PdC: Can you tell us a bit about what happened today? You attacked early in the rain - when did you go?
Emma: We had a plan that I'd attack on the very steep (but short) climb at km31. My team did an awesome job looking after me up to then (it was flat, fast, and hectic), got me to the front, and did a time trial effort to keep me there in second wheel right up to the left turn into the narrow road for the climb. Jolien and Liesbet, they did an especially awesome job - so strong! I attacked again on the last climb, didn't think it'd stick but it did though not with much of a gap. So then I was into ITT mode, hoping that Rabobank wouldn't chase too hard because I'm so far down on GC.
PdC: After the first climb you'd been out solo, but were caught in the middle section by a small group - were you worried then? How were the dynamics?
Emma: When the group caught me after about 20km solo I thought it was all over, but it wasn't the group of GC riders I was expecting and the gap to the peloton was over a minute. So we kept riding; Boels-Dolmans and Rabobank just sat on, but there were still 3-5 of us pulling turns all the time. On the long climb I waited for a few km then decided I needed to press on or the chasing group would catch us.
PdC: What was that big climb like? It looked rough on the photos - how was it to ride?
Emma: The long climb had some very rough sections, almost gravel. More pothole than road! But that's fun on a climb. The descent was smooth and fast (but wet!)
PdC: When you were descending all the way home, it was nail-biting from the sofa - such a small gap, and such good descenders behind you - how did you manage? And when the gap got really low, what kept you going?
Emma: It wasn't actually all downhill from the GPM - a 13km descent which I thought I was being too cautious on because of the wet (but actually I only lost 20 secs apparently) then 12-13km flattish / undulating - that's where I really lost time. They were chasing hard with 4 riders behind, which I didn't expect. I thought that Rabobank would just keep the gap down. It was reduced to 40 secs at 6km to go and I was sure they'd catch me - and so desperate not to be caught. It would have been pretty upsetting after all that work!
What kept me going? Well, you're not caught until you're caught! I had nothing to lose and I desperately wanted that stage for my whole team. I was determined to at least make Rabobank work for it. 25 secs at 3km, 19 secs at 1km... I was sure they'd catch me. I honestly couldn't believe it when I saw the finish arch ahead and still couldn't see the chasers over my shoulder. I wept.
PdC: It was a pretty bad Giro for you, what with racing that nasty Stage 1 covered in blood, and then having mechanicals and problems - how did you get through that? And how to you feel now?
Emma: The start of the Giro was very disappointing. It wasn't mechanicals so much as health problems on the first stage - a 2 hour nosebleed is not pretty and not healthy. I always have low iron anyway! And I had some problems breathing that day. I thought I was going to faint on the climb. And I knew that once I'd lost time on Vos et al, it was going to be almost impossible to win GC - bonus seconds for sprint stages add to her lead, no ITT... and a mighty strong Rabobank team - they have so many options. I normally consider myself a GC rider, and that's what the team was aiming for. I felt terrible for letting them all down. So then we decided to try for stages....
Yesterday was especially nice because I really haven't had the belief this year, that I could win any more. I was doubting my fitness and form and everything felt so hard, even though I was training the best I could. Breathing problems haven't helped. After a while, I didn't know what I was doing wrong any more or to whom to turn for support or advice, and I just thought that I was clear that I'm not good enough to win at the top level any more. I'm very grateful to my teammates and Dany for believing in me and doing everything to support me in the race, just to make an attempt. As Jolien pointed out: there was nothing to lose!
You can see the videos from the stage in the Podium Café Stage 6 race report, along with photos and links to blogs. Follow the rest of Emma's race on her twitter and with the Lotto Belisol twitter - for more Pooley, my interviews with her from her start of the 2014 season, part 1 and part 2, and from just before the Giro.
PdC: Tell us about today - 3 categorised climbs, how did that feel?
Spratty: Today was a hard stage to stay the least! Fortunately Vale had actually reconned the entire course earlier on the year so we had a little idea about how the roads were going to be.... But it still can't completely prepare you for a stage like today!
The first climb was the piccolo poggio and was short but very steep and a rude shock to the body. The second climb was not so bad, and the final 13kms climb was hard. Apart from the gradient we spent the majority of the climb on a small goat track with more potholes and gravel than normal road. Vale told me it was about 3kms to the top from the start of the forest so when I (unfortunately!) heard an Italian tell out 'cinque kilometri' to the top I cried a little bit inside ;)
PdC: What's it like on a stage like today, when you have a LONG descent after the climb - do you love that, or is it just more hell?
Spratty: For me it didn't matter so much when it is like this... We set up our better climbers Emma, Kat and Shara leading into the climb into good position.... I survived the first 5 kms with the front before I said farewell and found a bunch to ride the remainder of the climb with. Then it becomes a case of thinking about the next stages and saving a little bit of energy.
PdC: You've still got Vale in the mountains jersey and Emma in the GC top 10 - is that good for the team, or are you wishing for stage wins?
Spratty: It's definitely great for the team to still be in this position - Vale really had to fight today to keep that jersey and we are all really proud of her.... When you see how much fight and determination she has then it really makes all of is want to help her as much as we can.... Although at times it would be good to hold her back on a leash because she has sooo much energy :)
PdC: What's the secret to surviving the super-long transfers?
Spratty: We always try to cleanup and pack up as quick as possible after a stage. Today for example we had a 4 hour drive to our next accommodation in the mountains, so by the time you get there, have dinner, massage and meetings it becomes a long night. I always take a charged computer so I can watch movies or read a book to try and help the time fly by.
PdC: Who's the WORST teamie to transfer with, and why?
Spratty: I love all of my teamies
2 questions for you from LoneCycler at the Café
LoneCycler: I’m glad you came back from injury at the RvV relatively quickly. You were back racing not even 2 months later at Boels Rental Hills Classic! When I broke my collar bone, it took me a lot longer to get back on the bike and also, I showed a lot of caution when I did. Do you worry about being injured again or do you just get on with the job?
Spratty: Yes I definitely came back quickly following my collarbone surgery - I spent a LOT of time on my ergo in the basement!! I still wanted to try and make the team for the Commonwealth Games so I really pushed myself to be ready to race again by this date, and when I did race again it meant that I just had to block out any fears that I had. Crashing is part of the sport so at some level you have to be able to just get on with the job.
I have a very large metal plate that is very noticeable so it does certainly still worry me a bit, and I know when I crashed in stage one of the Giro that all I was thinking as I crashed was that I hoped my collarbone would hold up! It turns out that metal is pretty strong ;)
LoneCycler: Secondly, you see awesome bikes at every race, Colnago, Pinarello, Cippollini, the list goes on and on, and of course Orica-AIS have the Scott Foil. After a certain level it’s not the bike but the engine on the bike that matters in racing. But do you ever have bike envy? What bike do you ride when home in Australia, or do you just take you team issue Scott with?
Spratty: Sometimes I have had bike envy but since I have been with Scott bikes there is no need to any more! I am a very small rider (although still 2.2cms taller than my short teamie Valentina) so it means finding a bike that fits without having to resort to a BMX size stem, and that can be hard! Fortunately for me Scott make small enough bikes in both the Scott Foil and the Scott Addict. When I am racing I use the Scott Addict an I use the Scott Foil for training both on Europe and in Australia.
PdC: You're halfway through your first Giro - how does it feel?
Jolien: I've started my Giro Rosa quite well with a 7th place in the prologue even though I had some mechanical problems. My goal before the Giro was not wasting too much energy in the hilly stages so I can go for a good result in the flatter stages. So that's the plan I'll stick to.
PdC: Is it different to what you were expecting? What's been the biggest surprise?
Jolien: Not so different to what I expected. I knew it was going to be hard. If it comes to suffering, there's not much difference between races.
PdC: Have there been any things you've been surprised by that your team mates think is normal, or forgot to warn you about?
Jolien: The heat! It can be very hot. I'm not used to it and I like it more when it's colder and wet, so that has been a challenge for me!
PdC: You were 5th on Stage 4 - big congratulations! How does that feel?
Jolien: I was happy with my 5th place but still I'm hoping for more. On Stage 5 I couldn't sprint, so I was very devastated. But of course I need some luck as well.
PdC: What are your plans for the second half of the race?
Jolien: Maybe there's a last chance for me on Stage 7. On the last 2 days I'll try to help Emma where I can and finish in the gruppetto.
Jolien's twitter is here - and you can find out what she was thinking about the Giro in her pre-race Q&A
Keep coming back to the Café's Giro story-stream for the rest of our Giro coverage - and if you want to follow the Giro live, and watch the tv highlights, here's my guide on my blog. And if you want to catch up on the Giro, omnevelnihil and I recapped the first five days on our women's cycling podcast.