“It was a typical day in Belgium. But I felt confident. I knew heading into the European racing season my form was good. I wasn’t able to show it in the opening race – the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, after a costly error that I made at a critical point in the race. As a team we were determined to show that we are strong together, and wanted to iron out the creases of where it didn’t quite come together in the first races.” Tiffany Cromwell had a great day in Le Samyn des Dames last week as she finished in 3rd place after a long breakaway of 5 riders. She demonstrated that her form was there, that she had enjoyed a good block of training in Australia and that she is ready for the classics.
Tiffany was one of the riders in CANYON//SRAM racing highlighted to be there in the closing stages of Le Samyn but the team took a different approach to the race. “We decided with our new team director Barry Austin to take control. Le Samyn isn’t as big as the other races during the Spring period, but it’s still hard, it’s still stressful and everyone is still racing to win. We collectively decided that this was a race to try new things, to make things happen and to not wait or be dictated by other teams tactics. The plan worked out and it gave the team real confidence going into the start of the UCI Women’s World Tour last weekend.”
The long breakaway was perfect for Tiff. “Hannah and I were saved for the closing laps. As we went into the last cobbled section at the end of the first circuit, I was second behind Jessy Druyts of Sport Vlaanderen. As we came off the section I looked behind and we had a gap. More riders joined the break making it Jessy Druyts, Romy Kasper, Amy Pieters, Sheyla Gutierrez and me in the lead. It was a good combination of riders with most of the big teams represented, we all combined to try to make it stick. There was no one messing around, we just got on with it. Now and then Jessy had to sit on as you could tell she was suffering in the break, but it didn’t interrupt the cohesion amongst the rest of us.”
The breakaway hovered at 1 min, 1 min 30 for a long time. “The only thing that surprised me was that Wiggle-High 5 didn’t chase early enough, as they were the biggest team without a rider in the break but I guess they didn’t have any other team to really help them.”
As the race neared its conclusion, Tiffany had one chat to her team director. “We talked about the finish. We discussed whether I should attack on the short climb with 6km to go, but it was a tailwind so we decided not to and that I would go for the sprint. We knew the break was going to stay away by this point and as we hit the last sector I was concerned mostly about Amy and Sheyla.”
Tiff used her experience in the run in. “I felt fresh and confident. I made sure that I didn’t do what I usually do and try to show that I’m the strongest in the break by doing too much! I did my share, without killing myself, knowing I had 5 good teammates behind who could try to win if we got brought back.”
After a great race, Tiff was left wondering what might have been however. “I am really pleased with my podium, but what many people didn’t know is that I had a slow puncture in the final 1.5 kilometre. I first felt like I may have a puncture along the last cobbled sector and once off the cobbles I confirmed that my wheel was losing air. It was on the front, so I knew immediately that I wouldnt be able to sprint properly. It was also too late to change as if I changed the wheel then I wouldn’t have made it back, it was still rideable so I tried to nurse it to the finish.” Tiffany sprinted as well as she could to take a confidence boosting 3rd place behind winner Sheyla Gutierrez of Cylance. “It was great to be in a break that went to the finish. Sometimes, you just need to race your bike. It’s easy to stress about all the small details in big races, but this showed that sometimes you need to get up, get ready and go and race and not overthink everything.”
Tiff now heads into the UCI Women’s World Tour and the upcoming big Spring classics races with good morale. “This reassured me. It gave us all confidence. Make the moves, be in the race, be a bike racer!”