Tiffany Cromwell shows sane side of pro cycling

©Valerie Chen/click! Photography

By Jody Chapman – Second Wind Magazine

October 26, 2016
“All cyclists are a bit weird,” a good friend of mine recently confessed to me. Both of us being keen pedal-pushers, no offence was meant and none taken. He was referring to amateurs, so by extension of his theory, professional, full-time cyclists should be crazy as a box of frogs. So when I was asked to interview Canyon//SRAM Racing rider Tiffany Cromwell I expected, as her name might suggest, a cross between a ‘80s pop-starlet and a marauding revolutionary.

In person, however, she appeared grounded, humble and entirely sane. Cromwell was in Singapore for a brief stop, on her way back to Australia from the 2016 UCI World Road Championships in Qatar. I caught up with her last Friday for a post-ride coffee with the Singapore chapter of the Rapha Cycling Club.

As often is the way cycling in the tropics, we had been caught in a deluge; I was dripping, unprepared and somewhat flustered, which left me apologising for my dishevelled appearance and unprepared demeanour. Cromwell, however, was in her element, having barely had to stretch her legs during a 30km warm-down ride around the traffic-light-studded parcours of Singapore. As you’d expect from someone representing sponsor Rapha, the rain had certainly not caused any loss of composure or appearance.

Cromwell has been based in Monaco and the nearby town of Cap-d’Ail on the French Riveria since 2011 and thrives in the expatriate community of professional athletes and sports stars in the locality. Monaco makes perfect sense for a cyclist where a coffee ride will usually consist of a col and a proper espresso. Having located there with her former partner and pro-rider she has found it impossible to move away from some of the best training grounds in the world.

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I throw the names of some of the renowned Monte Carlo residents at her and it sounds as if she’s thrashed most of them up the Col de La Madone, the most iconic of the many climbs that stand guard over the idyllic coastal communities on the Riveria.

“We train with some of the Formula One guys, so I try and leave town when the Grand Prix arrives …” evidently the temptation to party is too strong “… this year we scheduled altitude training in Aspen to coincide with the race,” Cromwell says.

There is no espoir category for women roadies, so riders go straight from ranked juniors to professionals and it can be a daunting prospect.

“All the [Canyon//SRAM Racing] team can perform most roles, there is no automatic GC so we all get the opportunity to be all-round riders, unlike the guys who will likely always ride in the same role, be that domestique, sprinter or climber. The emphasis is to have a well-balanced team rather than an outright leader who everybody races for,” Cromwell explains.

When it comes to the national team, things can be a little different.

“You go from racing with a trade team, where you have your different nationalities and your team tactics to a group of people who you haven’t raced with,” she says.

This lack of cohesion may explain Australia’s lukewarm results at the worlds in Qatar. One of the big favourites for the Women’s Elite Road Race was fellow Australian Chloe Hosking but she only managed seventh, losing out in a bunch sprint to an all-European podium (read our race report here).

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“The Dutch were too strong, no other team could get their train working, so we really lost out,” says Cromwell, who crashed with three laps to go, putting her out of contention and leaving her with some nasty road rash.

A professional female cyclist comes with the implicit responsibility of being an ambassador for the sport. Whereas most of the male pros are at liberty to be frosty, unapproachable and often prima donnasthere is no such freedom in the women’s side of the sport.

Cromwell not only represents her sponsors but the sport as a whole and she takes the role very seriously.

“It’s a two-way street; the more we open up to fans and engage with them, the more interest there is in the sport and the more women who take it up as a sport. We make a lot of effort with our social media and outreach to encourage the new generation of cyclists,” she says.

But, with a tinge of frustration, Cromwell adds, “in women’s racing, turning professional is not as clear-cut as it is with the guys.”

She started racing at a serious level in 2004 and has been representing Australia at different levels ever since. In 2012, she joined Orica AIS as a full-time road racer, and after two years there moved to Specialized-lululemon before switching to Canyon-SRAM for 2016. Her career highlights include stage wins in the 2012 and 2016 Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile and victory at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad classic in 2013.

Looking through Cromwell’s impressive palmarès, an Olympic appearance is conspicuous by its absence – but she is fully focussed on representing Australia on the road in the 2020 Tokyo Olympiad. Having started riding at the age of 12, Tokyo would mark 20 years as a cyclist and possibly her last chance of Olympic glory; although, in light of US rider Amber Neben’s recent incredible victory in the Women’s Elite Time Trial in Qatar aged 41, the Olympics in 2024 surely cannot be ruled out.

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Cromwell has no real plans for life beyond cycling but when time allows, she experiments with fashion design, a vocation she studied at finishing school. With the recent popularity in women’s technical sporting apparel there is a real opportunity to fuse her passions of cycling and fashion to create women’s cycling apparel designed for and by women – something that lululemon and Adidas have found to be an extremely successful formula in their running and yoga attire.

At the moment it’s difficult for Cromwell to find the time with a stacked race calendar and all-encompassing training schedule, but she doesn’t rule out a possible collaboration with sponsor Rapha.

Having spent little more than 24 hours in Singapore, Cromwell’s next stop was Melbourne to watch her friend Eugene Laverty race MotoGP at Phillip Island before heading home to Adelaide to see her family. She’s due back in Europe for a Majorca training camp in December before returning to Australia for Christmas. The first big Women’s pro race of 2017 is conveniently in Australia; the Santos Women’s Tour. A precursor to the men’s WorldTour level Santos Tour Down Under, it’s scheduled for January 14-17 in Adelaide.

After my somewhat surreal preconceptions of how a pro cyclist would interview I was captivated by Cromwell’s earnest responses and genuine love for the sport and her job. Even if my suspicions were raised initially by the ordering of a chai latte in lieu of a coffee, she assured me that it was an exception. Turns out she was a normal person after all.

Photos by Valerie Chen/click! Photography.

Original Article can be found here.

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