The 2021 edition of the Giro d'Italia Donne was one full of ups and downs for the five Australians who started Stage 1 from Fossano.
As the curtain closed on this year’s race in Cormons with a Coryn Rivera (Team DSM) stage win and Anna van der Breggen’s (Team SD Worx) fourth maglia rosa, only Tiffany Cromwell (CANYON//SRAM Racing) and Sarah Roy (Team BikeExchange) remained of the Australian quintet.
The surviving duo
Cromwell played a vital role in catapulting her Swiss teammate Elise Chabbey into the top 10 in the general classification on the final day of racing and finished the Giro Donne 26th in the general classification herself.
The Adelaidean did her Tokyo 2020 preparations no harm in Italy, with consistent finishes across the ten stages.
Cromwell was most active on Stage 7’s hilly circuits which finished in Puegnago del Garda.
The looming Tokyo 2020 Olympian tried her luck with a daring late attack which was ultimately neutralised by Trek-Segafredo’s Elisa Longo Borghini.
“Decided to try my luck with an attack at just over 1km to go on the uphill finish,” Cromwell said of the seventh 2021 Giro Donne stage.
“Had nothing to lose. Didn’t work out, but won’t stop me from trying again another time.”
Much like Cromwell, current national champion Sarah Roy enjoyed a consistent Giro Donne.
Riding in service of compatriot Amanda Spratt until her abandonment of the Giro Donne, Roy’s best stage result was a sprint finish in Stage 5 into Carugate, which saw her come across the finish line in 16th place.
Speaking at the end of the Giro overnight, Roy said Team BikeExchange’s staff and riders gave everything to their goal of Spratt’s general classification ambitions.
“Janneke (Ensing), Ane (Santesteban), Georgia (Williams), Grace (Brown), and I raced hard for it each day to give Spratty the best chance and she also dug deep, despite the hard luck,” she said.
“We were completely lucked out in the end though.”
The unfortunate abandons
Amanda Spratt and Grace Brown’s abandonments (both Team BikeExchange) were the results of a crash in the final kilometres of Stage 8 of the Giro Donne.
Team BikeExchange entered this year’s Giro Donne with a specific focus on riding for Amanda Spratt, who was placed 12th in the general classification before the crash.
The Team BikeExchange leader battled on in Stage 9 despite her injuries but decided against starting the final stage to Cormons with her Olympic goals in mind.
With less than two weeks to go until the Tokyo 2020 road race, Spratt elected to gain an extra day of recovery as well as a head start on her final preparations for the Olympics.
“Unfortunately, I’ve made the decision not to start the final stage of the Giro. I pushed so, so hard yesterday and through the pain just a bit too much," Spratt said.
“With an eye to the Olympics ahead, I think it’s the right decision not to race.
“It’s really disappointing, but it’s how it is. Now we’re looking ahead.
“I had a lot of pain in my back and glute from the crash. I hoped it would get better during the stage but it was a tough battle all the way to the line.
“I’m definitely disappointed after all the hard work from the team I had definitely hoped for more.”
Spratt’s Tokyo 2020 teammate Brown suffered multiple wounds and a left shoulder contusion as a result of the crash, withdrawing from the race after Stage 8 following an assessment by the team doctor.
Brown, who finished third in Stage 4’s 11.2km ITT behind van der Breggen and Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx), was quick to dampen any serious concerns of her upcoming ambitions in Tokyo post-crash.
“It was quite unfortunate that three of us came down in a crash today and we’re all a bit cut up and bruised,” she said after the eighth stage.
“Personally, I’m fine, but I’ve hurt the muscle in my shoulder, and I have some quite deep cuts that need to heal.
“I’m looking to be in good shape for the Tokyo Olympics and that’s my priority now, so I want to rest up so I can be good for that.”
FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope’s Queenslander Brodie Chapman had an eventful Giro Donne, to say the least.
Chapman was always on the hunt for the breakaway up until the final stage of the Giro, when she fell victim to a “full-on” asthma attack in the first 10km.
“At this point, there is literally nothing I could do except try to stay on my bike and move forward until the ambulance stopped me and administered some Ventolin,” she said.
“I was so lightheaded I could hardly stand. Yep, sounds super dramatic and I was honestly not expecting anything like this to happen as I really felt motivated and excited ahead of today’s final stage.
“Frustrated to be sitting here wheezing like a walrus when I wish I was helping my teammates.”
The attack-minded Chapman was also caught up in a Stage 3 crash which left her right knee heavily bloodied while chasing moves in the break.
Chapman’s best finish of the 2021 Giro was a 16th on Stage 9’s ascent finish of Monte Matajur.