June 20, 2010

Climbing Mountains with Tiffany Cromwell

Sunday 20th June 2010

We all want to climb better, even those of us who ‘hate mountains’, we want to climb faster, we want to dance like the professionals. Tiffany Cromwell, Australian Professional Road Cyclist, is one woman in the peloton who’s got the style and the pain threshold to keep moving forward… and up!


Tiffany is about to ride the Giro del Trentino, a hilly three day course in Italy. There’s a few thousand meters of climbing and this race is an excellent opportunity to gauge her physical and mental condition before July’s ten day Giro d’Italia.


As the only cyclist still riding from a group of potentials selected by a talent ID program, this aggressive rider is focused and is putting all her energy into the Giro d’Italia. Tiffany is in a position to achieve her goals, she knows how to keep herself future orientated and her eyes are on the best young rider’s jersey and the King of the Mountain Jersey.


You where chosen by a talent ID program, one of 15 selected and the only one to still be racing, what made you stick at it?

I don’t know really, I think it was the fact that it was a sport more suited to me and I discovered it would actually take me places and see the world. In my first year of cycling I travelled more then I ever had.

I played basketball for many years and the only place I had travelled whilst playing basketball was various places throughout Victoria. For a while there I found it really hard to leave Basketball so I was playing that and Cycling for a while but then I started enjoying Cycling more and eventually focused just on that and I think it is addictive, once you get into it you’re hooked, the social factor, the thrill, tactics, etc.

Also I’ve never been a quitter; I need to have a very good reason to give something up so I just stuck with it!


Does ‘pain become pleasure?’ You've said before that you like a tough race?

I guess you could say that. I think I have a higher pain tolerance than others so if it is a hard race I can a lot of the time fight through the pain and keep on pushing harder where other people who don’t have as high thresh hold would probably blow and not be able to keep up any longer.


Your main discipline is climbing mountains, how do you train for mountains?

Firstly some people like myself are born with the right body type to find climbing easy then others (generally smaller riders). To train for them, however, to get stronger and faster it’s just a matter of climbing as many mountains as you can.

I also do various efforts depending on the particular climbs I am racing. To get base strength I do a lot of strength and endurance which is generally big gears, low cadence and performed in the seat. I also do race pace efforts which is going as hard as you can for a certain time or distance to simulate racing.

Another effort I also use are surging / hill sprints to simulate racing once again e.g. 20/40’s for an allocated amount of time so that is 20 seconds at about 90-100% and 40 seconds about 50% as this helps your lactate threshold increase so you can go with the change of pace in races.


I have a friend who is looking to climb Mt Hotham and she'll be rewarded with a Bianchi if she makes it, do you have some useful advice for her and every other person who is looking attempt a mountain of that magnitude?

Wow that’s fantastic, a great incentive to go and climb Hotham.

It’s lucky because I know that climb but the key is pacing yourself and not going too hard at the start as you might not make it all the way as it gets easier in the middle then hard again at the top.

The key is starting small and building, if you’re going to climb a mountain but are not use to it or never done it before you don’t want to go out and find the biggest climb you can first up. I would say start with smaller climbs; get the feel of what it is like to go up a hill as you work at a higher heart rate then riding on the flat.

Then continue building, gradually finding longer climbs until you work up to a climb like Hotham. Persistence is the key, never give up just keep at it as hard work pays off.


When you identify a goal, what process do you go through to achieve it?


Firstly I try to set myself achievable goals, not ones that are way out of the ball park. Once I have my main goal, I set smaller ones to target to give me something to always work towards as I build up to the ultimate goal instead of setting a big goal and then losing focus of it as it is taking too long to achieve.


There's been a lot of talk in regards to women's racing that women's races need to be backed onto men's events, what are your thoughts on this? Do you think that this is a positive step towards getting more sponsorship and exposure?

I agree 100%, I have been lucky enough to do La Fleche Wallone Feminine and Ronde van Vlaanderen this year and they are both on the same day as the Pro men’s race and seriously is such a bigger race for the women as we rarely get crowds that big and the hype all around it.

They do it in America quite often and the women’s side is much closer to the men’s side over there. With more Women’s races combined with Major Men’s races it would be better for sponsorship and exposure as you will get more spectators, more live races screened on TV etc. and that’s what sponsors want, TV time = money for sponsors.

All this is easier said then done as there is a lot of work that goes into the production of races with logistics etc. so trying to combine more would be difficult as the women don’t do anywhere near as long stages as the men but it would be great if we can see more of it.


We've mentioned previously that women's cycling in Australia needs more sponsorship; do you think it’s a case of company's being willing to take a risk? Or is there more to it than that?

I think that is a starting point, the biggest problem is the profile of women’s cycling.

Sponsors want something for the money they put in. The problem is that you don’t get a lot of coverage of women’s cycling on main stream things such as television, radio, billboards, advertisements etc.

The major exposure you’ll generally get are just things within the industry such as cycling related magazines or websites so it isn’t as enticing for a company to invest money into it in an area that isn’t related to the company.

Unlike you AFL, Cricket, Tennis, etc. there is a lot more coverage on it in all areas. It is a combination of companies willing to take a risk but also trying to get the sport to grow and become more recognized throughout the country, it is slowly happening and even on the men’s side it has a much bigger following in Australia due to the growing success of Australian cyclists but is still considered a small sport within Australia.


Tell me about the support that you've received along the way?

I have had incredible support the whole way, first and foremost my parents, they’ve always supported me 100%, when I was a junior they took me around the country to compete in the various events to be able to compete with the top level competition out there.

South Australian Sports Institute (SASI)/talent search were also a major support to me as they set me up completely with bikes, clothing, equipment, travel assistance etc, and then when I received a full SASI scholarship they assisted with travel funding, support services, coaching, training facilities etc.

Then I moved into the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and Professional teams and national teams and that’s another level again where you are supported 100% with all the equipment, support services, travel expenses, salaries etc. so you can make a small living

The AIS / Cycling Australia in particular have been a huge support to me especially when my professional team I had signed with for this year folded due to loss of sponsor, the national program picked up the pieces and supported me by still giving me a full calendar of international racing and everything else I have already mentioned.

Finally all of my past and present sponsors whether it has been product sponsorship, discounts at the local bike shop, or even financial sponsors, in the world of Professional sport and women’s sport in particular you couldn’t do it without them.


We wish Tiffany the best of luck for the Giro del Trintino and the Giro d’Italia, you can keep in touch with Tiffany through her website www.tiffanyjane.com.au.

Stay tuned for more information about Tiffany Cromwell as we discuss her family, the support she’s received and her clothing label.

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