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Orica-AIS has announced three new Australian signings for 2015, with Lizzie Williams, national criterium champion Sarah Roy and Chloe McConville all inking one-year contracts with the team for next season.
Williams made her return to racing in September 2013 after nearly a decade away from the sport and quickly rose through the ranks. She won stages at several National Road Series races in early 2014, earning herself a place in the Vanderkitten team in the US and Canada for two months. That stint included sixth place in her first international race, the UCI 1.1 Philadelphia Cycling Classic.
Williams’ impressive return to the sport saw her win the Amy Gillett Cycling Scholarship in June which led to two months racing with the national team in Europe, including a berth in the inaugural edition of La Course, the one-day women’s race held just hours before the final stage of the Tour de France.
Williams was seventh in that race, seventh overall in La Route de France and fourth overall at 18th Trophée d’Or Féminin off the back of a second place and two third places. In fact, in just three months of international racing, Williams accrued an impressive 20 top-10 finishes.
The next step in Williams’ journey, joining Orica-AIS on a one-year contract, is one she couldn’t be happier with.
“To be offered a contract on one of the best teams in the world in my first year back on the bike is really a dream come true”, Williams told CyclingTips.
“I remember a little over year ago, one evening I was at home in Melbourne having a YouTube binge. I was mainly watching videos made by the women’s Orica-AIS and VIS team. This night is still very clear in my mind because I remember thinking, ‘I want to be on that team’. A year later, I am!”
While Williams expects it will take her some time to find her feet in the team, she’s clear about her ambitions once she does.
“After discussions with the team coaches Gene [Bates] and Marv [Barras], they pinpointed a concern in complacency within the team over the past few years. The success that Emma Johansson has had in Orica-AIS is phenomenal, but also to the detriment of some of the Australian riders.
“Having such a high profile rider has created a ‘one trick’ show for the team. One of my roles coming into this team is to bring back some that of that ‘will to win’, providing the team with other cards to play within race. Next year I want to climb onto that top step, and more than once! I’m not a very good loser — just ask one of my six brothers.”
Sydney-born Sarah Roy has spent 2014 racing with French team PC-Futuroscope-86 — one of the oldest teams in the professional women’s peloton — in what was her first season as a European professional. She came into the season looking for experience, and took part in every race on the team’s calendar.
“I spent a majority of these races leading out our sprinters and assisting our GC rider,” Roy said. “[They were] two, often rewarding roles that led to a big improvement in my own riding.”
Roy, the 2014 Australian Criterium Champion, told CyclingTips that she views her switch from Futoroscope (ranked 20th in the world) to Orica-AIS (ranked fourth) as a big step forward.
“I’m really grateful for my time with Futuroscope and a little sad to leave but both they and I know moving on to Orica-AIS is a very positive step for my career. I also see it as a privilege and a huge opportunity – Orica-AIS is one of the best teams in the world and I’m going to be on it!”
While much of her season has been spent riding in the service of her teammates, Roy has managed a handful of top-10 finishes of her own. In addition to her victory in the national criterium championships in January, Roy took fifth place in both the prologue and first road stage of the Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen in July. She also took eighth place overall in the Trophée d’Or Féminin in August after finishing eighth on the opening stage.
Chloe McConville joins the team after a challenging 12 months in which she was forced off the bike after a bout of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) led to serious complications.
“Having the DVTs and pulmonary embolisms meant I couldn’t train on the road for the entire time I was on anti-coagulants and mentally it was the hardest thing I have had to do”, McConville told CyclingTips. “To be able to come out the other end of the whole ordeal and sign with Orica-AIS is a dream come true and certainly made 14 weeks of ergo worthwhile!”
McConville already has a clear idea of what her role with the team will be for 2015.
“I am really looking forward to the spring classics”, McConville told CyclingTips. “I am suited to the flatter, cobbled and windier races in Netherlands and Belgium so I am really excited to play a domestique role in these types of events.
“Generally I am an opportunistic rider always looking for a break away and no doubt will be utilised in races for this purpose.”
While 2014 was a frustrating season for the former cross country skier, she did still manage fourth place in the Oceania Road Race Championships, as well as a second place on stage 3 of the Energiewacht Tour in the Netherlands, while racing for the Australian National Team.
McConville has spent several seasons racing in Europe as part of the Australian National Team and is also a regular on the podium in National Road Series events.
Further announcements about the full Orica-AIS line-up for 2015 are expected in the coming days.