidence for future races and my development as a cyclist. Perhaps next time I can battle her all the way to the finish line.

It was all capped off with my birthday celebrations with my teammates. The amazing surprise birthday cake topped with a pink Vespa that my parents had organised from back in Australia put the icing on the cake, so to speak.

The final podium in the 2013 Giro Rosa: Mara Abbott (1st, centre), Tatiana Guderzo (2nd, left) and Claudia Hausler (3rd, right).

The final podium in the 2013 Giro Rosa: Mara Abbott (1st, centre), Tatiana Guderzo (2nd, left) and Claudia Hausler (3rd, right).

So, that is Giro Rosa 2013 done and dusted. Number 6 ticked off for me as I have competed and completed every Giro since 2008 and I’m sure there are many more to come. Now I will enjoy a short mid-season break and then focus on the second half of the season and the major goal: the world road championships in Florence.

Thanks for taking the time to follow the race and I hope you have enjoyed my reports and views from within the peloton.

We’d like to say a big thank you to Tiff Cromwell for taking the time to write a report for us after each stage of the race. Follow the link to see the full results from stage 8 of the 2013 Giro Rosa. To see Tiff’s reports from previous stages in the race, click the following the links: stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, stage 4, stage 5, stage 6 & stage 7.

Tiff’s teammate Gracie Elvin has also blogging about the Giro Rosa and you can read her great reports here.