Cromwell scorches to victory in Omloop het Nieuwsblad

Tim Renowden Columnist

By Tim Renowden, Tim Renowden is a Roar Expert

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    South Australian sprinter Tiffany Cromwell is on fire after winning the first European women’s race of the season, Omloop het Nieuwsblad. Her Orica-AIS teammate Emma Johansson, a former winner of the race, finished third.

    Cromwell defeated American rival Megan Guarnier (Rabobank) in a long sprint, eventually gaining a gap of three seconds. The pair had attacked just before the final section of pave, leaving the chase group dangling 12 seconds behind.

    Winning this race shows how tough Cromwell is. The weekend was bitterly cold across Europe, with temperatures below freezing during the 125km race, and icy headwinds making long range attacks extremely difficult.

    Combine the freezing conditions with the cobbled pave sections of the race, and you can imagine how strong you need to be to win a race like this. It’s especially satisfying given the 24-year old Cromwell hasn’t had a huge amount of experience in these conditions – you don’t race in sub-zero temperatures much, growing up in Adelaide.

    In fact, conditions don’t get much tougher in Europe, as demonstrated by the cancellation of Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and GP Lugano races, buried underneath heavy snow.

    Fortunately both the men’s and women’s editions of Omloop het Nieuwsblad were raced in cold but dry conditions, but it’s not all that often you see a road race with everyone in long tights, arm warmers, full gloves, shoe covers, gillets, beanies and neck warmers.

    When the Belgians are rugged up, you really know it’s brass monkeys outside.

    Orica-AIS undoubtedly benefited from the experience of Loes Gunnewijk, who has twice won the Omloop, and Johansson, the 2012 winner. Australian road champion Gracie Elvin was also in the finishing group, leading out Johansson in the bunch sprint.

    With three teammates in the front group, Cromwell was free to attack without risking a victory for the team, and she grabbed her opportunity with both long-fingered gloves.

    That sort of experience and depth is priceless in tough conditions, and the team deserves credit for ensuring their strong start to 2013 continues on from an excellent team performance in diametrically opposite conditions in Qatar.

    Interviewed by Belgium’s Sporza TV after the race, Cromwell commented on the conditions:

    “It was horrible, it was so cold but luckily I had enough warm clothes. It took a while to warm up.”

    Asked how she liked the cobbled races, Cromwell was effusive:

    “I love these races. They’re hard, but if you’ve got the power… and I like the technical aspect of it, it proves that it’s the strongest and smartest that wins.”

    And that’s just it; Cromwell was the toughest on the day, despite suffering through that special combination of biting cold and jarring cobblestones that makes your hands ache to the bone, and your muscles feel like dead slabs of mutton hanging in a butcher’s refrigerator.

    So Cromwell is tough, daring, and in form. She’s a good chance to win another classic or two, with some luck.

    The women’s circuit spends most of the next two months in Belgium and Holland, with a brief trip to Italy in late March for the Trofeo Alfredo Binda.

    With her freshly polished enthusiasm for the cobbled classics, Cromwell should be aiming for the women’s Tour of Flanders (March 31) and Fleche Wallone (April 17), as starting points. Where the finishing point is, who knows.

    Tiffany Cromwell is definitely one to watch.

    Tim Renowden
    Tim Renowden

    Tim Renowden has been following professional cycling closely since Indurain won his first Tour. An ex-runner, now a club grade bike racer, Tim tweets about sport at @megabicicleta.

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    The Crowd Says (3)

    • Columnist

      February 26th 2013 @ 11:23am
      Kate Smart said | February 26th 2013 @ 11:23am | ! Report

      Great article Tim.
      Cromwell’s season has definitely got off to a great start. She had a good January at the Michelton Bay Classics and the team performance (and her own) in Qatar were great.
      It’s good to see some women’s cycling being talked about but it’s a shame that were wasn’t any footage (or at least none that I could find) of Saturday’s race. I feel like we’ve been left with scraps of race reviews and snippets of interviews but no real overview of the race. I think you’ve put it together nicely.
      Now that she’s got her maiden Classics victory under her belt, let’s hope that we see a lot more.
      I suspect we will.

      • Columnist

        February 26th 2013 @ 12:17pm
        Tim Renowden said | February 26th 2013 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

        Yes, it was hard enough obtaining footage of the men’s race. Were there even cameras at the women’s race? Pretty disappointing coverage, but I suppose that’s an unfortunate fact of life in women’s cycling.

    • Columnist

      February 26th 2013 @ 11:40am
      Lee Rodgers said | February 26th 2013 @ 11:40am | ! Report

      What a brilliant ride that was, and I can only say that I hope people realise what a big win this is. She’s just done what very very few Aussies have done before, won a classic, and, as Tim notes, in weather conditions that had several riders dropping out. The DNFs are always a telltale sign as to how hard the race was, and there were a lot here – something like more than half the field!

      I know Tiffany a little from my time working on other publications, and she told me that she enjoyed the celebrations but is already focused on the upcoming races and fancies claiming another classic title or two. Go on Tiff!

      Watch this space for an interview with the winner of the women’s Omloop, coming soon…

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