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Review Giro Donne with Hanna Nilsson and Silke Smulders

One day after the end of the Giro d’Italia Donne we look back on the race with Hanna Nilsson (29) and Silke Smulders (20). Nilsson, who broke her left collarbone at the Lotto Belgium Tour and had to undergo surgery only one week before the start of the Giro, finished 22nd overall. Smulders, 29th on GC, was the fifth best young rider of the Giro.

The day after the team time trial, with which the Giro began, a summit finish at Prato Nevoso was scheduled. Nilsson crossed the finish line as 26th, and she was 38th on GC. A good start of her Giro considering her injury and recent surgery. The Swedish rider never gave up and slowly she moved up on GC. After ten stages she finished on the 22nd place, 25 minutes and 28 seconds down on overall winner Anna van der Breggen.

“I am extremely tired now”, starts Hanna Nilsson. “I have never been so exhausted after a stage race before. This has been a very unique experience which I don’t want to repeat, but I definitely don’t regret anything. I have pushed myself to the limit and I gave it 100 per cent every single day. And I am proud of it.”

“The first two to three stages after the team time trial were mentally more difficult than expected”, continues Nilsson. “That was because of the rain and the bad roads. I crashed and broke my collarbone at the Lotto Belgium Tour by hitting a gap in the road. I was afraid that would happen again and therefore I was searching for the holes in the road, trying to avoid them. I was scared the first few days, especially on the third stage, and I wasted a lot of energy because of it. But I had to go through that phase to find my way back in the bunch.”

“It’s mentally hard to accept that I could not reach the goals I initially had for this Giro, but in a month or two I might come to terms with it and maybe I can be a bit more satisfied than I feel now”, says Nilsson. “It has been a really intense ten days and now the time has come to process things. During the Giro there is no time for reflection. You just race, eat and sleep. My body had to work on two fronts: recover in between the stages and recover from a collarbone fracture and surgery. The tank is empty now. I will take some rest and my parents are coming to visit me, so I have time to charge the batteries again.”

Silke Smulders, who only started competition in June after she was operated on her knee at the beginning of the season, did very well on the first mountain stage to Prato Nevoso and one day later she entered the top ten of the best young rider classification. The Dutch rider ended the Giro as fifth best young rider and 29th overall. On the last stage Smulders finished twelfth.

“I am very satisfied with my performance”, tells Silke Smulders. “I didn’t know what to expect when I came to Italy. I had never thought that I would be able to set such a good result at the end of the race. I set a constant performance during the Giro and that feels great.”

‘From the moment I was on top ten of the best young rider classification, it became my ambition to move up towards top five. Once I was on that fifth place, I kept an eye on the riders around me, because I wanted to hang on to that position”, says Smulders.

“On the last day we had to cover a steep climb three times. The last time on the climb, I lost contact with my group. Together with three others I could rejoin with three kilometres to go. I wanted to finish on top ten of the stage, but I was a bit too far in the sprint and I got twelfth. I am very happy with it, because it’s wonderful I was still able to do that on the last day. This Giro was a fantastic experience and I could do this with a wonderful team. When I was part of the reduced bunch on stage three I saw women around me who I look up to. It felt so good to be riding among them. This experience will definitely give me a boost for the rest of the season”, concludes Smulders.

Lone Meertens and Jesse Vandenbulcke, who sprinted to thirteenth place on stage six, also finished the Giro yesterday. Two of our riders had to abandon the race. Saddle soreness forced Danique Braam to quit the race during the sixth stage. Elise Vander Sande, who was the replacement of Abby Mae Parkinson, finished outside the time limit at the individual time trial on day four and therefore could not start the fifth stage anymore.


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