Photo © Rapha
“The team believed in me, it gave me super motivation and I am really happy to have repayed their belief in my ability” Tiffany Cromwell had a smile on her face at the end of the 11th edition of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Gent, Belgium.
Finishing 3rd in this prestigious classic once again proved that Tiff is enjoying a strong start to her important 2016 campaign. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is a race that Tiffany has fond memories of, having taken a victory in 2013 from a two up sprint against Megan Guarnier, “It was a weird race today. My CANYON//SRAM teammates Trixi, Lisa, Alexis, Barbara and Alena really looked out for me today. There’s a great atmosphere in this team and we really ride for each other. We talk, we work out what to do and again our plan came together with a podium finish. But the race was strange, it took a long time to really split up. Maybe it was the wind and perhaps the headwind played a large part in how the race evolved. The Paterberg created an initial selection but then the race came back together. It wasn’t until the Molenberg when the race split again and the stretches of cobbles later played their usual part in whittling down the front selection.”
Tiffany reflected on her form and feelings during the 123.8km tough race, “I felt good initially. But at times I wasnt super on top of it. There were attacks on the Cote de Trieu that I was able to go with, but my legs were feeling heavy at that point. I didn’t have a great climb on the Paterberg but then my legs came around again. It just shows the ebb and flow of your body in a race. When Lizzie went away she kind of just rode off the front and there was a moment of indecision in our group of 10 at the time. You can’t let the World Champion ride away, but we did. When she realised she had a gap then she attacked and went for it. Gracie Elvin bridged across to her and I knew I should’ve jumped across too, but at the moment Gracie went I was boxed in on the left side of the road. At times we could see the two of them ahead of us, but when Lizzie went it alone that was game over!”
The run into the finish let Tiffany deal with the pressure of being team leader. “Lisa worked so hard, then Alexis helped too. Your mindset has to really focus. I was just thinking s**t, I have to finish this off! This team have laid it on the line for me today and I wanted to pay them back for their hard work. The finish of a classic is always messy, very little control from any one team and right up until 500m to go I was still stuck in the middle of the ‘washing machine’. I managed to find a gap to get out right as Leah Kirchmann (Liv-Plantur) launched her sprint. When I saw the 150m to go sign on the slight uphill to the finish I came off the wheel and gave it my all to the finish line. Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) just overhauled me, but to end up on the podium in a classic is a great feeling!”
This podium gives the CANYON//SRAM team another good result to add to that of Trixi Worrack in Qatar. “Its funny,” said Tiff “the classics have always been the assumed achilles heel of this group who have been racing together in the past few years and we have struggled in the early season for results. But not this time. We are so happy to have this momentum and I hope it will continue throughout the entire Spring.”
On Sunday the team backed up with the UCI 1.1 Omloop het van Hageland which finished in a bunch kick with Tiffany the highest finisher for the team in 10th. “It was tough mentally backing up after Het Nieuwsblad the following day, but it was a good two day block of hard Spring racing to get in the legs. The race itself was a little bit more low key for our team, it was an aggressive race and we were amongst all of the moves and in the end the team told me to do the sprint. It wasn’t my best sprint but it was good to get another top 10 result off the back of yesterday.”
This is the start of a busy and important phase of the 2016 season for Tiffany. She now heads to Tuscany with the team for a training camp and the first UCI Women’s World Tour event, Strade Bianche on Saturday.