When Valentina Scandolara (Alé Cycling) pulled on the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic leader’s jersey on Monday in Geelong, she decided she would quite like to keep it. Australia’s premiere criterium series was down to three days, compared to its usual four, which worked in Scandolara’s favour. The Italian had one less defence to mount, and she was the defending champion on the stage two Portarlington course.
“At the beginning of the series, of course I knew Orica-Scott would be really strong,” Scandolara told reporters, including Cyclingnews. “I wanted to go for some wins and see what happens. I won the first one. First time in four years that I wear the jersey, so I’m like ‘well, let’s try it.’”
“Last year I slipped to third [from second] on the last stage, but I was going for the stage wins because Orica was all over the place," Scandolara added. "I never really went for the series. This year, winning the first stage, I wanted to."
Isolated from her teammates by a powerful ORICA-Scott out for redemption following a stage one blunder, Scandolara could only manage sixth place in Portarlington on stage two. The result kept her in yellow but narrowed her advantage to only two points over stage two winner Amanda Spratt.
Heading into stage three, five riders were in for a chance of stealing the jersey off Scandolara’s back.
Strong support from Scandolara’s Alé teammates set Scandolara up the overall victory. Ellen Skerritt represented in the breakaway while La Course winner Chloe Hosking gave Scandolara a well-executed lead-out.
“In cycling, you need to be strong, have a great team and of course ride smart,” said Scandolara, following her fourth place finish. “Today we did that as Alé Cycling. With the help of my teammates in the bunch – Chloe Hosking, Haley [Jones], everyone else – I was in a good position for the sprint, and I won the bunch sprint to secure the jersey. That’s the best thing.”
Teaming up with Ale' but no Santos Women's Tour
While Scandolara will race for the WM3 Pro Cycling in Europe, she represented Alé Cycling in Australia. The Italian apparel brand is based in Verona, next door to Scandolara’s hometown. She approached the company to put together a composite team for the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic last summer.
“Since Alé is from my town in Italy, I looked for them last year when I needed support at Bay Crits,” said Scandolara. “This year they organised a team for SuperCrits and Bay Crits. It’s really good for me to have a brand that comes from my town where I live.”
Proudly representing Italy, Scandolara enjoys honourary Australian status. She raced for Orica-AIS (now Orica-Scott) in 2014-2015 and has spent the last four European winters training in Australia’s sunshine. Scandolara’s thrice lined up for the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic, missing out only in 2015, the year she won the inaugural Santos Women’s Tour.
Following stage three in Williamstown, Scandolara posed for photos with both an Australian and Italian flag. Asked how much of her is Italian and how much is Australian, she quickly answered: “Fifty-fifty. I love Australia. There is a relationship. We love each other, I think.”
The relationship becomes a long distance one sooner than Scandolara would have hoped. Following the Australian National Road Championships, Scandolara returns to Europe. Her team missed out on an invitation for the Santos Women’s Tour.
“It was the plan [to race Santos Women’s Tour] but I don’t know what happened with the organisation and we’re not there anymore,” said Scandolara. “I’ll cheer at Nationals and then I go back to camp in Spain.”