With a silver medal at the 2015 European Games and the overall win at Euskal Emakumeen Bira under her belt, Katarzyna Niewiadoma is targeting a stage win at the upcoming Giro Rosa. The Rabo-Liv rider has concluded her preparations at the Polish national championships and is setting her mind on the only Grand Tour on the UCI’s Elite Women calendar.
Niewiadoma, 20, will line up alongside world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Anna van der Breggen in Italy and will support their bid to win another overall title for the Dutch team. Marianne Vos won the Giro Rosa for the team last year but is out with injury for 2015.
Niewiadoma only recently got a chance to shine in top races, securing some of her career best results last month. Vos still recovering from injury and Ferrand-Prevot also sidelined by health problems, the Polish climber took the driving seat of the Rabo-Liv team in Spain last month, winning Euskal Emakumeen Bira (2.1) and confirming herself as one of peloton’s best climbers.
“Winning a race like Bira was a completely new experience,” Niewiadoma said during a rest day at the national championships. “It gave me a huge boost of confidence. It was great to ride and realize that the whole team is working for you. Girls and staff supported me all the time and that really motivated me to fight for the jersey.”
Niewiadoma sealed the overall win after four days of battling for every inch on short and steep ascents of the Basque Country. With no time bonuses on the finish line, she managed to hold on to the yellow jersey in the final classification, closely edging Asleigh Moolman Pasio (Bigla) and Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS).
The tiny Polish climber didn’t have time to celebrate as she left Bilbao and flew directly to Baku to lead the white-red Polish squad at the European Championships. Just days after winning Basque txapela, she rode to a silver medal in the elite women’s road race, sprinting to the line behind Belarus’ Alena Amialiusik.
“This year I race more and I definitely train more,” Niewiadoma. “I’m getting stronger and I really apply myself to every detail of my preparations. It pays off so much.”
Despite being only 20, Niewiadoma is already looking forward to the Giro Rosa. Eleventh overall last year, she has marked the Italian Grand Tour as one of her key races this year and is looking forward to gaining new experience.
“Giro will be much harder than last year,” she said. “There are more mountain stages and there is a really tough time trial. It doesn’t look so scary if you look at the profile but our directeur sportif checked the route and it’s different to what the picture says. It’s really hard.”
With Ferrand-Prevot and van der Breggen spearheading the Rabo-Liv outfit, Niewiadoma is well aware of her position on the team, capabilities and limitations in arguably the toughest race on the calendar.
“Pauline had an injury but she’s getting back to the right shape. It’ll be hard for her during the first days but once she jumps back to the race mode, she’ll be one of the strongest,” Niewiadoma said, picking two teammates as favourites to win the penultimate stage.
With four stages tackling climbs in the Alps, Niewiadoma is mostly concerned about getting a stage win – something she feels she missed in Spain.
“I hope… no, hope isn’t going to ride on its own, I’d love to win a stage at Giro Rosa. To be honest, I’m thinking more about the stage win than about places in the general classification,” she admitted.
The Giro Rosa route offers two mountain top finishes – the15km climb to Aprica on stage 5 and the final ascent to San Domenico di Varzo on the last day of racing.
“The time trial is very tough and it will have a big impact on the general classification,” Niewiadoma said. “I’m not a great time-triallist, you know. I prefer to think that I’ll give it my best but there is no pressure whatsoever for the overall result.”
Niewiadoma tested herself in fight against the clock only once this year, last week winning silver in the elite time trial during the national championships. She finished second to Eugenia Bujak (BTC City Ljubljana) on a pancake flat 22km long route, but the result was not her main concern.
“I was shocked when I saw the prize table,” she said. “It was a very nice surprise to see equal money prizes in both men and women races at national championships.”
Winners in the elite category received prize money of 5000 zloty, equivalent of around 1190 euro. With world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) both taking part in the national championships, the event received more media and sponsor attention. Local organisers have been supported by the Tour of Poland organiser, Czeslaw Lang and national television, however, due to technical difficulties the live coverage was not provided.