Usually when Tiffany Cromwell lines up against the likes of Lorena Wiebes she is working for the results of her teammates, but when it comes to gravel that changes – the domestique becomes dominant.
When the rider from South Australia lined up among a field of some of the World’s best riders at the European Gravel Championships last weekend – also the final qualifying race for the 2023 UCI Gravel World Championships – she delivered a reminder that when it comes to the growing discipline she is a force to be reckoned with, no matter who she is up against.
The Australian had entered the event in Belgium knowing she couldn’t claim the title, given her nationality, but was looking for a hard hit out ahead of the Gravel World Championships on Saturday. Cromwell certainly got that, and plenty more.
The 35 year old Canyon-SRAM rider forged ahead early in the race as part of a powerful group of four including top Dutch sprinter Wiebes (SD Worx) – who has 71 road victories to her name – world cyclocross champion Fem van Empel (Jumbo-Visma) and Elena Cecchini (SD Worx).
“I could have just gone with them to the finish line, knowing I’m not going to beat Lorena in the sprint … but then there was this one little climb a few kilometres from the finish and I was like, I might as well try,” Cromwell told Cyclingnews.
“It’s good for my confidence to challenge because I think, you know, sometimes, when you race in particular on the road as a domestique you forget how to attack.”
Her supremely successful gravel season, however, has clearly helped remind her of the art.
“With gravel, I take a completely different outlook to how I am on the road,” said Cromwell. “Obviously, I know in gravel I can be competitive.”
It is in fact a discipline where Cromwell has not just been competitive this year but has repeatedly found herself on the top step of the podium, which was again the case in Belgium last weekend.
Cromwell, who took her last road victory in 2017, was first over the line at the European Championships, crossing ahead of Wiebes, who claimed the European title, and Van Empel.
“I definitely surprised myself a little bit with that one and obviously it was a great feeling,” said Cromwell.
The podiums roll on
Standing on the top steps of the podium is also a feeling that is becoming all the more familiar to Cromwell as…