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What do riders think about the Giro Rosa? Part 3

With the biggest women's stage race of the year, the Giro Rosa, starting on Sunday, I've been asking riders their thoughts about the race. We've had great answers inpart 1 and Part 2 (which included superstar Marianne Vos!) - but in part 3 we hear about fears the grupetto will turn into "Lord of the Flies" and much more! Check back tomorrow for even more!

Rochelle Gilmore

Rochelle Gilmore goes into the Giro in a unique position - she's not just a sprinter for the team, she's also the owner and manager of Wiggle Honda, a brand-new team for 2013. The Commonwealth Champion has a lot of history in the race, having won her first stage there back in 2001 - but then in 2010 crashed out on Stage 5, and a year later had a huge crash in Stage 5 again, where she fractured her pelvis and had to learn to walk again. But that couldn't stop her, and she came back last year full of plans. She's part-owned and managed teams for years, but Wiggle Honda is her biggest endeavour yet. Find out more about her on her website, and follow her twitter - and check out the team page!

PdC: What are you looking forward to - do you have a specific stage you're looking forward to, or scared of, or something you love about the race - or hate!

Rochelle: I'm looking forward to catching up with 7 great friends and having a good time at the Giro! I'm most looking forward to stage one, our team is built for that stage and Giorgia has great form so if everything falls into place, that’s our chance to win a stage!

I'm scared of the mountains :-) It's always a challenge for a pure sprinter to make time cuts in the mountains and this year I'm a little below my optimal fitness level for the Giro :-) I love the fans and the atmosphere at the Giro. I hate the long transfers after the stages….

PdC: You go into the race as a team owner and manager, as well as a rider - does that add any extra layers for you? What are your favourite/most challenging parts of that role in the race?

Rochelle: If this race was early season I would have needed to take on a heavier workload which would have resulted in me being a little too stressed to perform on the bike, however we're mid-season now and the team is capable of functioning well without me being around. I'll be at the Giro as an athlete but of course I will still make decisions and problem solve as I would if I was working from afar.

My most challenging role during the Giro will be keeping on top of e-mails, communication, negotiation and planning relating to the business side of the team. My favourite part of my job is being so close to the athletes, to share and experience their highs and lows and to be there for them.

PdC: You were really badly injured in the 2011 race - how did it feel last year, racing the Giro again?

Rochelle: I thought I was jinxed leading into last year's race as I was injured in bad crashes in 2010 and 2011 during the Giro…. I got through last year and very much enjoyed the race.

PdC: What's your favourite ever Giro memory?

Rochelle: Well I actually won a couple of stages a looooong time ago but still have vivid memories of the win in 2001, I managed to outsprint Olga Slyusareva which was quite satisfying as she was one of the fastest female sprinters of all time.

PdC: Do you have any specific advice to riders racing the Giro for the first time, especially non-European ones?

Rochelle: My specific and most valuable advice for the Giro would be to stay hydrated before, during and after the stages. It can get really hot so keep the salts and minerals going in!


Chloe Hosking

Another Australian sprinter in the race is Chloe Hosking. Still only 22, Hosking is famous for packing her bags at 18 and coming over to Europe by herself, having won the Tour of ChongMing Island stage race. She started racing with Dutch clubs, and got picked up at the end of the year as a staigiare by HTC Highroad. She stayed with the team for three seasons, learning from the queen of the sprinters, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, before moving to Hitec Products UCK as the lead sprinter, and she's been all over the podiums in the tough sprinty races. She's also one of the funniest riders in the peloton, with a great turn of phrase.

It will be a hard Giro for Hitec, as their General Classification hope and much-loved lead rider, Elisa Longo Borghini, crashed last week in the Italian National Championships, fracturing her hip. But Hitec are resilient, and I'm sure they'll be racing twice as hard for Elisa. Follow Chloe through the Giro on her twitter.

PdC: What are you expecting about the race? Are there any stages you are looking forward to, or worried about?

Chloe: Of course I'm worried about anything that tilts upwards... Stage 5 and Stage 6 in particular. But having done the Giro twice before I know not to exactly trust the profiles and just be prepared for unannounced hills. I've been trying to incorporate a lot of climbing into my programme, so hopefully I can get over some of the smaller molehills and contest the finish of a few stages. Stage Seven looks pan-flat but will most likely be hard to keep together, with the General Classification most likely set and opportunists looking for breakaways.

PdC: What's it like, riding the biggest stage race of the year? What are your best - or worst - memories from previous Giros?

Chloe: There's definitely a change of atmosphere in the bunch leading up to the race. Everyone is looking at everyone else thinking 'just watch her at the Giro'. It is the biggest race, and while not the longest any more, to win there is a huge deal and something everyone wants to do.

I've ridden the Giro twice now. The first time I did it was my first year in the senior ranks and it was a traumatic experience. I was overweight, under-trained and probably over-raced. I did finish and was dropped every stage. I literally did not make it the finish with the front group once, before I got so incredibly dropped on the 8th stage that I had to get the 'sag' wagon. In my defence it was one of those Giro where even the flat days weren't flat.

I then attempted it again last year with somewhat better results. I didn't get horribly dropped every stage and managed to sit comfortably in grupetto on one the mountain days, and even helped in the sprints a few times. I'm still searching for a podium or win, however - did you hear me 2013?

What's life like for all the sprinters in the grupetto on the big climbing stages? Do you get to look at the scenery, or are you all dying, and cursing each other?

Chloe: You know I'm actually a bit worried this year! There is no Ina to make sure we all get to the finish in time limit. Who is going take control of the grupetto!? Hopefully we don't have a Lord of the Flies situation and someone steps up. 'Piano'

What are you hoping for in the Giro? Both for yourself and the team? Especially with poor Elisa out of the race?

Chloe: The team has definitely had to go back to drawing the board. I was devastated when I heard more about Elisa's crash, mainly because I know how much she was gunning for the Giro, and she had the total support and faith of all of us at Hitec, because we knew she had it in her to get a fantastic result for herself and the team, or numerous fantastic results for that matter.

She's so young however, and tenacious, that I know this will only make her more hungry for next year, so I think people should be worried already.

As for me, I'm a sprinter so of course I hoping to contest the sprint finishes. I would absolutely love to win a stage.

PdC: Do you have any advice for riders who are racing the Giro for the first time? What are you warning your team-mates about?

Chloe: Save every ounce of energy you can! It's a long race and if you don't recover well after one day it's just going be a vicious cycle. Not sure what I'm warning my team-mates about just yet, but knowing me I'll find something to moan on about.


Rossella Ratto

One of Hitec's goals will be supporting Rossella Ratto in her attempt to win Best Young Rider. At just 19, Ratto is very definitely one of the biggest young talents in the peloton. In her first year as a junior, she was second in the Junior World Championships, and in 2011 was the Junior European Road and ITT Champion. She has got stronger and stronger, last year coming 6th in her first elite Road World Championships, after supporting Longo Borghini to her third place - and this year she took 3rd in Stage 1 of the Emakumeen Bira, Stage 2 of the Giro Trentino and in the Italian National Championships. With so much great u23 talent in the Giro, will she be able to bring home a jersey? She'll definitely be riding her hardest!

PdC: What are you expecting about the race? Are there any stages you are looking forward to, or worried about?

I think that the general classification will be decided during the 5th and 6th stages. I'm looking forward to the third stage to see if it's hard enough to start making selection and then the last Time Trial, where some positions in the classification could change.

As an Italian rider, what is it like racing in Italy? Is there extra pressure, knowing the biggest race of the year is in your home country?

Rossella: I don't consider it as an extra pressure but as a motivation and an advantage because sometimes I know the roads and the climbs, and I can enjoy the support of my friends and family throughout Italy.

What are your best - or worst - memories from the 2012 Giro?

Rossella: The best memory was the last stage, which passed really near my village. A lot of people were there for me as it was also in Montecatini where my team was based. The worst was the 6th stage where I had a crisis and dropped way too early!

PdC: What are you hoping for in the Giro? Both for yourself and the team? Especially with Elisa out of the race?

Rossella: Losing Elisa, we've had to change the plans. I think we will be strong in the sprints and then I would like to try to get the Best Young Rider jersey. I know it's not that easy but it's really a nice goal.

PdC: Do you have any advice for riders who are racing the Giro for the first time? What are you warning your team-mates about?

Rossella: Well, maybe the only advice is to think day by day and never be worried about tomorrow. I think one of the strongest enemies will be the heat, so just look for the shade and drink a lot of water.


Valentina Scandolara

Vale Scandolara will be racing for two formidable climbers in her team, Cipollini-Giordana-Gallassia - 2009 World Champion Tatiana Guderzo, and Russian climber Tatiana Antoshina, both of whom are major General Classification challengers. But Scandolara is more than "just" a domestique - she's one of those cyclists who attacks like crazy, over and over again, and embraces any opportunities that come her way, which helped her win this year's GP Valbisenzio. Off the bike, she combines cycling with studying veterinary medicine, and she's also got a fantastic twitter.

The Giro is maybe the most beautiful and important stage race for women. It is special in many ways: it takes place in the wonderful sceneries that Italy offers, it is somehow linked to men's Giro d'Italia, amazing as well, and it is great when you get in the team selection to do it, cause it makes really a difference in your season.

I always try to race hard, but obviously when there is such an important race in my country, I would like to be able to give double ;-) But there is no extra pressure from my team, our director knows that we will all give our very best, in every stage.

The best advice I can give to first-time riders is to take and learn the very best from it. Pain and joy, fatigue and after-race relaxation, climbs and descents. It is a very hard and difficult, but amazing experience, and not only who rides it for the first time should savour it in every shade it offers!

I will do my best to help my teammates, Guderzo and Antoshina, who will hopefully fight for the very first positions of the GC. After this, I will be, as usual, ready to attack and to be in the front whenever I have the chance!!! Last year I was very bad in the Giro and in the second part of the season, because of a virus. I truly hope this year it will be different, and I will have some fun racing with the best riders in the World.


Kirsten Wild

Kirsten Wild is one of the very best sprinters in the world, known for loving the tough races, especially the cold, wet, windy, cobbled Spring Classics. The Giro will be only her second race back on the bike after she broke her shoulder in a crash in the Omloop van Borsele, so she may not be back to her top form - but she'll be giving it everything. Although her trade team is Argos-Shimano (read her Argos team-mate Koen de Kort talk about what he thinks would happen if he tried to out-sprint Kirsten!) she'll be racing the Giro for the Netherlands National Team. Find out more about her on her website, and in two Podium Café interviews with her, by amrook in May, after her injury, and by me in 2010 - and follow her on twitter.

PdC: What's the best thing about riding the Giro?

Kirsten: I like to race in Italy in general but the Giro is even more special. There are many enthusiastic people at the start, along the course and at the finish. Also there is a lot of variety in the stages. For the riders the circumstances are good: the coffee, nice pasta and mostly nice weather (or is this dangerous to say haha).

PdC: You're riding the Giro with the National team this year - will this be very different to riding with Argos? What is it like going into a race with brand-new team-mates?

Kirsten: I think it is not so different. I already have worked for a long time with the national coach, Johan Lammerts, so I know his style of working. And the national team, like Argos, is also very young. But it is a strong group of girls who are preparing for the European U23 Championships.

PdC: What are your hopes for the race? What stages are you looking forward to?

Kirsten: Well, as you know, I was injured for last two months with my broken shoulder. I am just coming back to international racing, so I have really no idea what my level is. Of course I will try to win a stage. But I will also be helping my team-mates going for a good GC (Anna van der Breggen, Amy Pieters). I am especially looking forward to stage 1 and stage 7.

PdC: What's it like for sprinters, racing over the big climbs?

Kirsten: The sprinters will have two real, maybe three chances. So the other days are about trying to spend as little energy as possible and survive in the grupetto. Although we lose a lot of time, it's still hard and a long day in the saddle.

PdC: Do you have any advice for riders who are racing the Giro for the first time?

Kirsten: Try to start the GiroRosa fresh and healthy! And the most important thing: Enjoy!


Emma Trott

This is Trott's first ever Grand Tour - she was due to race the Tour de l'Aude in 2010, which turned out to be the last time the Pyrenean 10-day Tour, but was one of 5 British riders hit by a car on a training ride in Belgium, and had to miss it out. This year, she's got the Giro call-up with her team Boels-Dolmans, and she'll be an enthusiastic tweeter all throughout the race.

PdC: As a first-time Giro rider, what do you know about the race? What are you looking forward to?

Emma: I know how big this race is for the women! When we lost the Tour d'lAude in 2010 this race was the only one left which was then 10 days long, so it is a really prestigious event. It is now only 8 but it is still on the calendar! Being able to race in the Giro is such a massive thing. I am totally excited about it. Its very similar to the men's except we do less, a lot less, days! I'm just looking forward to the atmosphere that surrounds the race and to hopefully have a good race personally but also with the team.

PdC: What advice have team-mates given you about the race?

Emma: I think the best piece of advice I have been given is to sleep! With the racing and the length of some of the transfers we will have, this has probably been one of the best pieces of information! But, not necessarily to sleep but just to relax between stages. This is definitely something I have got good at other this year! I have to remember that if I am tired then so is everyone else! The more rest and recovery I can get between stages the better.

PdC: When you daydream about the race, how are you imagining it? And have you had any nightmares about it?

Emma: I'll be honest I've not actually day dreamed about the race. There have been so many races leading up to it! I kind of think that although this is the biggest race there is, why treat it any differently to another race? As a bike rider you want to do the best in every race you do whether that be the Giro or a Lotto Cup event.

But, if I imagine the race... well I think there is going to be a lot, and I mean a lot of pasta! I've actually banned my mum from cooking it for the next days! I live off potatoes or rice knowing that for 8 days, lunch and dinner, I'm going to have a diet of pasta and tomato sauce. I'm kind of hoping good, weather, good coffee, rolling roads... Sounds like a holiday but I'm under no illusions this is going to be a holiday!! Anything but....

Nightmares... No I never have nightmares… well not about races! It's going to be hard, but that's the same for everyone!

PdC: How have you been preparing for it - and what are you packing as a survival kit?

Emma: I have been quite lucky with races leading up to the Giro. I have had a nice block, so in some respects it becomes more about resting. But, I was conscious of something Martine Bras told me, about the speed last year. So I have been doing a fair amount of session behind the motor bike. But, that comes in handy for any race not just for this one.

Survival kit.... phone, that's important! Not sure I could go anywhere without that! Its nice to be in contact with friends and family after the race. It's kind of a sense of the real world a little. I like to know what its like at home and stuff. My laptop, with DVDs! I'm planing to watch The Pacific while away, so on the long transfers I should not be bored. But I am a massive lover of music so as long as I have my headphones and my iPod that can get me through most! Maybe I sneak some chocolate into the bag....nothing like having something for the morale!!


Huge thanks to all the riders for giving up their time, and good luck to them all! And check back tomorrow for even more riders' answers!

For more information about this year's 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. As ever, any questions on anything at all, ask in the comments.

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.