Whisper this, but sometimes driven, ruthlessly ambitious sportspeople can be a bit … one-dimensional. That’s what makes Tiffany Cromwell more than just an up-and-coming talent. It’s not just train, race, recover, repeat. There’s a lot more going on away from the road …
Some guy once wrote that it’s not about the bike. For Tiffany Cromwell, already a two-time winner at the Sea Otter Classic, you could say it’s not only about the bike. It’s about studying, fashion, following dreams, and building two very different futures.
PEZ caught up with the 21-year old Aussie in between her U-23 TT silver and her crack at the Elite Road Championships…
PEZ: How are things going, Tiffany?
Tiffany: Not too bad, actually. I had a good time trial, got second in the Under 23 category, then we have the road race. I’m feeling strong, feeling good. It’ll come down to if I end up having the legs on the day I think, but I’m really motivated.
PEZ: The competition at the Aussie Nationals is ferocious for the Women’s Title this year …
Tiffany: Yeah, definitely. There’s a lot of talent coming through in Australian cycling, a lot of strong girls. Ruth Corset’s going to be one of the strongest to try and beat.
(Pez: And indeed, Ruth Corset won solo ahead of Bridie O’ Donnell. Tiffany was 10th on the day, for silver behind Megan Dunn in the U-23 championship.)
PEZ: Lately, you’ve been racing for the Honda Dream Team … tell us about that.
Tiffany: It’s been really good, racing as a domestic team doing the criterium series. It’s been such a strong team, we just dominated the racing, so it’s been fun to be a part of it, and that Honda has supported it.
PEZ: The team leader is Rochelle Gilmore …
Tiffany: She’s actually a really good person, I get on with her very well. She goes to races to win, and that gives us the motivation to work hard because we want to pull it off, too. She’s a strong rider, and we’re there to work for her. 99.9% of the time she finishes things off to perfection.
PEZ: Riding with Rochelle domestically, knowing what she’s been able to do internationally, must give you a lot of confidence?
Tiffany: I’ve learnt a lot because I’ve been riding with and against her for a number of years. I’ve learnt about becoming a good strong domestique, doing lead-outs, that side of things. She’s good to learn from. She tells us what she needs and we get it done.
PEZ: How about your 2010. You were on the roster for the new Skyter Shipping team, but that all went haywire …
Tiffany: Yeah … that all fell apart in December. They tried everything they could to get any major sponsor. As far as I’m aware, they’re still going to try and register with the UCI but with a much smaller budget.
For me, it just wasn’t possible to race overseas without the support. I said to them I’ll sign if they do get a new major sponsor, if they’re able to get the same support which they originally had.
PEZ: Now you’ll be racing with the national team set-up?
The Australian national team put forward a really good proposal and we have a really strong set-up over in Europe. We’re doing a lot of the major UCI races, all of the spring Classics, the World Cups, so it was the best option for me, given the time of year that this all happened.
PEZ: Maybe it’ll be a benefit to get another year of experience with the national team?
Tiffany: Exactly. The national team is there to support us, to try to help us get a professional contract. I believe it’s the best choice for me, and the aim is to try and get a mid-year contract if possible.
That means I can aim for a really strong early season, then see what’s out there. See if there’s any new teams coming up after all the ‘foldings’ we had at the end of last year. That way, I’m not stuck struggling with a small team all year. I have a lot more flexibility with the national team.
PEZ: What are your major ambitions for the year ahead?
Tiffany: To start with, a strong spring campaign, see if I can get some placings in the World Cups. I’d like to have another good Giro d’Italia, maybe get up for the young rider’s jersey.
But the major goal would have to be the World Championships at home in Australia. I’ve been round the course in the last few weeks, and it’s a lot harder than people have been making it out to be. It’s suited for my style of riding. To race the Worlds in your own country would be awesome.
Also, we have the Commonwealth Games in India where the course doesn’t suit me quite as well, so I’d be going there purely as a domestique. That would be a good way to finish the year.
PEZ: Everyone is saying the 2010 Worlds course is for the sprinters…
Tiffany: For the women, I don’t think so. Just with the amount of laps, and the climbs are quite steep. There are two quite close to each other, late on in each lap. The length of the race will whittle the field.
Maybe a strong power-sprinter like Ina-Yoko Tuetenberg can get over them .. when she’s on form she can do anything. I think it’s more like a course for Marianne Vos or Nicole Cooke.
For the elite men, I believe a strong sprinter could get over it, purely because they have the long stretch from Melbourne to Geelong. I think it’ll hurt as a course, and will split the women up more than the men.
PEZ: The Australian national team for the Worlds should be one of the strongest?
Tiffany: Absolutely, racing on home soil in front of our own fans will be an advantage. We know the course already.
Plus, at that time of year, it might not be very nice weather in Australia! The weather’s really unpredictable, we might get a decent spring day or we might get wind and rain. I think that knowledge will be an advantage, and we’re looking forward to an awesome experience.
I think the race would suit Ruth Corset’s capabilities really well, or Rochelle Gilmore could be in with a chance if she’s ‘climbing fit’ to get over the climbs.
PEZ: You’re going to be racing off-road soon, aren’t you?
Tiffany: Yeah, the Australian National MTB Championships is in my home state just 5kms from my house. I like to mix it up on the dirt a bit. As it’s after the road nationals, I’ll give it a crack but I’m not going in with expectations, just to have fun.
I just got a new hard tail bike so I’ve been hitting the trails a bit more. I think it’s great for cross-training and for the technical side of things. It’s a different intensity and I think sometimes if you do too much road you get a bit ‘head cracked’! Mixing it up keeps you motivated to hit the road hard.
PEZ: Tell us a bit about your strong 2009.
Tiffany: It was little bit unexpected that things went so well, but also satisfying. It gives me so much more confidence in myself, the belief to win.
I went into last season wanting to take a step up after a year and a half in the States … to try and have a good go of it in Europe. I’ve got a lot more belief that I can actually time trial which is good because I want to become more of a GC rider in the future. I’m not afraid to hurt myself now.
PEZ: In hurting yourself in TTs, you beat a good field at La Route de France.
Tiffany: Definitely. It was just a huge surprise when I won that time trial. I’ve improved a lot in time-trialling. If you get in a break, especially a solo break, you need that TT ability to hold on.
PEZ: What were the other highlights last year?
Tiffany: My first European win at the Tour Feminin en Limousin (in a group sprint on stage 3, a fortnight before that Route de France TT). Just achieving my goals I guess.
I went to the Montreal World Cup wanting a top ten finish, and I managed to achieve that. I wanted to compete with Australia at the Worlds and that was a big highlight to finish off the year. But the time trial was the outstanding one.
PEZ: So, the next couple of years will be about developing as a rider for the overall?
Tiffany: I want to become one of the top GC riders. I’d love to win the Giro d’ Italia or the Tour de l’Aude. I think I’m a strong climber but I still have a lot to work on before I’m up with the top European riders.
It’s a good start and over the next few years I should be able to build on that strength as I get a bit older.
It’s not just about the bike …
PEZ: Off the bike, what sort of person is Tiffany Cromwell?
Tiffany: A pretty chilled out person, pretty relaxed. I like listening to a bit of everthing. Not huge into rap. I like U2, things I can dance to.
I’m big into fashion, which I study, and I have my own label.
PEZ: How do you fit that into your racing and training?
Tiffany: Over the last couple of years, I started an Advanced Diploma in Fashion Studies. I just do it part-time and when I’m at home.
The design side of things with my label, and the cycling stuff, that’s easier because I can do the designs wherever I am, and then send them to the company that makes up the clothes for me.
The hardest thing is trying to find ‘creative space’. When I find that, I can go wild and just create designs and concepts. It’s something completely different from the cycling side of my life.
I do freelance kit designs … I did the Lotto Ladies Team kit for last year, and I’ve done the new one for 2010. I did the Honda Dream Team kit, and some local teams at home as well. If people have an idea in mind, or colors that they race in, they can get in touch with me through my website – then I can come up with something.
PEZ: Do you have a long-term dream on the fashion side of things?
Tiffany: My dream would be to be a professional cyclist, having my business running on the side. Then when I eventually finish cycling I would love to have my own fashion house. The area I really want to get into is couture wear, the runway, all the crazy catwalk stuff where you can create new styles.
It would be a dream to put myself down the Paris or New York runway, have a fashion house in Australia and Europe. That would be the ultimate … for my label to be the next Dolce and Gabbana or Giorgio Armani!
PEZ: Your nails have a gallery all of their own on your website. Do they get comments when you’re racing?
Tiffany: I used to get them done all the time, apparently they’re a big hit on my website! It’s a bit of fun and flair, a lot of people in the peloton like them, I’ve had a lot of comments.
I’ve broken a couple of nails along the way but they’re pretty tough. I could use them as tyre levers if I had to! (Laughing)
PEZ: You’ve just signed up with the Bike Pure campaign.
Tiffany: I think that’s a huge thing. It’s such a good cause, to try and get rid of the cheats in cycling. When they approached me, I signed up straight away. I believe everybody should be riding clean. I’m 100% for what they’re doing and think it’s a great thing that they’ve set up.
For all the good publicity we attract for the sport, one positive test brings so much bad media and that’s what drives out sponsors. That’s what we need so much to keep the sport alive, so keeping cycling clean is vital.
To keep up-to-date with Tiffany’s racing career, and to get in touch with her if you fancy getting a road racing pro to design your team kit go to: https://www.tiffanyjane.com.au/