The 2020 Giro Rosa is Teniel Campbell’s first. Sitting outside of her team bus on the morning of stage 5, the rider from Trinidad and Tobago looked relaxed, smiling and laughing with her Valcar-Travel&Service teammates as they prepared for the race.
The 22-year-old sprinter and powerful time triallist showed a lot of potential in 2019 and carried her form over to the beginning of the 2020 season before COVID-19 curtailed the cycling season.
Campbell described the period of isolation during the lockdown in Italy, where she lives, as ‘difficult’ saying, “having to spend quarantine two months alone was really challenging, especially the last two weeks were really cracked and all hell broke loose.
“Coming out of quarantine it didn’t get easier for me because things went back to a ‘new normal’ but I’m away from the family, I couldn’t go home, they couldn’t come to me so it was a complete mess.”
Such was the need for support that Campbell returned to her former base, the World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland.
“I needed a reset so for me the closest thing to family was in Aigle at the World Cycling Centre” she said. "So I went back.
“I spent time with my former teammates because they were like my sisters. I was around them for like two years and that really helped and I think that’s why now I started enjoying the bike again and feeling good so I’m really happy for that and to really have that support from the centre.”
Return to racing
Refreshed and re-energised after her period in Switzerland, Campbell returned to racing in July and August before crashing out of Strade Bianche.
After also racing La Course the week before, the 22-year-old was happy to be racing again at the Giro Rosa and appeared to be taking the longest stage race on the women’s calendar in her stride.
“I’m here for experience because it’s my first Giro Rosa,” she said. “I know about stage racing and I know it’s hard mentally and physically but it’s a learning process, and doing [Tour de l'Ardeche] and now the Giro Rosa - it’s two different races with the Giro Rosa being faster and more aggressive.”
The Valcar-Travel and Service rider seemed happy with her race up to this point. "So far so good, I thought it would have been worse,” she said. “As the days go by I learn something every single day, for sure I am starting to understand the importance of staying calm, this really helps because the moment you panic is the moment that it’s finished.
“I’m here to learn and I’m learning, sometimes the hard way as well but it’s good for development and for the future.”
The Italy-based rider reiterated the value of returning to her cycling roots at the WCC. “I think if I didn’t go to Switzerland maybe I wouldn’t be ‘enjoying’ the Giro right now because in a stage race you need to enjoy the moment as well as suffer,” she said. "So I’m really happy that I’m getting the opportunity to go the centre and to them for also giving me the support.”
There are a few opportunities for sprinters in this year’s Giro, with fewer mountainous days than in past editions, Campbell has said stage 2 into Arcidosso and stage 4, the longest stage of the tour at 170km, into Assisi were long but that her legs are feeling good.
“Stage 2 had lots of elevation, yesterday wasn’t so bad except for the GPM where they went full gas but I had good feelings,” she said. "A lot of people were paying attention to which sprinters were getting over the climbs, because I was for sure, so I pretty much think they are thinking the same.
“Unfortunately I had a mechanical close to the finish and I was pretty much out of it then.”
Asked if she was confident ahead of stage 5 she said, “so far it’s hard to say, I must again go through the motions because yeah, for me, for the past couple of stages, the first hour or so is the most difficult for me to find a proper rhythm so I’m just hoping that today I find my rhythm quickly because it’s a short stage and I think it’s going to be really fast. It’s important to really suffer quickly and find the rhythm and hope for the best in the finish.
“The motive is first to get over the climbs and then we’ll see what happens in the finish.”
Alluding to her crash at Strade Bianche having affected her confidence she said, “it’s going to come down to how bad I want it and how much fear comes over in that moment.”
Unfortunately, for her chances on this particular stage 5, the Valcar-Travel & Service rider suffered a puncture on the final climb leaving her out of contention for the sprint finish won by Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv).
After returning to Switzerland, where the World Championships were due to be hosted this year, Campbell had her sights on targeting that race for the Trinidad and Tobago team.
The subsequent change of location to Imola, Italy, doesn’t seem to have affected her target. “I’m still pretty much excited for the World Championships,” she said. “I’ve been working really hard and I feel my good legs coming again after a really, really difficult period, which is a good sign.”
Campbell still has ambitions for the individual time trial, too. “I’m still fingers-crossed for a top 10 in the time trial.”
She also has one eye on the road race. “I’m not giving up hope for the road race, I’m just going to send it and see what happens because it’s road racing, you never know what happens so it’s always good to keep positive and to continuously think positive.
“I feel confident because I can feel that my legs are coming back, and the form is returning to how they were originally at the beginning of the season
Looking further into the future, to next years Olympic Games, where she qualified a place for Trinidad and Tobago Campbell commented, “I qualified the spot but you know how federations are, it’s still up to them to make the final selection but in all respect it should be given to me.”
The young rider described how she is viewing the Olympics postponement as an opportunity for more preparation. "When the Olympics got cancelled I didn’t really panic or anything, I expected it to be honest, but for me I looked at it as an opportunity to develop and to be more prepared for next year, so it’s a good thing for me.”
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