Some of the most exciting moments of the Giro came from Vos' bike racing - from her spectacular crash-avoidance skills on Stage 2, to her three very different stage victories - the solo finish up to the beautiful Cerro al Volturno on Stage 3 after a long breakaway; the Flèche Wallonne-style group finish on Stage 4, and the perfectly-executed sprint finish on Stage 7. She may not have kept her maglia rosa once the race hit the mountains, but she and her Rabobank-Liv/giant team-mates
PdC: Now that it's over, how do you feel about the Giro?
Marianne: Well, it was one to remember for sure! The organisation was good, the stages were nice and it has been tough racing every day. Of course it was disappointing for me not to be good enough to race for the pink, but from the preparation before the race I knew already that it was going to be hard. My team and I still tried to go for it and we did everything we could to take time in the first stages. In the end we just have to admit that there were some better climbers this year and that Mara Abbott was outstanding.
I had a good time with my team Rabo-Liv/Giant and I'm happy that I could repay their trust in me with three stage wins and the beautiful 'Maglia Ciclamino'.
PdC: What were your favourite moments this year?
Marianne: The first moment that pops up in my mind was to see Elisa Longo Borghini smiling and waving to us beside the road in Ornavasso [Stage 6]. I felt so sorry for her after the crash; especially because she was so looking forward to this Giro. I know she's having a hard time, but she'll be back soon and strong!
My personal favourite moment must have been the stage win in Cerro al Volturno [Stage 3]. After being in the break all day I ended up in front with Tiffany Cromwell, and we just stayed ahead of the first chasing group. Actually I owe Tiffany the credit, because on the uphills she was definitely stronger. Unfortunately she fell in the final descent and so she couldn't benefit from her courageous riding. For me there was no other choice then to go on and try to ride solo to the finish. The last 'Mur' was hard and steep, but the satisfaction of victory was very big after such a hard stage.
PdC: I especially loved Stage 7 - it felt like you would have been as happy for Lucinda Brand to win as to win yourself! How does it feel when the plan works as well as that?
Marianne: When tactics work out so well with the team, that gives you the best feeling you can have from a race. We knew that it was going to be a fast stage with 8 pancake flat laps around Corbetta. The chance of a break staying away was small, so we talked about the bunch sprint in the meeting. Lucinda would do the lead-out and the other girls would keep us in front in the final lap. With a double corner around 400 meters to go, it was Lucinda's job to take it as first rider and make her own sprint from then on. I decided to wait to launch my sprint until the other sprinters passed, and so take advantage of Lucinda in the lead and the early sprint from the others. After two second places in the bunch sprints of stage 1 & 2 and losing the pink in the mountains, this was a great victory for me and the team!
PdC: What are your goals for the rest of the season? Will you have time off, now?
Marianne: My main focus will be on the World Championships in Florence from now on. First I will go back on the mountainbike for the World Cup in Vallnord at the end of this month and then I'll be back on road until the end of the season. Of course I will try to keep the lead in the World Cup road in Sweden and Plouay. I have a nice schedule of races and I'm looking forward to the last part of the season
PdC: Finally, how DID you stay up on Stage 2? That was such impressive bike handling, what was it like from your perspective?
Marianne: I had a prefect lead-out from my team to the last 200 meters and then I launched my sprint. The final straight was a little downhill, so the speed was really high. When I felt Giorgia Bronzini passing by, I made myself extra aerodynamic and small to stay in the lead. Suddenly, at 20 meters before the line I bumped into a hole and my back wheel came up. I saw myself already flying across the finish line, but luckily I could pull my bike back straight and then my wheels found the tarmac again. With the pull I unclipped my left foot, but that was alright after all.
With the adrenaline, at first I was disappointed about not taking the stage win, because it was still so close with Bronzini. Later I realised that I was very lucky not to have crashed with this speed and the bunch coming over.
It was a good automatic response for sure, but most of all I was just very lucky.
Lucinda Brand spent the race supporting Vos - getting into all the breaks with her and leading her out for the final sprint victory. It was also her first race in her new jersey, after she won the Netherlands National Road Championships with a 100km solo escape the week before the Giro - and the week she turned 24! Read her race updates on her website and follow her on twitter.
PdC: How was racing the Giro in your new national champion's jersey?
Lucinda: To wear the jersey for the first time in such a big race is really cool. In Italy cycling is so popular, so around the race there were some difference from other years. Actually, during the race most of the times I was so into the racing that I forgot that I’m the champ.
PdC: It seemed like you were Marianne's strongest support this year - escaping with her on Stages 3 and 6 - how did it feel, on Stage 3, when you were in that small group at the bottom of the descent? Did you know she could win it?
Lucinda: After the descent we where with 6 riders. We knew that it was a long way till the next climb and even longer to the finish. But it was a good opportunity to try. It was hard to do the work only with 3 or 4 riders and Marianne had to work as well, so it was not the best situation especially on the long straight road with headwind, to the non GPM climb. The teams behind were chasing fast, so I thought that they would get us back there. On the climb I dropped but actually that was better, because they could climb faster there. Almost on the top of that non GPM climb I was still hanging on the chasing group and saw the time differences - the gap was bigger so at that moment I knew the chance grew. So at the beginning our chance wasn’t so big, but like on my champion race, during the race the opportunities grew and with Marianne and Tiffany there were two motors in the lead.
PdC: I also loved the Rabobank Stage 7 tactics - such beautiful racing from you and Vos! Was that always the plan?
Lucinda: In stage 7 the chances of a bunchsprint where really big. During the race we passed the final a few times. We communicated about the last kilometers and decided that I had to go in to the corner as first and sprint as long as I could. That would be the best leadout. In the final kilometer Ellen van Dijk was making the speed and I was sitting in the third position. Just before the corner I came around and took the corner as fast as I could. I hadn’t looked back but it felt like I had a gap. Later I heard from Marianne where she was sitting just before the corner and that she couldn’t follow me in the corner so she took the wheel of Bronzini and had a perfect position there.
PdC: What were YOUR highlights of the Giro?
Lucinda: The wins of Marianne, my birthday (Stage 3) even though it might have been my toughest day and of course the nice atmosphere in the team and around the race!
PdC: And are there any moments you'd like to forget?
Lucinda: Of course there are moments to forget, but I think I have forgotten them already! ;-)
PdC: What are your ambitions for the rest of the season?
Lucinda: The biggest goal for the rest of the season are de Worlds Championships. We are working hard on our TTT and we have very strong riders, so its a big team goal. I’m looking forward to the TTT World Cup in Sweden to see how we doing.
Another rider in all the breaks was MCipollini-Giordana's Vale Scandolara, who must have attacked on every single stage, winning the green Mountains jersey for the first three stages. She told us her hopes before the race, so it was great to catch up with her afterwards. She has a great twitter - follow her on her journey.
PdC: How was the Giro for you?
Vale: This Giro was definitely the best I have ever raced. I was physically and mentally quite good, so everything was easier and I found myself having fun with every pedal stroke! I had my chances, I made some mistakes, I learnt a lot both for future races and for training, and I helped my team the best I could to reach an amazing GC podium and two stage podiums. I am very satisfied and motivated for the next challenges.
PdC: How did it feel to finish with your team-mate Tatiana Guderzo second overall?
Vale: It was my first full Giro in a team that really aimed to reach the podium (in 2011, in Gauss, I planned to race only the first few stages to be in a good condition for the European U23 Championships). So it was pretty exciting, sometimes scary and a bit stressful, but I think for me it turned out to be a big opportunity to grow and learn to manage the pressure, also watching Tatiana and seeing how she was living the whole situation. And when we were clapping her on that podium in Cremona, I simply felt so, so proud!!! I think cycling is so beautiful because even if it is true that only one rider gets the win or the result, all the team can feel part of it.
PdC: I think you attacked every day - and you always looked like you were enjoying yourself! Which was your favourite attack?
Vale: I always like to fight, but often I definitely attack too much :o). My nickname in Cipollini is "Cavallo Pazzo" (Crazy Horse)! I think the best attack was in the third stage, with Vos, Brand, and Cromwell, but I did not manage to handle my energies, I think the stage was not really well described in the race book. Anyhow, I learned the lesson, so there is always something positive in the end =)
PdC: How did it feel, knowing you were one of only a few riders who could keep up with Marianne Vos when she attacked?
Vale: It felt... cool! But hey, I managed to stay with her cause we were going downhill, hehe ;-)
PdC: What were your favourite moments? And are there any moments you would like to forget?
Vale: During the race, I think I enjoyed every moment, except maybe the stage in Corbetta where I was really bad, I think I had some problems with digestion, so I could not help my team as I wanted to and I had to suffer a lot to get to the finish...and the day after I was dead ;-).
I remember with pleasure the sprint of my team-mate Marta Tagliaferro in the first stage, she was stuck and I was close to her, and then I saw her sprinting like a rocket to get the third position behind Wild and Vos!!! And then I appreciated the feeling I had every time I had to help Guderzo before the climbs as more than just a worker, (she is much stronger than us in the mountains!) as she needed to feel supported by a united group. In general, I liked so much to see a lot of yellow fluo in the front!
Another amazing thing I noticed was the warmth and the amount of people in the first stages, in the South...they were really amazing, I wish we could race more over there, in the north it is quite different, unfortunately!...
The worst moments were (apart from my bad day in the end of Giro) when Tagliaferro crashed at 20km to go in Corbetta - she was so motivated that she managed to come back alone and also be 6th in the final sprint! And I was also really sorry when I found out that my previous break-mate Cromwell crashed when she was riding for a 1st or 2nd position in the third stage. I think those are really unfair moments for any athlete, even if he/she is riding in different colours.
PdC: What are your goals for the rest of the season?
Vale: Now I am having some recovery days, but I am looking forward to leave again for Thüringen Rundfahrt in Germany, next week. I have never been there to race it, and I am truly excited to try a new experience! My biggest goal is to become a part of the "Squadra Azzurra" in Florence World Championships. Trying to deserve that spot, I hope I will also get to reach some good results in the next races.
Another of the riders in that Stage 3 breakaway was Lauren Hall, riding for the USA National Team. This was Hall's first ever Giro, and it comes on the back of a great season with Optum Pro-Cycling p/b Kelly Benefits Strategy, where she has won stages in the Nature Valley GP and the Tour of the Gila, and came second in the USA national championships. In the Giro, she came fourth in Stage 2, and supported her team leader, Mara Abbott, to an impressive overall win. Find out more about Hall on her blog and by following her on twitter.
PdC: This was your first ever Giro - when you were at home in the USA daydreaming about it, what were you imagining? And was the reality different?
Lauren: I was dreaming about winning as a team just a little bit, because everyone that knew the roster talked about how strong the team was and the potential we had. I was also a bit nervous about the length of the race (my longest ever) and thinking about how tired I was going to be, but I was pleased, each day the legs felt like a seasoned pro I guess!
PdC: You were part of the winning team - how does that feel?
Lauren: I'm sitting on the plane now and the more I think about it, the more I feel so lucky to be a part of this history or legacy of the team and country. Coming from collegiate and semi pro soccer, I realize how precious these winning moments, these bonding moments with your team-mates who become life long friends are, so I cherish each second of the celebration still!
PdC: You were 4th in Stage 2 - what's it like, sprinting wheel to wheel with the likes of Vos, Bronzini, Wild, Olds and the rest?
Lauren: The day before, I was 8th, the next day, 4th! Oh so close to the podium!!!
As a competitor, who doesn't want to go head to head against the best in the world and to know how to play it different next time? I have lots of faith in my capabilities, but also to learn from each second of each sprint is crucial. So hopefully the next time I'm in that position (God willing), I can pull off a win. And to come into the Giro as more of a climbing team, I'm happy with the efforts the girls could give me, a sprinter :)
PdC: How did it feel, when you were out in that breakaway with Vos on Stage 3? Did you know you had done so well on that initial descent? How does it feel, keeping up with the best descenders in the world?
Lauren: I knew right away when she attacked that I had to stay on her wheel and try to fight her for precious seconds at the TV sprint. I've always been comfortable in my descending skills but it's no easy task following Vos' wheel downhill but I had to, it was my job for the day actually. Looking back, it was so much fun!
PdC: What were your highlights of the race?
Lauren: Dinner time was usually entertaining for us, we were pretty goofy by then, usually hungry and tired. We had an animal guessing competition (always competitive right?), a person would have to walk to the dessert table acting out the movements of a certain animal and we would have to guess what it was, I was a crocodile.
In the race, my most memorable times were the mountain top finish when Mara took over the pink jersey. The fans were telling us she had won as we were suffering up the climb. Also the second mountain day was beautiful!!! The start and finish were so scenic. And of course protecting the jersey, what an honor to ride the front until you can't pedal anymore.
PdC: And what were your most embarrassing, or silliest, or moments you wish you could forget?
Lauren: A funny moment is when we were stopped by the train crossing and girls were just running around everywhere!
PdC: You've been over to Europe for couple of blocks of racing now - how is the racing different in Europe than in the USA? And was the Giro different from previous experiences?
Lauren: In Europe the roads are usually smaller and the peloton bigger. Also there are 30 girls that could win the race versus the US you may have more like 10, so you have to really pick and choose who you want to follow wisely.
I was over for the spring classics prior to the Giro and those races are always so much fun to race because of their history and extremely hard because of the course conditions, and in the spring everyone is gunning for a quick result.
PdC: You've had a really good season - I especially loved watching your super-clever racing in the USA Nationals - what's next for you? What are your ambitions?
Lauren: I'm so glad Tour Tracker was able to show our race live, I feel a lot of people became fans of women's cycling that day. People had a chance to watch the race tactics unfold and I think we showed how calculated and smart Optum race. Now back in the US, a short week before heading to Bend, OR for Cascade Cycling Classic and I'm really looking forward for Optum heading to Europe for the Sweden TTT and other races leading up to worlds.
I have 2 National Championships on the track from the 2012 season and I wanted to defend those titles but that will end up being my rest time prior to the last Euro trip.
PdC: Can you tell us a bit about yourself off the bike? You came relatively late to cycling - how did that happen?
Lauren: My background is soccer, I played in college, at Mississippi State University, and I played semi professional for a year. After my pro career never happened, I kept running for exercise and my brother talked me into running a marathon in 2006. Afterwards I wanted to do a triathlon, so in 2007 I bought a bike and by 2008 I was racing in the local circuit - Louisiana and Mississippi Racing Association. In 2009, I decided to quit my job, move to Colorado and give it a full bore effort to becoming a professional, I signed my first contract in 2010.
The reason I wanted to become a professional athlete is my grandfather played in the NFL, he played for the (at the time) St. Louis Rams and the first 49ers team, so I wanted to keep the family tradition.
Off the bike, I have an Associates Degree in Culinary Arts so I enjoy cooking :) I love being outdoors, skiing, hunting, gardening... :)
PdC: Do you have any advice for anyone in the USA who might be dreaming of getting onto the National Championships podium, and racing with the best in the world one day?
Lauren: My advice: let it be a process, it takes time! Also, find a handful of people you trust and listen to them. Lots of people want to tell you how to do it but you have to figure out what works best for you and stick with it, trust the process.
Another first-time Giro rider was Specialized-lululemon's Australian sprinter, Loren Rowney. Loren told us about her hopes before the race and how it was going half-way through - so of course I had to ask her questions after the race! Follow Loren through the season on her excellent twitter.
PdC: HOW WAS IT????
Loren: It was tough, exhausting and emotionally challenging. Particularly towards the end. It was a big learning experience for me, and I think I walk away as a better ride for it.
PdC: When you last answered some questions for me, you were just about the enter the mountains..... how was that experience for sprinty you?
Loren: If it was tough for Evie and the other climbers, than it was challenging for me. By the time we reached the mountain top finishes in stage 5 & 6, my job was done by then, so it was just getting to the top.
I'll be telling my friends that Australian "mountains" can not be called mountains!
PdC: And are there any moments you'd rather forget?
Loren: Our second last stage race meeting, where I got hammered by some team-mates for errors I had made. It was tough, but in the end I'll be better for it!
PdC: How did it feel, watching the Specialized-lululemon ITT domination? Were you able to cheer the team-mates on, or were you already into the gelato and pizza by then?
Loren: Incredible. I'm so proud of my team, and I can't wait to watch what they do at the World TTT champs.
PdC: While it's still fresh in your mind.... what advice would you give any riders who race the Giro for the first time next year?
Loren: Best piece of advice my swanny Beth gave me was to be organized. And that honestly made the whole 8 days a lot easier and stress free.
Huge thanks to all the riders for taking their time to answer the questions for the Café - and good luck to all of them for the rest of the season! Come back tomorrow for Part 2, which will have my final Q&A with ORICA-AIS' Amanda Spratt, and answers from Martine Bras and Marijn de Vries.
Their are posts full of rider's Giro hopes and thoughts from before the race started, and Q&As throughout the race, along with the daily stage reports that are full of videos, photos, links and much more, in the Podium Café Giro Rosa Story Stream. Or if you only want the videos, there's a playlist on my youtube.