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Emma Pooley on the 2014 Giro Rosa, winning Nationals and more!

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On Thursday 2010 ITT World Champion Emma Pooley showed that she's still definitely got the speed, winning the British National ITT Champs, and I caught up with her afterwards for a quick chat about what's next for her and her Lotto-Belisol team-mates - the biggest women's stage race of the year, and the only remaining Grand Tour for women, the Giro Rosa! She told me her plans, what it was like in a break with 4 riders from Rabobank-Liv at the Emakumeen Bira, and a lot more

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Emma Pooley winning the 2014 British ITT Championships
Emma Pooley winning the 2014 British ITT Championships
Bryn Lennon

PdC: Emma you’ve just won the National Championships ITT for the third time? It seemed like a nice hilly course for you out there

Emma: Yes, but I haven’t raced it for a few years, so it was rather nice. I think the course did suit me quite well, because it was technical and there was quite a lot of climbing in it, especially that final hill up the back, it was really tough.

PdC: What was it, 12% or something?

Emma: It felt like it was 20, I didn’t measure it, but it felt…

PdC: Let’s say 25%

Emma: I think it was actually backwards, like an overhang!

PdC: After this weekend, you’ve got the Giro Rosa – what do you know about the course, can you tell us about it this year?

Emma: I know that there’s no individual time trial, there’s a prologue on the Friday night, late, in Naples, and then there’s some flat stages, and then there’s a lot of transfers, there always are, and then the last stages are hilly, so I’m hanging on for the last few!

PdC: One of the stages is going through Elisa Longo Borghini’s hometown, where she was sitting roadside in a wheelchair last year

Emma: Yes, I reckon she’ll win that one, then!

PdC: How do you prepare for something like the Giro?

Emma: Train your backside off!  What can I say, you just have to make sure you’re at your best going into it.  It’s tricky, because it’s our longest race, but it’s not that long, it’s not like a men’s Tour, and I think it’s kind of a shame, because the men’s Tour being three weeks has a totally different dimension in that you can get fitter going through it, or you can get knackered.

It is long enough that if you ride wrong at the start, ride stupidly, you can really tire yourself out for the end.  I did that in Spain at the Emakumeen Bira, because I wanted to ride hard and use it as a training race, so I did too much, I rode quite actively, so of course I was quite knackered at the end of it.  If you try to chase everything, and then race up every hill, you’re going to be knackered, so you have to be a bit smarter at the Giro if you want to do well.

PdC: What’s your favourite thing about the Giro?

Emma: The pasta tastes really good!  Seriously, it’s the best food we get all year! [laughing]

It rather depends how it goes.  If it goes well, then it’s a wonderful race, because it is the biggest race of the year for us, and there’s a fuss about it.  You got a bit of that with the Friends Life Women’s Tour of Britain this year, which was wonderful, and I think more and more it’s going to be like that for women’s races.  At La Course by Le Tour de France there’ll be a big fuss there, too, like the Giro, when you win something there, you blooming well know you’ve won it, because there’s people cheering there and there’s flowers and stuff – women’s cycling is going in the right direction. 

But the Giro is also a bit disappointing if you don’t do well.  For me it’s certainly has been the target for a few years, and I’ve come second twice and never quite made it.  I haven’t said I’m going for the GC win this year, because without an individual time trial it’s tricky, and also Rabobank-Liv is indisputably rather strong!

PdC: How does it feel, in races like the Emakumeen Bira Stage 1, when Rabobank end up with three riders breaking away at the end?

Emma: I was actually pretty angry.  I enjoyed that stage mostly – I made it into the break, and there was quite a big bunch of us, and Rabobank had four riders in it, which is impressive, but they’re the strongest team, and they’ve got four very strong climbers, so OK. 

But there were other teams with two riders in that break, and they did nothing to chase, and of course, when a team like Rabobank gets four riders in a break, they don’t sit there and work, they’re not stupid – they’re both strong and clever.  They attacked one after the other, and it was me and Claudia Häusler [Liv-Shimano] doing all the chasing, and we were on our own in the break!  I was doing it because, well, it’s better than just getting dropped, but there were teams there in that break, I’m not going to name them, but they know who they were, who had two riders, and they could have at least said "I’ll mark her and you mark her", and they’d just given up mentally and said "oh, Rabobank’s going to win, so we’ll just let them" – and that really annoys me.  Anyway!  It was good training!

PdC: And Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, apparently she’d said that she’d been lacking confidence, and of course, winning the Flèche Wallonne World Cup, she must just be….

Emma: There’s a lot to be said for confidence!  I think if you win a big race early in the year, it does so much for your confidence and you don’t need to show anything any more, and I think that’s what Pauline is enjoying, it’s what I enjoyed in 2010

And equally, if you don’t win anything for a while you need someone telling you you’re good all the time, and some people have that support from a coach or a director or something, and I can tell you from experience that if you don’t, that’s a bit of a struggle. 

PdC: And Pauline’s got that support from Marianne Vos!

Emma: I think that’s the great thing about that team - they’ve got the best rider in the world, who’s willing to race for other people on the team, and the other riders are strong, but there’s nothing like having Marianne Vos as your helper in a race!

PdC: So what’s your plan for the Giro – going after climbing stage wins?

Emma: I’d like to win a stage of the Giro, wouldn’t everyone?  I’d like to win the GC of the Giro, but….  It’s not just for me, Jolien D’Hoore is a really strong sprinter, she's going really well, and Liesbet de Vocht, it’s her last year, she’s definitely retiring after the Giro, and so I think we’ve got quite a few riders with chances, and that’s really nice.  The Giro’s much more enjoyable, to be honest, when you’re not racing it just for yourself under a load of pressure to win. 

PdC: What else would you like to be asked about the Giro?

Emma: Would you like to ask me how much I appreciate the journalists that actually cover it?  Because boy, do I appreciate the few who manage to drag themselves away from the exciting news of "different coloured bartape at the Tour de France" and bother writing something about the women’s race!  Because it is a really exciting race.  It does have some tv coverage, so you can actually see it, it’s not like just having to look up the result, which is a very dry way of following racing.  It is exciting, and it has real character to it, because it’s The Giro, there’s a lot of pink stuff around, and it's always exciting racing

PdC: I wanted to ask you about the Friends Life Women’s Tour, because you did have that set of media there.  You had the BBC, and all the local and national papers, and the local and national tv – my sister was watching it at home, and she doesn’t even know what bike racing is!

Emma: Oh, yes, it was wonderful! It was a bit like the Olympics - I had so many British friends and I wouldn’t say they’re not interested, but it’s quite hard to follow cycling if you don’t spend half an hour on twitter every day tracking it.  It’s really difficult, and people who follow it, we really appreciate it because they make a huge effort. 

So a lot of friends know I’m a cyclist, but they have no way of following what I do normally.  They would email me and say "Oh, we saw your stage and you were really good!" and I’d reply and say  "No, I was crap", but the highlights didn’t show the other bits.  So in some ways it was wonderful, but I was quite annoyed that the highlights package didn’t show what I felt were the key moments in the race.

PdC: They did tend to go for "here’s three crashes in the neutral zone" for more time than they spent on the climbs!

Emma: There seemed to be a lot of emphasis on the neutral bit of the race, which is not the exciting bit!

PdC: Not enough Emma Pooley attacks being shown

Emma: The day when I spent the whole day in every attack, they showed the one solo attack that I wasn’t in, and then and they showed the break after it established, and that was pretty boring, that part of the race!

PdC: It was so exciting, that day, I was doing the live tweeting, and it was hard work, I kept tweeting, "Emma Pooley’s attacked, Emma Pooley’s attacked", I should have had that on cut & paste!  It was great!

It was quite funny, I think it was the last day, and when the highlights were on, the race organisation tweeted "in case you’re watching, you might be a bit confused, because you missed all the Emma Pooley attacks"

PdC: "By this point in the race, Emma Pooley had attacked 5,000 times"

Emma: It was bloody hard!

Here’s to more of that in the Giro, with better results – we’ll be cheering you on!


To follow Emma through the race, keep an eye on her twitter, and Lotto-Belisol's twitter.

The Giro Rosa runs from 4th-13th July 2014, and there's lots of information on the race website, race twitter and #GiroRosa hashtag.  If you want to follow it live and on tv or streams, here's my guide. - and we'll have lots of coverage here on the Café, keep an eye on our storystream.

For more about Emma, check out part 1 and part 2 of my interview with her in April - and here's video of her ITT national championships win, and talking afterwards (I've been making lists of all the videos I've found from this week's women's national championships - the Individual Time Trials and the Road Races)