I’ve just come out of the biggest week of my career and I’m completely exhausted. After a few days of reflection I can see how big and great that week really was. It started off with a trip to Paris for the inaugural and very important race La Course by Le Tour, a momentous occasion for women’s cycling to show the world our talent and grit. Then I flew to Glasgow, Scotland, to immerse myself in my first Games experience in the athletes village in the lead up to the road race on the final day of competition. It was a week of ups and downs, excitement and worry, pain and pride. It was a week I won’t forget in a hurry.
Getting ready for La Course in the morning of Sunday 27th July I overheard how nervous some of my team mates and fellow competitors were before the race. For once I wasn’t one of the girls who had knots in her stomach, I was only filled with a tingling feeling of excitement like that the night before Christmas. We were going to give it our best shot as a team to win the race, but to be lining up and show the world how fast and exciting women’s racing really is, I already felt like a winner just to be there and ride my bike. On top of that, I got to do all of this wearing my special Australian national champions kit. I never could have dreamed when watching the Tour in awe as a young rider that I would get to do this wearing the green and gold.
In my post race interview I said that it was one of the hardest races I’ve ever done and I wasn’t lying. It was 90km of pure pain completed in a very fast 2 hours. The pace was high from start to finish and my heart rate never seemed to drop below threshold. As a team we placed well timed attacks and covered moves right from the beginning and kept at it until the final laps. No break was staying away for very long as the whole peloton wanted in on any action at the front. I blew in the final lap and was unable to help Emma at the end, but I think the rest of our girls weren’t feeling too different after all of their own hard work. It was not the result we had hoped for, but nothing could dampen our mood at the finish after experiencing the best crowd support we’d ever seen. It was a truly special day and we all knew how important it is in women’s cycling history.
We were treated to a three-course lunch on the Champs-Elysees with the ORICA guests before freshening up to watch the last hour of the men’s race in the stands near the finish line. This time watching live I felt a big sense of pride and content as I had just been on that paved road only hours before, unlike last year when I had felt a sinking feeling of envy and injustice while watching from the stands. What a difference a year makes! We were then taken back to the ORICA guests’ hotel and enjoyed a rooftop after party in honour of us and the men’s team.
The next day I flew from Paris to Glasgow and was escorted to the village along with a few team mates. Our accreditation process went smoothly and I was suddenly inside what I had been dreaming about for months. My second christmas came in as many days when I received my suitcase full of Australian team kit. I couldn’t believe how much stuff we were given! It really started to sink in how lucky and privileged I was to be there and I made sure to soak it all up and enjoy the moment. The next few days were spent at the athlete’s dining hall, training on the Scottish roads, and resting in my apartment as much as possible. We trained one morning on the road course, but had to start at 5am to beat the people and the traffic because it was all in the city centre. Anyone who knows me will understand how much I wanted to see the course to get up that early!
Unfortunately halfway through the week I struggled with stomach pains all day and finally was sick in the evening. Luckily it was a one off, but it was most probably caused by a bug that left me feeling very fatigued for a few days. I had to remain positive and stay as rested as possible so I would be ready to race hard on the Sunday. My legs felt terrible all week after a tough race in Paris and then the stomach bug, so it was important for me to not panic! There was nothing I could do but prepare as well as I could. It annoyed me to get sick because I had been very good all week making sure to wash and sanitise my hands all of the time, so it just goes to show how anything can spread easily when you are in a village of over 5000 athletes and staff.
By race day I was feeling pretty good and just wanted to finally start the race I had been training for the last few months. My nerves were calm all week but on race morning there were a million butterflies in my stomach! Once the flag went down, I felt calm and ready for a battle. I rode myself into it like I knew I had to and kept my gears very light in the first few laps to save as much as I could in my legs. I jumped with a couple of attacks and even put one in myself which I regret, but that was part of the team plan. Tiff was our team captain and told me to just sit in, so I stayed hidden as much as I could. When the final break went after the half way mark, I managed to sneak across with Scottish rider Katie Archibold. It was Tiff and I, Armitstead and Pooley for England, Archibold, Villumsen from NZ, and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio from South Africa. It wasn’t the perfect break for us with the two English girls, but it wasn’t going to change and we had to work with it.
Tiff and I tried to save our energy and only put in a couple of well timed attacks each, but with the strength of the English girls we were struggling to play the fast moving game of chess. We both miss a critical move by Pooley, and I take responsibility for that. I saw it first and should have reacted, but I hesitated. It meant that Tiff and I had to work and give Armitstead a free ride until she made her strong move on the second last climb, the climb were I blew up. It was a devastating moment to be so close to a medal and then loose it. I had nothing left in the tank and had to grovel home for 6th place. In hindsight I could have done a lot less in the race and got a medal, but we were racing for gold only and our gamble didn’t quite pay off. I was pretty upset after the finish line, but only at myself. I was incredibly proud to have done what we did as a team, and of my team mates who gave it everything.
Coming out the other side of such a high-pressure and eventful week has taken its toll on me and I’ve been very tired, but I’ve also learned a lot and have an even stronger resolve and motivation to keep getting better as an athlete. I know what it takes to be a world-class rider and know that I still have a way to go to get there, but I also know that I can do it. I have patience and a strong will, but most of all I have an iron-clad support network around me to help me every step of the way as they have done for a long time.
I’d like to thank: my dad David and my mum Carol for being my biggest supporters, mentors and friends. They are the start and finish of everything I do. My fiancé Stu for being the person who I can talk to about anything and my best training partner; my awesome coach/zen master Neil Ross; my amazing friends and remaining family who show me unconditional love whether I win or lose; my Aussie and ORICA-AIS team mates and staff who make all these experiences even better; the Australian Cycling Federation; Gerry Ryan; and my long time believer Bill Robertson.
I’ve still got about two months left of the season to enjoy, so there won’t be much rest for me before my next adventure in Norway and Sweden with my team. Thanks for following!