Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon-SRAM) has reignited her gravel racing plans following her surprise debut at the Tokyo Olympic Games in July. The Australian, who put her original gravel schedule on hold until after the Games, will begin racing off-road at the 2021 SBT GRVL on Sunday.
“I’m relaxed and excited. It’s been a long build-up and a lot of extra logistics with the various travel restrictions. A big thanks to my management team, Canyon-SRAM and our team’s partners for helping make it all happen,” said Cromwell ahead of the race held in Steamboat, Colorado.
Cromwell had initially planned to breathe new life into her decade-long road racing career with a full calendar of gravel races this season.
She told Cyclingnews that she doesn’t consider herself to be a pioneer of gravel riding but that she aimed to bring her competitive edge to the popular off-road discipline in a 10-event gravel racing calendar that had included Unbound, The Rift, and a few events that are part of the Belgian Waffle.
A strong Spring Classics campaign with Canyon-SRAM, however, led to a surprise selection to the Australian team for the Tokyo Olympic Games and she then rearranged her calendar to pick up her gravel racing plans post-Tokyo.
In Tokyo, Cromwell competed in the women’s road race alongside Sarah Gigante, Amanda Spratt and Grace Brown. She had a strong performance and ended up as the highest placed of her nation in 26th.
“It would be very easy to switch off from the rest of the season but I have some more goals ahead. Having the opportunity to race gravel after the Olympics is a nice way to keep things fresh. The gravel atmosphere is really relaxed and it’s a big community,” Cromwell said.
“I absolutely want to be competitive, but I can do it in a ‘fun’ way. The training for gravel is also really fun. You can be super adventurous, go exploring on ‘roads less ridden’ and just enjoy being in nature. The races are long and you need to put lots of power on the pedals. I’m confident it’s good training for my road races too.”
Cromwell will race the main event, the SBT GRVL black course covering 144 miles and around 3,000 metres of elevation on Sunday – and she aims to win.
“The plan is to obviously try and win, though I know it won’t be an easy feat. The women’s field is really stacked this year, with a mix of other roadies, gravel specialists and probably some MTB-ers,” Cromwell said.
“It’s a mass start so I’m expecting it to be a bit like ‘last woman standing’ and a race of attrition. I’ve been here a week in Colorado to adapt to the altitude also. I’ll go in to the race aiming to get to the finish with the best result possible.”
Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling’s WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor’s role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women’s Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women’s professional cycling.