The NorCal Cycling News was pleased to see several Northern California residents riding strong in what is possibly women’s cycling’s most prestigious stage race, the Giro Rosa, earlier in July. After nine stages of road racing through Italy, Megan Guarnier netted our region’s top placing, finishing seventh overall. Originally from New York, Guarnier now resides in Mountain View while not traveling the world on a busy racing schedule. Still in Europe, the NCCN remotely interviewed the Boels-Dolmans rider across the Pond.
NCCN: You had two top-5 stage results and ended up 7th overall in the general classification, very impressive. What was the hardest day, the hardest moment, and when did you have to act with the largest dose of courage during any particular stage?
MG: The hardest day and moment was stage 6 where I had an asthma attack. My team and I had executed a perfect race up to that point to put me in a good position for the general classification. My asthma attack on the long climb of the day caused me to drop from the front group, which by the end put me 4 minutes down on the stage (and GC). That was a big hit to my position in general classification, and it was a lot to try to get back in the final days, especially while I was still trying to recover physically from digging so deep while my body protested.
NCCN: You have praised your teammates and the hard work they did to help you along. Did your team develop specific plans per stage once you emerged as the team’s top GC contestant, or simply try to roll with the punches that the race tossed out?
MG: Boels-Dolmans went into the race with the plan for me to contest general classification. We always wanted to give opportunities to everyone for stage victories, however, the race didn’t play out as such. The team stuck by my side from beginning to end and it was such a great feeling.
NCCN: Most of your teammates are from European countries in which English is not the primary language. Does everyone speak English, or do you speak a secondary common language with them? Is it easy to communicate during races?
MG: On Boels-Dolmans everyone speaks English; that is what is really nice about being on such an international team – the common language is English. Of course, with a large number of riders and staff being from the Netherlands sometimes conversations are held in Dutch, but now that I have been on Dutch teams for two years I am having a much better grasp of the language.
NCCN: Have you raced the Giro Rosa before? How much course preview were you able to do? Any surprises from the terrain or the weather?
MG: This is my third time racing the Giro Rosa. I raced in 2009 with USA Cycling, 2012 with Rabobank, and this year. With stage races it is always hard to preview the courses. European stage races are not like those in the US where we do the same courses each year. Every edition of the race has new courses. Sometimes you travel through similar regions from the year before, but it is rare to have the same course/stage race from one year to the next. I previewed the stages on Google Maps. That is really the only feasible way to do it unless you live in one of the regions of the race. The race started in Naples and then went all the way to the North, so even if I lived in Italy, I’d have been unable to preview each stage.
NCCN: Previewing with Google Maps is a drag. You can get big-picture ideas but it’s so easy to miss the small but really important details.
MG:There are always surprises in racing. You can go in with a million ideas on how you think the race will be and somehow the million scenarios you didn’t think of are the reality. I had numerous surprises as the stage race progressed. The prologue was 2km in the dark on cobbles on the TT bike. Stage 1 was a surprise to all! Everyone kept saying it was a “sprinter stage” but we quickly saw the GC develop on that first day. It was very hard. The 2nd stage had horrible pavement – I have actually never ridden such bad roads, and unfortunately they were circuits so we got to revisit them 8 times! The 6th stage had the unpleasant surprise for me of my asthma attack. The last stage had a final climb was much steeper than I had anticipated…but that is racing.
NCCN: Did you feel it was a fair contest out there, with good, equally strong competition from multiple prominent teams?
MG: Rabobank is a force to be reckoned with in the mountains right now. That is clear with how the general classification played out. The racing is fair and there were many teams and riders who were able to animate the race.
NCCN: Was this a target race for this season, or are there others that you have raced or are still to come that are top priority for your 2014 season?
MG: The Giro was a target for me. Every race I enter I want to make a good result, or put one of my teammates on the top step. We still have four World Cup races ahead and right now we are leading the World Cup with Lizzie (Armitstead). So this will be a focus for the remainder of the season. The Worlds Championships TTT is also a focus in September. The ultimate goal, of course, is the World Championships Road Race.
NCCN: Outside of the actual racing, what is your favorite part about being in Italy?
MG: The cappuccinos.
NCCN: Of course! Did you get to spend much time there before or after the stage race?
MG: I flew in the night before and left the evening the race finished, so I didn’t get to “enjoy” the country. As a woman professional cyclist, there is not a lot of leisure time surrounding a race.
NCCN: Oddball question #287: which member of your team staff (not another rider) would you chose to be on your team in a two-player team poker tournament?
MG: I do not know if any of them would be good at poker! They are all very clever, but I don’t think any of us would be successful in a poker tournament. Danny Stam, our director, has a really great feel for races and the riders entered – he understands racing and creates incredibly smart tactics for our team success.
Who wants to play Danny Stam and Megan Guarnier in the poker tournament, any takers? In the meantime, look for Megan and her squad in the remaining World Cup races this summer, and the 2014 World Championships in late September.
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