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I have been as excited as anything leading up to this year’s world champs. While much of the cycling press has focused on the men (who – let’s face it – are better paid, have cooler team buses and are much less likely to marry their coaches), it’s the women’s race I’ll be cheering for. Below is a sneak peak at the 8 women who make up Australia’s front line.
I should probably add also that the list is pretty interesting, not only by who is in it, but who has been left out. This is a team designed specifically for the flat 140km Copenhagen course. The road race team has been built to deliver a win for either Rochelle Gilmore or Chloe Hosking. Some of the top names in Australian racing aren’t in the squad (I’ll leave you to guess who they are), which shows the depth of talent Australia has right now. It’s something to be proud and excited about.
Shara is unbelievably talented. The 23-year old is the current Oceania Road Race and Time Trial champion, and will start both the road race and time trial. Shaz announced herself to the world last year with an 8th in the time trial at the world champs in Geelong, and followed that up with a sensational 2011 in which she won a national title (TT), 2 Oceania titles and a stage at the Giro Donne (women’s Giro d’Italia) in July. Shara started out as a climber but her time-trialling development in the last couple of years has her earmarked as a future tour star, and almost certainly an Olympics contender. After that I think she should come home and open up a restaurant. She is a FANTASTIC cook!
This 29 year old has been winning races for years – most recently at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Her fearlessness in sprint finishes is legendary, and if Copenhagen comes down to a bunch kick she will be in there with a good shot. Rochelle has been in a race against time to recover from a broken pelvis after a crash sustained in this year’s Giro Donne. She isn’t quite at peak form, but she has been targeting Copenhagen for a long time and has the ability to get a great result. If you are a Seinfeld fan, you’ll want her to win just so the commentators can shout out ‘Rochelle Rochelle!’
Taryn is the latest talent ID revelation in Australian cycling. The 29 year old hails from Mildura, a town famous for irrigated agriculture but not so well known for hills. She entered Tour of Bright last December to see what a mountain looked like, and liked them so much she rode up faster than almost everyone else. SASI promised her more hills, and so she moved to Adelaide under the watchful eye of coach Ben Cook, who promptly guided her to a podium place at the 2011 Aussie TT champs. Taryn has spent 2011 in Europe with the Jayco-AIS Development Team, and her time trialling strength has earned her a start in the TT in Copenhagen.
It scares me that someone this good can have a birthdate ending in ‘90’. At 20, Chloe has already spent 2 years racing with HTC-Highroad and has a Commonwealth Games bronze medal to her name. Together with Rochelle, Chloe will spearhead Australia’s mission in Copenhagen and is one of the best up and coming sprinters in the world. Added to her natural ability is her insider knowledge on some of the other top contenders in the road race who also race for HTC, such as Ina Teutenberg, and Judith Arndt. Hosking is in great form right now – she is fresh off coming 4th in the 6-stage Ladies Tour of Holland and will not be afraid to step up.
Jessie is one of the success stories of this year’s Jayco-AIS Development Squad. At 25, she has been racing in the States for years – and was in fact the inaugural Amy Gillett Scholarship winner in 2006 – but it was this year that she really made her mark in Europe. She earned a spot in the development team after completing the infamous Survivor-style selection camp at the AIS in March. After that, racing cobbles in Belgium must have been a doddle. To be selected in a worlds team after such a short time racing in Europe gives you some idea of the talent this lady has. If you see her descending, you’ll believe it.
Carla Ryan is one of Australia’s most accomplished cyclists and brings a wealth of racing experience to the road team. The Queenslander started out as a cross-country runner before switching to cycling via a talent identification program. Running’s loss was cycling’s gain: in 2009 she won both the TT and road race titles at nationals, and this year was 2nd in the road race after leading out teammate Alexis Rhodes for the win. The 26-year old has spent the last 3 years with the Cervelo/Garmin-Cervelo squad and is a great all-rounder. I expect her role in the road race will be as a super-domestique, with potential to be in a winning break.
Spratty’s inclusion in the Australian road race team was the product of bylaw 2.3(b)(i) of CA’s worlds selection policy, which stipulates that one A.Spratt must be named in every worlds squad in at least one cycling discipline. Not really, but you get the idea… Spratty may only be 24, but she is one of the most experienced of the Aussie team and is no stranger to racing world championships. Spratty’s speciality is the ‘EB’, or early break, which means she loves turning herself inside out for extended periods of time. Expect to see Spratty on the front, or off it, in Copenhagen.
Vicki earns my respect for a number of reasons. First, she is one of Australia’s best tour riders. Her climbing and time trialling is up there with the best, and consistently so. Second, she has a capacity for suffering like no one I know, except maybe Sharon Laws and Jens Voigt. And third, she also has a soft spot for miniature dachshunds, which makes her a Top Chick in my book. The 34 year old is renowned as a selfless worker and has been riding alongside Rochelle Gilmore in the Honda-Lotto team for years. No doubt Rochelle will be very happy to have Vicki working for her and Chloe again in Copenhagen. The duo will work well together and Vicki’s experience at world championship level will be an asset to the team.
The road team for Copenhagen is a strong one. It’s not really a course for Australians – we are used to harder, hillier terrain – but we have two of the best sprinters in the bunch in Hosking and Gilmore (how many countries can say that?) and some talented and dependable workers to support them. In the time trial, we have two immensely talented riders who are getting better by the day. They will go well this year and even better in 2012. I’m getting excited already.