Valentina Scandolara: The World Tour Comes to America
Updated: Aug 12, 2018
Every moment of the Intelligentsia Cup was a treat for hardcore cycling fans, but a particular favorite moment of mine was World Tour superstar Valentina Scandolara taking the overall omnium on the strength of six wins and four other podiums. Racing with the Australian Roxsolt Attaquer team while taking a year off from the World Tour, Valentina Scandolara is another example of top-shelf European talent coming to race in the attractive American cycling scene. To have the winner of races like the Tour Down Under and Draai van de Kaai choosing to come to America – and loving the experience – proves how special a place this burgeoning community is.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Scandolara towards the end of the Intelligentsia Cup and was immediately overwhelmed by the compassionate community that she was a part of. Casually calling themselves “Team Hope,” the Roxsolt Attaquer ladies shared their tent with well-known names from the peloton like Hagens Berman Supermint’s Lily Williams and UnitedHealthcare’s Janelle Cole. These ladies were a force of joy during Intelligentsia Cup. The Chicago community couldn’t have been blessed with a better group of riders.
Below are highlights of my conversation with Scandolara discussing “Team Hope,” racing bikes in America, and her plans to tackle World Tour races beginning next week as a guest rider for Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank.
Nathan (N): You’ve had an incredible Intelligentsia Cup, you’re battling for wins and podiums every race.
Valentina Scandolara (VS): I’m loving it. Intelligentsia Cup has great courses and a great atmosphere. This has been the best. Okay, the results have been great, but the people are what has made it such a special week. Most of us on “Team Hope” met each other at the beginning of the week and now we’re friends for life. It’s like with kids, it takes two seconds to be friends. We’ve had a lot of fun together. Earlier today, we spent some time together in Chicago sightseeing. We went to the “big bean” and explored the lake front.
N: Sounds like the perfect Chicago experience. And your major competition at Intelligentsia Cup, Lily Williams, is part of Team Hope too, right?
VS: Yes, Lily is under our tent. In these races, I’m winning with experience because this is just Lily’s second year of racing. Lily is an amazing rider, she’s so strong, it’s incredible. I’m really enjoying getting to know her. I think that Lily will make it to Europe in the future, I’m sure of it.
N: You’ve traditionally been a UCI Women’s World Tour rider, how are you liking racing in the US this year? How do you compare the racing scenes?
VS: Well, it’s totally different, it’s another type of racing, like comparing marathon and cross country. Last year, I was really, really sick and I decided to break my contract. I thought it was the best choice for me to come and race in the United States. The beginning of the year was hard, I did Tour of the Gila and the Redlands Bicycle Classic and it took a while to get back to feeling healthy. First, I’m very happy to be feeling healthy again and second, I’m happy to be experiencing this atmosphere. In Europe, it’s not like this. I can’t say it’s better or worse, just different. Everyone is a bit more relaxed and friendly here. I’m creating great friendships and having a great moment in time.
N: So, what’s next for you after Intelligentsia Cup?
VS: After this I’m going back to the World Tour to race the last few World Tour races with Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank. I’m joining them in August for the World Tour race in Vårgårda, Sweden, the Tour of Norway, and Boels Ladies Tour. I’ll be racing primarily to test my form on the road since it’s totally different than racing these criteriums. These intense hour-long efforts are so different from doing four hours in a road race. I’m excited, and a bit nervous as well.
N: Good luck to you, I’m sure you’ll shine.
N: You’re part of that legendary Italian cycling community. What part of the nation do you come from?
VS: I’m from northeast Italy, the same region as Venice, 100 kilometers from Venice.
N: So, you grew up riding up mountains then? VS: Oh yeah, I have mountains five kilometers from my house. I live in the hills just before the Alps so I have hundreds of flat kilometers south of my house and then mountains to the north; it’s the perfect place to train.
N: I’m starting to learn what hills are. What I thought were mountains are actually hills.
VS: Yes, yes, exactly. Let’s say a hill is under 1,000 meters.
N: That’s a hill!??!
VS: Right, just little mountains (laughs).
N: Do you think that you’ll be sticking around the US next season, or will you be back in Europe racing? VS: At this point, it’s a hard decision. I thought I was sure what I wanted, but, at this point in my career, I have some things that I don’t want to compromise anymore. If a team in Europe has the correct list of things that I want, then I will gladly go back. Otherwise, I’d be happy to return to America and enjoy my bike. I fell in love with cycling again this year, so I will have no regrets if I’m racing in the United States.
N: Hopefully A Cyclist In A Strange Land will run into you at another race soon. Good luck in Europe with Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank!