Giro Rosa Rider Reactions - Stage 4 "Ask an Aussie" with Spratty & Loren Rowney, and Amber's video review

Every day I'm having post-race Q&As with ORICA-AIS riders Amanda Spratt and Jessie Maclean - and after Stage 4, Spratty told me about the race, being the token short person in the team, team secrets and more! I also caught up with Specialized-lululemon's Loren Rowney, on how her first ever Giro is going - while Amber Pierce video-reviews the stage for us, from a tactical perspective. Remember, if you ask questions, I'll pass them on to the riders!

Amanda Spratt

Spratty's already told us about Stage 2 - and after a very, very long day and a 570km transfer, I caught up with her as she looked out over the sea.

PdC: I was just watching you attacking on RAI!

Spratty: Oh gosh, yeah, was that at about 10k to go? I didn't realise there'd be that much of a headwind to be honest, so I didn't get very far, but I had to have a go!

PdC: Was it frustrating, having all the breaks chased down today?

Spratty: Yeah, to be honest, before the start of the stage I thought for sure a breakaway would go away, but with Rabobank chasing everything down, we couldn't get anyone up the road, and it was a fast stage.

Sometimes it can be frustrating, when you're looking to get a breakaway down the road - and it wasn't just us, we tried, but so did several other teams. We knew that the finish was going to be tough. Dave, our DS, had gone out to the finish that morning before the stage, and filmed it for us, so we could watch the video and know what it was like - hilly and hard. Although I've got to say, it was somewhat harder in the racing than watching it on video!

PdC: So you're at the half-way point in the race - how are you feeling? Are you enjoying it, or wishing it was already over?

Spratty: I'm really happy! Every day I seem to be riding better and feeling better, which I tend to do anyway in Tours. There's a big shift, heading into two mountain days - from now on we'll be working for Tiff and Shara. You can split the rest of the Tour up now - two mountain days, and then the last two stages.

We're right on the Italian coast, now, I'm staring at the ocean - it's a very nice hotel, and we're the only team here as well, so no Tetris in the car park. It's good for the mind, a relaxing evening.

PdC: What can you see out of the window?

Spratty: I can pretty much see just the coast road, palm trees, and the ocean. If I look to the right, I can see the town we start in tomorrow. We're very close, only 3k away, so we'll ride there tomorrow.

PdC: And can you see the mountains you'll be climbing?

Spratty: We did get treated to seeing some mountains on the way in - some of them were disappearing up into the clouds, which had me a bit worried!

PdC: So what'll be your job in the stage tomorrow?

Spratty: Obviously Tiff and Shara are our two climbers, so I'll try to stay with them for as long as possible on the climbs, help them out as much as possible. We'll probably use Mel and Jess to do the early work, and once we get to the climb proper, there's not much I can do, but I'll do anything I can before I'm dropped.

PdC: So who do you think will win? Apart from Tiff and Shara, of course!

Spratty: It's so hard to say. We've had some solid climbs and some really technical descents, but it'll be a difficult next two days, finishing on top of mountains, so any climbers who struggle with technical descents will be good.

PdC: Do you talk about who you think might win, or do you just think about your own team?

Spratty: More just focus on our own riding. We talk about who the threats will be on the climb, because the girls doing well on General Classification are always marking them. But we'll be going in with our own plan rather than basing it on what others might do.

PdC: Some more random questions.... It's not just the Giro this week, it's also the Czech Tour de Feminin starting tomorrow - which you won in 2011 of course! How different is that from the Giro?

Spratty: In the Czech tour, when I won, I got this hamper with tins of chicken, cheese and some pretty random food items. It's a good race - no big mountains, and we generally stay in the same hotels throughout the race, and with all the big teams, it's a different level of riding - but it's still a hard race. That year [the Australian National Team] didn't get to the Giro, so we ended up going to the Czech Republic, over the other side of Europe, crossing the border to Poland for the time trial, and it was a little bit different - but good!

PdC: I hear you have some... special equipment to help you out? A special kind of helmet attachment?

Spratty: [laughs] Obviously I'm pretty vertically challenged, I'm pretty sure most teams have a token short person, and I'm it for ORICA, so i cop all the short jokes, smurf jokes. So one day my team-mates bought a little smurf and they attached it onto my helmet, to see how long it was before I noticed - and I've kept it there ever since, it's become a bit of a good luck charm,

PdC: Which smurf is it?

Spratty: [makes unintelligible noise] I only know the name in German! [doe it again}. It's the smart one, the wise one.

PdC: So maybe they did it not because you're short, but because they think you're really intelligent?

Spratty: That's how I look at it anyway - they're saying I'm clever! Others may beg to differ on that!

PdC: Have there been any of those moments you'll look back and laugh about? Any comedy Giro stories?

Spratty: Not from the Giro, but I did get stuck in the lift on the way to the Giro! It was 15 minutes before JMac and I were due to leave our flat in Varese, and I went to take the rubbish out, and I got stuck in the lift. No one heard the alarm, so I was yelling for JMac and Mel, but they couldn't hear me. I was about 10 minutes bellowing out, and eventually they heard and alerted someone to come and rescue me. So the lift was lowered, but they had to stop it before it went right down into the basement, so they had to wedge the door open for me, so I could do the commando tuck and roll, and jump down, which for a tiny person was scary.

PdC: Are you sure they couldn't hear you? They weren't just standing around laughing at you?

Spratty: You know what, I'm not sure! I dunno, maybe JMac was jealous of my smurf, and wanted to have time to steal my instant coffee for her breakfast, while I was stuck!

PdC: Can you tell me any other secrets about your team-mates?

Spratty: Secrets? I'm no good at secrets! Mel is a talented basketball player, she's even got a hoop at her house in Girona. Tiff - well, he have a joke in the team about Tiffanisms, things only Tiff can say. She's the fashionista of our team, the one you'd go to for fashion advice. Shara.....she's learning French, that's all I can say!

PdC: Thanks! Good luck for tomorrow. I hope that for once the profiles are wrong, and the mountains are smaller than you're expecting, for a change

Spratty: Never trust an Italian profile! I'm hoping it's just a little pimple, but we'll see!

***

If you have a question for Spratty or Jess, as I continue with the daily Q&As, ask me in the comments or on twitter, and I'll do my best to get the answers! And don't forget to follow Spratty on twitter. Here's how she's feeling this morning:

***

Amber Pierce

Amber isn't racing the Giro this year, due to early-season injuries, but she's still following it - here's her video review of Stage 4, focusing on team tactics and what's going on within the race. If you want to see her previous reviews, she talks about Stage 1 and Stages 2 & 3. If you have questions for her, ask her on twitter, or in the comments:

Amber Pierce reviews the Giro Rosa Stage 4 (via prowomenscycling)


***

Loren Rowney

The Aussie sprinter is racing her first Giro, and before the race she answered some questions for the Café about what she was expecting. I caught up with her by email after Stage 4, to find out how it's going. Follow her on twitter to see how she's feeling after the mountains.....

PdC: It's halfway through your first ever Giro - congratulations for making it this far! How does it feel?

Loren: Sore! No, it's been such a great experience so far. I have full faith in my team-mates and team leader Evie, so feeling pretty good.

PdC:
When you back in Australia before you got signed to Specialized-lululemon, and were daydreaming about the race, what were you imagining?

Loren: Lining up alongside the likes of Ina, Trixi, Ellen, Evie, Vos, all of the superstars. I always wanted to be the "Renshaw, for a Cavendish", so when I signed with lulu I thought "OMG Ina is Cavendish and maybe I can be Renshaw!"

PdC: And what's the reality?

Loren:
Well unfortunately Ina isn't racing this year, but I hope to race with her next year and learn as much as possible. Riding in support of Evie (as long as its not a mountain) is so rewarding, so that's the reality I guess. I'm riding for some of the best bike riders in the world!

PdC:
Have you had any "I can't believe I'm really doing this?" moments? In a good or bad way?

Loren: Tomorrow I'm sure I will have a few "I can't believe I'm doing this" as I slug it up the steep mountains!

PdC: As a sprinter, how did you like the finishes yesterday and today?

Loren:
My only concern at the finishes has been to make sure Evie is in good condition. I am, along with the rest of the team 100% dedicated to Evie and the overall goal of GC. I wish the finish would have been harder today for Evie, but tomorrow is another day ;-)

PdC: And how do you feel about tomorrow?

Loren: The battle for GC begins tomorrow, and it's going to be one hell of stage! We basically climb all day. So perfect for Evie ;)

PdC:
And finally - what's the best Giro story been? Either your own or a team-mate's most ridiculous/embarrassing/comedy moment?

Loren:
Probably today when we got caught at a train crossing, so pretty much everyone simultaneously pulled down their bibs and… well you can guess the rest. I wish someone had got a photo and said "caption this". The glamorous life of women's cycling haha

***

There are rider blogs after Stage 4, from Gracie Elvin, Tiffany Cromwell and Marijn de Vries (in Dutch or via google translate) - and you can follow the riders on twitter with my list. If you find more blogs and tweets you like, add them to the comments.

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