Ellen van Dijk
Van Dijk has always been a star in the peloton, known for her tough sprinting, lead-out genius and time trail abilities. One of the riders who followed the path from speed skating to cycling, she was the European u23 scratch and points Champion in 2008, Euro u23 ITT Champion in 2008 and 2009, and has won World Champion titles twice: in 2008, in the scratch race on the track, and last year in the Team Time Trial with Specialized-lululeon. That came at the end of a 2012 where she was notable as one of the most exciting riders to watch in the Olympic Road race, attacking the peloton over and over and over, before the race had even left London, giving her team-mate Marianne Vos the most perfect set-up to win from.
This year has been a difficult one for Specialized - Ina-Yoko Teutenberg crashed in the Drentse 8, and won't return to racing this year while she recovers from her head injuries, and both Evelyn Stevens and Trixi Worrack have been out for periods of time, injured. But through all of this, Van Dijk has stepped up, getting onto the podium for every Road World Cup she's race, and currently sitting third in the rankings, winning the General Classification at the Energiewacht Tour and Gracia-Orlová, and becoming Dutch ITT Champion. Given that she's still only 26, she's still developing as a rider, so it'll be a lot of fun seeing what she can do next. Find out more about her on her website, and by following her on twitter.
PdC: What do you most look forward to about racing the Giro?
Ellen: Racing in Italy is always special. The Italians love cycling and that gives a special atmosphere. In combination with the beautiful scenery and (hopefully) good weather I'm excited for our three week 'all inclusive bike holiday' in Italy ;)
PdC: Is there anything you're dreading?
Ellen: The courses will be hard and challenging, but I'm not as 'scared' for the big climbs any more as I used to be. It will be a hard fight till the end, but that is what makes our sport so beautiful. What I'm not really looking forward to are the long transfers in between the races.
PdC: What are your personal goals, and are there any stages you're looking forward to?
Ellen: As a team, we're targeting the Pink jersey with Evie. Hopefully I can assist her in achieving this. For myself, I would love to win a stage and will definitely give it all in the TT on the last day.
PdC: What advice would you give to riders racing the Giro for the first time?
Ellen: Absorb the atmosphere, try to enjoy it as much as possible although there will be very tough moments for sure. Also watch how older and more experienced riders approach a big stage race like this. You can learn a lot from the way they pace their racing, how they take care of their recovery, how they organise their suitcases, how they handle challenging moments mentally. So look around and absorb! :)
From a rider with two Rainbow Jerseys to one with three.... Giorgia Bronzini won the Points Race at the 2009 Track World Championships, and then the Road World Championships in both 2010 and 2011. A proud Italian, she won her first three Giro Donne stages in 2005, but this year, after sprinting to victory in stages of Festival Cyclisme Elsy Jacobs and the Tour of ChongMing Island, and winning a stage and the overall in the Tour of Zhoushan island, she's going all out for a Giro stage win for Wiggle Honda. Here's her twitter!
PdC: What are you looking forward to?
Giorgia: I will look forward to being in perfect form on the flat first stage where there will be the opportunity to wear the pink jersey!i will try to save my legs in the climbers' stage!
PdC: Do you have any specific advice to first-time riders?
Giorgia: I will say to them to be patient when trying to become a champion and try to hear the older riders and learn from them! I will say to them to be quiet and follow the older riders and the overall leader, and be smart to learn quickly!
Sprinting against Bronzini for those flat wins will be American rider, Shelley Olds. Another rider who has combined track with road, she won Stage 10 of the Giro Donne in 2010, and Stage 6 last year - and after overcoming injuries to get to the London Olympics, was one of four riders in the final breakaway, before a devastating puncture took her out of contention in the final kilometres. Last year she told us what it was like to win a stage at the biggest women's race in the world - can she do it again for Tibco this year? There's lots of information about her on her website, and you can follow her on twitter, too.
The advice I would give is to take it one day at a time. Don't stress about the next stages or how the body is feeling. Just try to live in the moment and do your best. Every day is a new day and every stage has something unique and special. You never know when your moment to shine will come, but usually it's when you least expect it. Be open to success and don't be afraid to take risks.
I am really looking forward to racing in Italy. It's such a beautiful country and the Giro is an epic race. I am also looking forward to helping my new teammates who will be racing the Giro for the first time. Most of all, I am looking forward to supporting my teammate Claudia Häusler in her fight for the GC. The Giro has a very special place in both of our hearts and it will be my honor to race for Claudia next week.
The only thing I am not too excited about is the long transfers. But that's part of what makes the Giro so epic. And it's what makes winning the Giro, or a stage of the Giro, that much more significant. It's not just the race you have to manage, but everything else in between.
My survival kit includes comfortable and easy clothes, ipad, ipod, and my team who will for sure make me laugh and smile every day.
One of the brand-new National Champions who'll be racing in her new kit for the first time this week, Fahlin and her Hitec Products UCK team-mates will still be in shock after their General Classification hope, Elisa Longo Borghini, crashed in the Italian Champs race, fracturing her hip. The team is resilient, though, and with Chloe Hosking in the sprints and Rossella Ratto targeting the Best Young Rider jersey, Fahlin and her other team-mates will be working hard, ready to stage hunt and take their opportunities where they come.
Fahlin was the youngest Swedish rider ever to be signed to a pro-team, and after six years with HTC/Specialized, she's moved to Hitec. Always recognisable by her huge amounts of bright blonde hair, you'll see her on the front of the peloton, chasing down attacks - and if you follow her on twitter you'll see her laid-back, happy personality.
PdC: What are you expecting about the race?
Emilia: I think it will be an exciting, hard race! That's the nice thing with stage races, it usually has a little bit of everything in it! Looks to be a hard parcours this year, with a couple of pretty cruel hilltop finishes! But there are some flatter days in the mix as well!
PdC: What's it like, riding the biggest stage race of the year? What are your best - or worst - memories from previous Giros?
Emilia: I've only completed one Giro in the past, but I've got some good memories thinking back at it! some of my favourite moments would be the sign-in, having the team-song and busting out a few rehearsed moves with my teammates up on stage! Generally it's a really good atmosphere all around the race, with Italy being such a bike crazy country, and that makes it one of the best places to race a bike!
Another memory we usually look back and laugh at, now after, is a day when we missed the highway exit to the hotel after a long transfer, and had to drive another half hour in the wrong direction before we could get off and turn back. We were dead last to the hotel.
PdC: What are you hoping for in the Giro? Both for yourself and the team? Especially with poor Elisa out of the race?
Emilia: It's a real bummer for Elisa! For her personally and for us - we will really miss her at the Giro. She's been riding incredibly well this year and was gonna be fighting for the GC, but she's so young so more Giros will come her way! So this leaves the team in different position, probably targeting stage wins more. Having Chloe there for the days when it's a possible sprint stage and us others looking for opportunities throughout the race!
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?
Emilia: I would say that 8 days of racing is long, and with all the transfers that are too. When not racing for GC, I would say to really save it some days and go in the grupetto, to be fresher for the days when you're needed for team duties or taking an opportunity on a stage. Also make sure to get enough food and fluids down, every stage, 'cause you will be fuelling for the upcoming day, and try to get as much rest in between as possible!
I would, not just for the Giro, but in general, bring along earplugs, badass sleeping mask and my own pillow! Sleeping at so many different places this can help to some better sleep, which is important! (my teammates would know I love a good 10 hour lay-in)
PdC: Congratulations on winning the Swedish road race! How does it feel, knowing you'll be racing the Giro in your National Champion's jersey?
Emilia: It feels pretty awesome! I didn't expect it to be honest, it was a dream to get that jersey back one day, so I was pretty happy after I won nationals this year and the thought of being able to wear it a whole year!
Cecilie Gotaas Johansen
Fahlin's Norwegian team-mate will be another rider racing in a brand-new National Champion's jersey - not only in her first ever Giro, but also in her first full season as a pro cyclist. Cecilie Gotaas Johnsen comes late to cycling, having started off playing football and gained a PhD in Chemical Engineering, before combining racing with motherhood and a job leading a research team for an oil company. I interviewed her about all this and more, earlier in the year - and I'm sure she'll be relishing every experience in Italy!
PdC: This is the first time you've ridden the Giro - how are you feeling about it?
Cecilie: Yes, my first time doing the Giro, and I'm very excited - in many ways! I think the Giro is the biggest and hardest stage race for women, with extended number of stages compared to what we normally do. Personally, I like the thought of pushing the limits, going longer (more stages) as well as being faced with different profiles which opens up for a variety of opportunities for different types of riders..... Just now, I'm not sure what's going to be hardest.....I'm always 'open' for any surprises, for a Norwegian, even in the heat a hard competitor :-)
PdC: What have your team-mates told you about the race? Do you have any expectations about it?
Cecilie: I have heard a lot about it from my team mates, especially from their first year attendance.... if I will experience the same - OMG, it's going to be hard..... but always memorable. You know, things are never so bad, that it's not good for something - it will be a learning experience that I look forward to.... This is my reflection, I think you can get something out from any situation, just attack the challenges with a positive attitude, and there will always be some success :-)
PdC: This will be your first race in the Norwegian Champion's jersey - how does it feel to have won that? Are you looking forward to racing in it?
Cecilie: Wearing the national jersey will of course be fun! Winning is always nice - and succeeding in the nationals is great! I have for sure had my portion of bad luck from the previous years in the nationals, standing on the top of the podium is a reminder that hard work pay off. Starting the Giro for the first time, and wearing the national jersey for the first time will in its self be a 'moment'.
I have high expectations for the team, because I know there are many of the girls that have the potential for podium places. The key is team performance and making each other deliver at our best!
Life is right here, right now! Make sure you maximise the potentials you have. Dedication and passion for what you find meaningful makes you alive!
Big thanks to all the riders who answered my questions, and good luck to everyone racing! If you want to follow the race, I've collected information to help you - and if you'd like to read more riders' views on the Giro, read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of the series. Come back to the storystream here on the Café throughout the race for daily updates and more! We'll be having daily updates from riders from ORICA-AIS, so if you have questions you'd like me to ask, let me know in the comments.