by Chris Geiser
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR TRAVEL, AND TACKLING STRADE BIANCHE
The hilled cities of Toscana — we are expecting a lot of ups and downs through the course, and an authentic Italian experience both off and on the bike.
Needless to say my last trip to Toscana was a little different than what I am expecting this coming March. While I was a cycling hobbyist, once, twice a month, and a century or two per year, my pea-brain had not yet managed to connect my growing appreciation for cycling, with my journey to the Italian countryside.
Just months before, as I had been sidelined with a double-achilles injury (it’s always injuries with me isn’t it), I spent my time on the couch watching the Cervelo Test Team bring Carlos Sastre to the podium in the 100 year celebration of the Giro d’Italia. It’s notable, not for what those guys achieved, not because it was the Giro in its 100th year, but because here I was in Italy, without making the connection for a single moment. Lost on me. Oh the humanity!
It was a wonderful trip, in spite of my mental gaffe in not connecting the dots. But it was limited. Limited by where we could go in a car. Where we could find parking. What monumental (not that kind), thing were we seeing today. What “must see” thing was happening, what were we doing to make sure that we saw the right postcard locations, found a place to eat, rushed through a meal, and got out to see the next thing before it closed or got dark. Limited by a perception of what an authentic Italian experience would, should, or could be.
We just don’t roll like that anymore. It’s not that I would turn down an opportunity to revisit Galleria degli Uffizi again, or see any of the wonderful things that we saw, but further travel, and combining that further travel with cycling have “woke” (did I say it right, kids?) me to what an authentic experience is. To meet the people, enjoy local food, to stop for an amazing coffee in the middle of a race, and ride the roads that professionals, amateurs, novices, farmers, and local citizens ride. To see a place as the locals see it. To ride the roads, instead of watching them from the couch.
Man — what a self-infatuated smarty pants! What do I know anyway — but don’t take my word for it! Let’s ask a Pro!
If you don’t trust my opinion, would you trust the opinion of the overall winner of the 2018 Ovo Energy Women’s Tour? Does the number 72 mean anything to you — as in 72 U.S. National titles? The winner of the 2017 Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Comune di Cittiglio? The winner of the 2017 Women’s Tour of Flanders? The current women’s USA National Road Racing champion? You would right?
Well, you’re in luck, because I was in luck, and had the unbelievable opportunity to speak with the champion Coryn Rivera about her experiences in Italy, at the Strade Bianche, and about her overall feelings about Toscana.
72 National Titles — Coryn Rivera lends us her expertise on race preparation, racing in Italy, and her love of travel.
Coryn Rivera is an accomplished professional cyclist that has been racing since her first kids race growing up in California. After growing into being able to ride the tandem with her father in century rides (her father was once a downhill mountain bike racer — for your cool Dad file), she entered a kids race and won. With a year between events, after the second one, she yearned to feel the joy of competing more than once per year, and so her career began. Learning to race, and trying just about everything on two wheels — cross, road, MTB, everything but BMX, if it was competitive cycling, she was up for it, and was able to turn it into what is a stellar career in progress. With more to do, Coryn enjoys seeing new places, and being able to race in those places. With a gratitude for what she is able to do, she approaches each race with recon, technical planning, and knowing where and when to use her energy. It was a pleasure to learn about how Coryn’s experiences relate to those of a traveling cyclist, that loves to see and experience new places, compete, and enjoy the process. Coryn is currently ranked the number 5 woman cyclist in the World, by the UCI.
So much of what we publish here — is about combining cycling with travel. Seeing new places, meeting new people, riding/racing, understanding new cultures. How has this changed your cycling perspective? Is it something that drives you and your goals?
Absolutely, it’s cool to have this great opportunity, and I am thankful to be able to do what I do. Most of the time it’s busy and, all business, but when I get the chance to take things in, I grab it with both hands. The world is a cool place, and I love to see new things. When there are some races that I haven’t done, I like to get to those. For instance, I have never been to Australia or New Zealand, that could be a cool race — the Tour Down Under. I would love to do that. I did the tour of Norway this year, and that was cool. I know there are some races in Luxembourg that I have never done, but I am lucky to have experienced most of Europe, that I have been to and raced in.
Hitting the climbs in full stride!
You have spent some time in Italy, and in Toscana, and had success there. How do you feel about the area, and cycling in the area? What stands out for you?
I really love it, that’s probably one of the first places I visited as a junior, we stayed in a house in Lucca. We rode to Pisa, Monte Serra — the riding there is really beautiful, and it’s funny how the cars and the bikes know each other. It’s a kind of organized chaos, how the cars and bikes get along. I am a huge fan of the local food and wine there. The gelato, the coffee, the food, and some of my favorite wine is from Toscana. And I know I am not the only one, there are a few other pros that live there, and I am lucky to have experienced it.
The strade bianche — or white roads — of Tuscany, these sectors, will be featured on GFNY Italia.
The GFNY Italia, in 2019 will cover some of the same types of “white roads” as ridden in the Monument Strade Bianche. Needless to say, there is a lot of excitement around it. You have been doing Monuments as they have come available to the Women’s Peloton. With your huge win in Flanders, how do you develop a strategy for the types of challenges you see in Europe?
Growing up I raced all the disciplines except bmx. I raced, road, cyclocross, track, and MTB. Looking back it plays a huge role in how I read a race and the road in front of me. I have been mountain biking this off season, and some track as well. All of them make me a better rider and are tools that I use to make myself better. To prepare for Monuments, it’s really specific, you really have to study the course. Cycling isn’t mainstream for Americans, but in Europe, it’s like American football, and they know all the roads. Recon is the most important thing you can do for big races and classics.
How are they different from what you have seen here in the USA, and in Canada? Will you continue to focus on the Monuments?
Absolutely — those races really suit me. I have an eye for detail, whether it be cobbles or gravel, and I kind of thrive on those kind of challenges, and the team and i know how to position ourselves for those types of challenges. Those are definitely the things that I really like .
Preparation and recon are key, according to Coryn, “I am really aware of the details”
With particular attention to Strade Bianche, how do you prepare for the “white roads”? From a technical perspective, how is your preparation different than say, cobbles (as in Flanders), or high climbs, like you would see in the USA Pro Challenge on more “standard roads”? Does your cross background play a role in how you prepare, mentally, physically, technically?
Again, recon is definitely important. Knowing which sections are which, and being mentally prepared to be in the front of the group at the right times. Some you come into straight and they are short and flat. Then you get to hard left turns and climbs, and you have to invest some energy to get to the front, if you get there in the back, there is less opportunity to get around and out in front. If you are further back it has an accordion effect. So invest some energy to be in the right position. It’s hard to prepare for racing the gravel because it constantly changes. After 100 people, cobbles are the same, with gravel, there are usually one or two good lines, and you can only see those lines from the front. So if you are 100 people back maybe those lines are gone. If you put in that energy in you can stay relaxed and have less stress.
So many cyclists are tech/gear nerds (myself included), are you a gear nerd? Tell us about how you like to setup?
I am a little, I am pretty in tune with my machine. I check everything before I start a race, I know what tire pressure, I can tell when something is different, like a longer stem. I am really aware of those details. I run a 36 all year, and like the lighter gears for options, like an 11/30 and 11/32 for some of the steeper races. I definitely love my sprint shifters. I use those more than the shifters itself, because i can reach those from the tops and from the drops. Those are my key tech nerdy things.
Technically speaking for strade bianche — what is your setup like?
It’s funny, riding on strade bianche is different, with cobbles you can go lower pressure, but with gravel you can’t do that because you want it to bite a little bit. I keep the pressure in between what you would run for cobbles and the regular road. Less bumps more loose pavement, and not too much washboard. Not too low tire pressure. For me the weather was a big deal. And gearing wise, some of those climbs on the pro race course are crazy steep, and there is no turning back if you don’t have the right gears. 36 inner chainring and a 32 on the cassette. I like to spin, so I use that ratio a lot in the Classics. For me, having a bit extra helps me save my legs for later. I run a 36 all year. With Sunweb electronic, when I was with United Healthcare it was mechanical. I have never had a problem with electronic. Once I had the rear mech lock up on a weird shift, but it was a one-time thing.
The pro race has a much higher ratio of strade bianche to paved road than the GFNY Italia course, so my plan will be to run at normal tire pressure between 105 PSI and 115 PSI. As Coryn says, we are looking for that “bite” into the strade bianche, while also looking to make sure we have little rolling resistance on the paved roads that make up the majority of the course.
Continental Granx Prix 4 Season — while not a GFNY sponsor — it is in my personal opinion the best all around tire out there.
What will be key here for GFNY riders, I think, is having the right tires. If you have been listening to the GFNY podcasts, you have heard about the success on any surface using Continental Grand Prix 4 Season. This is the tire that I have chosen for quite some time, and have ridden in every race except for one. I have had only two flat tires in all the GFNY races and other races that I have done, and one of those two was the time I raced without the Contientals. Lesson learned. My De Rosa SK Pininfarina will be setup with the Continental Grand Prix 4 Season, at a 25 width. That is the standard tire I use for all occasions. However, I will likely leave my Campagnolo Bora Ultra 50 wheels at home in favor of something lower profile, without a carbon braking surface (likely Campagnolo Scirocco). As we continue to train, and think about the race ahead, I will provide more details right here about how folks are setting up and what everyone’s expectations are.
The white roads (strade bianche) and rolling hills of Tuscany — if you are not excited about this — please check your pulse.
Hey — this is pretty exciting. To get a pro scouting report, to hear a little more about the joy of Toscana from a pro. With March fast approaching, and the #GFNYFallSeason behind us for 2018, it’s time to start planning for the camp and race in Toscana. Houses are being rented, and rooms already filled. Airline tickets, van rentals, are complete. While we train we plan, and we have the advice of a pro on our side as we get ready. To say that this trip to Toscana will be different than 2009 would be an understatement. Prepare for authentic Italy, authentic Toscana, authentic white roads, Vino Nobile, and the call of Montepulciano.
Stay tuned for the next Sector! Ciao!
With gratitude to Ms. Coryn Rivera, for her generosity, time, and great insights. To Lidia and Uli Fluhme for their vision, as well as their insight and guidance in preparing Sector 1, and to Mirko DP for answering my ridiculous questions at all hours of the evening!