Australian Tiff Cromwell was the beneficiary of a change in tactics from Canyon-SRAM, after teammate Barbara Guarischi placed fifth on the previous day's stage of the Giro Rosa, as she won her first race since the 2013 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Lovere. The victory was also Canyon-SRAM's first in the inaugural Women's WorldTour season and eighth of the season.
"We changed it around a little and Ronny (Lauke) gave me the opportunity to sprint. That wasn't saying we were 100% going for a sprint and closing everything down. If a good breakaway went then we would also support that," said Cromwell of her stage win over Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Lensworld-Zannata) and Aude Biannic (Poitou-Charentes.Futuroscope.86).
"It was really fast and a lot of fighting. I had the whole team with me and everyone pitched in to the lead out. We just tried to control it and keep the pace really high. We started quite early but our team could maintain the speed and it was less stressful for me than having to fight everyone to stay on the wheels of my team. The girls were still leading until under 1km to go and I still had Trixi (Worrack) with me," she said of the final kilometres.
"We started to get swamped slightly and got pushed back a little bit but I saw some room on the right and then saw Chloe (Hosking) starting her sprint so I thought we must've been closer to the line. As I started my sprint I looked up and saw 200m to go and though uh oh!! I've gone too early....!. But I had a lot of speed and I couldn't see anyone coming around me. Only in the last 50m I could feel people near me, but I threw at the line and when I crossed it I knew I had won. It felt so awesome! After the girls did such an amazing job I was really happy I could pay them back with this victory."
Cromwell started 2016 with top-ten results in seven of her first nine races with third place at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad an early-season highlight. Sixth place in the Giro Rosa prologue suggested Cromwell would be a rider to watch in the sole women's grand tour on the calendar and explained that when the opportunity was presented, she took it with both hands to claim the victory.
"I don't really consider myself a sprinter but more a jack of all trades," she said. "I can fight in bunch sprints to hold my ground. I know I have a bit of a kick too at times but it's more I knew my form was good coming into the Giro Rosa. I showed yesterday with my role in the lead out for Barbara that I'm strong and it was just nice to have the opportunity today from the team. It just gives me more confidence now."
There was added significance to Cromwell's victory, coming four year's on from her first stage win at the race and the day before her 28th birthday.
"It's really special to add a second Giro Rosa stage win to my palmares," she said. "It's a special race and this win is so different to my win in 2012. It's certainly put a smile on my face and as I said before to have the team believe in me and give me full support to help make it happen means a lot. For me personally it's been a really long time since my last victory so to get it at the Giro Rosa makes it even sweeter and a nice early present before my birthday tomorrow."
Having enjoyed her early-birthday day present, Cromwell's birthday will be a tough day in the saddle as the race takes in the Mortirolo climb before finishing in Tirano.