Annemiek van Vleuten
Van Vleuten is one of the superstars of the women's peloton, who's won the 2011 Road World Cup series, including the Ronde van Vlaanderen, and raced for the Netherlands at the World Championships and the Olympic Games. She's racing for Rabobank-Liv/Giant alongside Marianne Vos, who won the Giro in 2011 and 2012, and she's well-known for her breakaway and attack skills. She has a great blog (in Dutch, but you can google translate it) where she tells excellent stories, and you can also follow her on twitter. If you want to know more about how she got into cycling, I interviewed her for the Café in 2011 - part 1 and part 2.
PdC: What do you like about racing the Giro? Are there any stages you are particularly looking forward to?
Annemiek: I like the profiles of stage 2 and stage 3. I see possibilities there for a stage win for me. Not stage 5 and stage 6 with their uphill finishes… these will be more for the climbers...
And I love actually everything about the Giro, because it's well organised, on television, nice people that come to watch the race, the pasta (served as it is 'golden food' at your table :-) !!! and not cooked for too long or pasta from a buffet that is too long in the buffet as we have in France, Spain, Netherlands ;-)
What I really like is the ambiance for the start: you go to the podium, every team has it own 'song' every day when you go to the podium you hear it (in the Giro they arrange a DJ, really cool!). It gives the team energy when you hear your song! I still know the songs from my Giro's 2010, 2011 and 2012 and when we hear them in the team you think about the good and bad memories from that Giro. :-)
PdC: Do you have any advice for riders racing the Giro for the first time?
Annemiek: We travel a lot during this Giro. That is different from other stage races where we stay at one place. So don't take any stuff you don't need. Take as little as possible and organise your things so you don't have to pack and unpack so much stuff every day (a tip I got during my first Giro from our national coach Johan Lammerts :-))
Think about your recovery with eating and drinking. Don't go full gas every day. If there is a group in front, and you are behind: take it easy, don't focus on the result of that day any more. Doesn't matter if you lose time. Better to take it easy that day in 'the bus' and go for an stage win the other day. Don't focus on the General Classification. If you get 30 or 60th in the GC... it doesn't matter really. Better to focus on some specific stages!
Marijn de Vries
Marijn is one of the riders with a fantastic "How I got into cycling" story, and combines racing with some of the best cycling blogging out there, and journalism in Dutch media. This will be her second Giro - the Dutch rider will be racing for Lotto Belisol, and you can follow her race via her twitter and her blog (in English and in Dutch). For even more about Marijn, read my interview with her from April.
PdC: How is the Giro different to the other races? What are you most looking forward to?
Marijn: There are so many differences... The atmosphere, the level, the roads, the food, the hotels. Actually the Giro can't be compared to any other race. It's super-hard, not just the stages, but also the travelling. We have 1,700k of travelling in 8 days, which is insane if you ask me. But it's the same for all riders, we just have to deal with it. Also the racing itself is more intense then in other races: it seems like we ride faster in Italy. Partly because of the roads, I think the asphalt is quicker, and partly because the best riders of the world are there, and all so eager to win a stage. Winning a stage in the Giro is very prestigious, as you can imagine.
I'm really looking forward to the atmosphere at the start line every day. We start in these picturesque towns and villages, with big crowds. This is the real bike racing to me, comparable to riding the Mur de Huy or the Ronde van Vlaanderen. I'm also looking forward to the mountain stages. There are always big crowds on the climbs. The first time I experienced that was two years ago, in my first Giro. I couldn't help but think: hey, what are all these people doing there? Something going on? But they were there for us! Awesome.
And last but not least: the food. Italian food is delicious. They know how to cook pasta. Riding in France is party so horrible because of the gross things they serve for diner. In Italy it's always great.
PdC: Is there anything you're NOT looking forward to?
Marijn: The travelling... Hours and hours in a car after the stage is not so much fun. The guys always complain if they have a 1 hour transfer. And then again: they have big buses with wifi, they can have a shower and get a massage on the road already. I guess they would never ride a bike again if they had our circumstances ;-)
PdC: What advice would you give first-time riders about the race?
Marijn: Go with the flow! Unexpected things always happen in the Giro. Sometimes the travelling is much longer then expected, sometimes the stages appear to be 20k longer then in the road book. That's the Giro. Don't spend energy on getting upset or angry. And: sleep as much as you can.
PdC: What are your personal goals for the race?
Marijn: I haven't been feeling so well in the weeks before the Giro. So I'm starting without any expectations. I just hope to survive and not get sick (again) and I hope I can do some work for our GC-rider Ashleigh Moolman.
PdC: What's your most embarrassing Giro story?
Marijn: Not embarrassing, but funny (click through to her blog to find out what! In Dutch or via google translate)
De Vries' team-mate Ash Moolman is definitely on my list of favourites to win the race. The South African rider joined the European peloton in 2010, bringing a huge amount of enthusiasm and passion for the sport, always positive, even when she's injured. Her 2013 has seen her take her racing to a new level - becoming the first African rider on the World Cup podium when she was third in the Flèche Wallonne (I was lucky enough to interview her after the race for the Café) and won her first European UCI day race, the hilly Boels Rental Hills Classic. You can follow her through the Giro on her twitter and her blog.
The Giro Rosa is always a race I eagerly look forward to every year! It is the most prestigious women's tour, and the sheer challenge of the event and the great culture of competing in Italy makes it highlight every year! Nothing excites me more than a challenge and this year's Giro Rosa route looks to be particularly tough. I don't think the profiles on the race website do the stages any justice.
Although we all know stage 5 and stage 6 are going to be the Queen stages, after doing some more homework myself, I've come to realise that there isn't really going to be any seriously easy stage in this years event. In particular, Stage 3 and Stage 4 are also going to be tough, and let's not forget the ITT on the final day! This year I'm really happy to have a great team to support me and I'm feeling confident that Lotto ladies will have a great race in 2013!
For anyone doing the Giro Rosa for the first time, my advice is to soak up the experience and to use the race as an opportunity to learn and grow. Every race presents both physical and mental challenges for every rider, and my advice is to NEVER NEVER EVER GIVE UP!!!
Give it your best, be sure to eat and drink well on and off the bike. Remember, what you eat and drink today, affects your ride tomorrow. And in a tour, if you don't replenish your stores, you will pay for it as the days go by! Don't try anything new during the race. Stick to what you know and have fun :-)
Small is the brand-new USA National ITT Champion, who's racing for Specialized-lululemon after a number of years riding in the USA domestic peloton and coming to Europe with Team USA - and she's having a fantastic season! Follow her on twitter and on instagramm - she's well-known for awesome photos of life on the road and her team-mates doing some very random things!
PdC: What's it like, riding the Giro?
Carmen: I have only competed in the Giro one other time, back in 2010 with Team USA when Mara Abbott won. I don't think any of the stages are the same, or not sure I would remember them either. I think the Giro is an epic race and really looking forward to it, although I know in the moment I will be suffering so bad that I will hate it, hahaha.
It was an awesome feeling when Mara won, we worked so hard as a team to support her and it paid off. I am looking forward to doing that again, but just a different leader this go around! The Giro is a special race, it's super hard and will take a lot of mental toughness. I think our team is full of mental toughness.
PdC: Do you think it'll be different, riding with Specialized-lululemon?
Carmen: Not really because that year we raced under USAC we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to win the race. We had high expectations and I think we all picked up the level to get the job done. Racing for Specialized lululemon wont be any different. We always have high expectations for the team so that is nearly the same and the team does a great job at supporting one another!
PdC: Do you have any advice to riders facing the Giro for the first time?
Carmen: Hahaha, I don't think I can really give any because it's only my second time! But, I would say try to enjoy the Giro as much as you can. It's a really awesome race!
PdC: What's it like, as a USA rider, racing in Europe? Is there anything different/special about racing in Italy?
Carmen: It's tough for US riders to come over to race in Europe. Everything is very different, both racing and European culture. In the races: the roads, the conditions, the riders, the length of the races, the depth of the teams and therefore the depth of the field, so everything is basically different. All that said I love racing in Europe. I spend the entire spring over in Europe this summer, although it did have it's challenges at time I enjoyed myself and would have not did it any differently. The gains I made staying over here the entire time was way more if I would have tried to go back and forth from the US.
PdC: And what are your personal goals/hopes?
Carmen: I'm looking forward to the second part of the season being in Europe racing. I don't have any specific goals for any of these races but I think the end goal of this year is the World Championships.
Lauren is one of the crop of young Australian riders in the European peloton. This year she's riding for Wiggle Honda, where she's been winning Crits and supporting her team-mates. Find out more about her on her website and by following her on twitter.
PdC: What are you looking forward to about the race?
Lauren: What I am looking forward to is the whole size of the event, everything is bigger at the giro, we race with 8 per team instead of the regular 6, there are more stages then most races and there are new hotels every night, this makes it really seen like a moving show! Of course I am looking forward to being in Italy again, it is usually lovely hot weather with the stages over beautiful terrain with great scenery, not that I will have much time to enjoy that :-)
PdC: Do you have any advice to first-time riders, especially non-European cyclists?
Lauren: Some advice for first time giro riders, well my first giro was 2009 when I was 18. It was my first European race ever. Take it one day at a time and even when the fatigue of the giro sets in you have to remember that everyone is tired. The most important thing I would recommend is to enjoy it, take it all in and enjoy the experience of the biggest race for women!
Huge thanks, and best of luck, to all the riders - and if you'd like more, check out Part 2 and Part 3 with answers from more riders, including Marianne Vos, and fears the grupetto may turn into 'Lord of the Flies'.
If you want to know more about what the Giro is like, check out my highlights of the 2012 race, and Four riders' opinions what it was like to race last year. We'll have race previews and "how to follow" guides going up this week.
For more information about the Giro, have a look at the great race website, follow the race on twitter and the previews on Les Déesses de la Route and on Velofocus. And for more about ORICA's plans for the race, read this article on their site! As ever, any questions on anything at all, ask in the comments.