Tiffany Cromwell has underlined that Canyon-SRAM are heading towards the Tour de France Femmes with an open mind, realistic goals, and more than one card to play across the eight day race.
The team will take Kasia Niewiadoma as their designated general classification leader, but the experienced Australian believes the team’s strength lies in the depth of riders and multiple options in their six-woman team.
“We do have a two-pronged attack,” Cromwell said. “We have Kasia, but we also have Pauliena [Rooijakkers] . I’m there as a support rider and to be the road captain to try to keep the team together, so for sure I will be looking out for Kasia and Pauliena a bit closer.
“We all know the strength of Annemiek [Van Vleuten], and she will be very hard to beat one-on-one, but if you have a couple of cards to play, it’s always better. If you can go in with two options, it just allows for a lot more flexibility.”
Though the overall is the ultimate prize in the Tour, there are many other ways to win across the eight days of racing, and Canyon-SRAM will be looking to take any opportunities they can.
“We have so many strong riders who are each strong in different ways, so for sure we’re going to target stage wins, and other classifications: the teams, the mountains,” Cromwell said. “Just about the only thing we can’t push for is the sprints because we’re not taking a sprinter. But for us, any opportunity to get onto the podium is really important for the team.”
Where Niewiadoma, Rooijakkers and Elise Chabbey will be the Canyon riders to watch in the mountains, the team are also aware that the GC contenders will need to be alert even on the seemingly straightforward sprint days, and this is a key responsibility for Cromwell.
“It’s really important for me to make sure I’m looking out for our leaders because those are the stages where you think ‘ah yeah, no worries, it’s whatever’ but then if you aren’t fully concentrated, there’s a couple of seconds gone, which could be the difference between first and second or third at the end.”
As well as assembling a strong team of riders, Cromwell believes that it’s the belief and confidence that comes with that which may make the difference at the Tour.
“It’s something that our team has suffered in the past, just not having that confidence,” she said. “And it’s probably been the reason why we haven’t had as big results as we know we’re capable of, but I believe that we should be confident going in.”
Whilst Cromwell has faith in the team, she is also keen to point out that their goals are realistic, particularly in the face of an on-form Van Vleuten (Movistar).
“I think we’re going in with an open plan, because we’re also realistic,” she said. “We have some strong cards for GC, but are we an out-an-out favourite? Probably on paper, no. Could we podium? Maybe, on a very very good Tour, that could be our goal. And of course in an incredible, ‘everything goes our way’ race, yes, we could win, but it’s about being realistic.”
However, as well as the racing, Cromwell is aware of the fact that the spectacle and the fanfare will bring with it a lot more than just riding for the riders to deal with. As the most experienced rider in the team, the Australian hopes to help her teammates navigate what will be the biggest race on the women’s calendar.
“A lot of the riders won’t have experienced everything that comes with [the Tour de France Femmes],” she said. “There’s so much more going on and I think that sometimes can get to riders if they don’t know how to stay focused on themselves and their little bubble. With the extra media requests and videos and everything it’s very easy for riders to get overwhelmed and distracted.
“So I think that will be partly my responsibility to stay with the girls and talk them through stuff like that, and how to not get distracted with it, because I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge going into the Tour.”
Matilda Price is a freelance cycling journalist and digital producer based in the UK. She is a graduate of modern languages, and recently completed an MA in sports journalism, during which she wrote her dissertation on the lives of young cyclists. Matilda began covering cycling in 2016 whilst still at university, working mainly in the British domestic scene at first. Since then, she has covered everything from the Tour Series to the Tour de France. These days, Matilda focuses most of her attention on the women’s sport, writing for Cyclingnews and working on women’s cycling show The Bunnyhop. As well as the Women’s WorldTour, Matilda loves following cyclo-cross and is a recent convert to downhill mountain biking.