The SHEcret Pro: Worlds, Aussie selection drama, transfer travails

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Let’s not mess about — the World Championships are upon us already. The racing hasn’t started yet, but teams are positioning themselves and we’ve had scandals, politics and controversies about team selections already.

Obviously we have to talk about Australia. WTF! Maybe that Simon Jones guy is actually still working for British Cycling. Honestly, it’s just laughable. The misguided decision to select five women when they could have taken seven (actually eight because they also have the Oceania Champion) makes it appear that Cycling Australia is actively reducing the chances of Australia getting a result.

Jones claims that “in the elite men … in the last 10 years, 50% of the winning teams had teams of three or less because what’s important to win a world championship is a quality athlete.”

Annnnd if you bothered to actually check the women’s results (it’s as if he has a male-centric view of the world … odd huh?) in the last 10 years in the Women’s World Championship Road Race, 90% of the winning teams had more than three riders. And 80% had teams of six riders or more. To be honest, I shouldn’t complain too much – it’s a decision that just helped my country.

There are other factors at play here too. World Championships are always harder and faster than any other race during the year. Half the peloton has a job that is just for the first half of the race, so the pace is just naturally higher. More is better, I say, when it comes to pairs of legs to cover attacks, or help position the leaders at key moments, or just share the workload in general.

Chloe Hosking has appealed her non-selection, and good on her. Her stated reasons are spot on. What message does it send young and upcoming athletes if they are seeing Cycling Australia not really caring about women’s cycling? Because, if it is about the money, or the quality of the athlete and consistency, why did they choose a nine-rider squad for the men? Jones says you have to have form and that he wouldn’t take a rider just for the experience (men’s team selector Brad McGee contradicted this in an piece of excellent team work), yet last time I looked one of the male riders had only raced three times since May.

But wait. It gets even better. Jones then goes on to say that “with the women they’ve done well this year, but from what I can see looking at the events in the single road races or the big races, we don’t have a clear athlete that we can back 100% with a full team.”

What races were they looking at? If they are looking at the single road races, or the big races, you would think WorldTour races would qualify, right? Maybe I don’t know, but isn’t Flanders a Monument? Women’s cycling might not have this classification yet, but it is still one of the biggest races of the Spring Classics. A race where Gracie Elvin was second FFS. Yet Cycling Australia states that Australia doesn’t have a contender in this race. A straight-up insult to the few riders selected.

Add in Strade Bianche (Australian riders finished sixth, seventh and eighth) and Plouay (Sarah Roy was third) and wow Australia hasn’t performed in big one day races at all … ? What a joke. On behalf of every other country that is participating at the World Championships in Bergen, Cycling Australia, we thank you!

The Worlds road race is going to be very interesting though. You have Annemiek Van Vleuten in probably the best form of her life, and a Dutch team full of champions in the same kit as her. Like Anna Van der Breggen, who won the Giro Rosa, Amstel Gold, Fleche Wallone, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and Tour of California and is the current Olympic Champion. Then Marianne Vos, who has won pretty much every race you can win. Given she has recently won the European Championship and a stage in the Lotto Belgium Tour you know she is also strong at the moment.

Then there is the dark horse Janneke Ensing – the speed skater turned cyclist – who won the last stage of Holland Ladies Tour and the second stage in Giro di Toscana. She actually has had a pretty good year and was also super strong in the Ardennes week, which is what the course at Bergen has been compared to.

If you are looking at the Ardennes then you also have to look at Elizabeth Deignan (nee Armitstead), and Kasia Niewiadoma who were rounding out the podium in all three of the Ardennes. Although everyone is a bit unsure how Lizzie is going after getting her appendix removed after Plouay. But it is Lizzie. When she wants to win a race, she normally wins the race.

Being near the end of the season, the World Champs aren’t all we’re talking about. The transfer gossip has been hot and heavy. Yep the cycling world is a small bubble, and everyone pretty much knows what everyone is doing. Kirsten Wild to Wiggle High5? Jolien D’hoore to Orica-Scott? Lisa Brennauer to WM3? Ruth Winder to Sunweb? Clearly I’m just speculating here as I wouldn’t want to be spreading any unfounded rumours now, would I!

So I’ll move on and talk about something that has been announced: the new Movistar women’s team for 2018. It’s pretty awesome to see such a big male team start up a women’s team, and it’s great for women’s cycling. However, I don’t think they realised how early you have to start poaching riders these days.

It sounds like they started talking to a lot of riders a bit too late, but I’m sure we will be seeing a few of the Spanish riders from other teams heading there. And they get to be on those Canyon bikes!

The thing that tends to be forgotten at this time of the year is what happens to those riders leaving teams. Once a team knows a rider is leaving they might decide not to put them in a lot of races, or not make them team leader, because the points earned by that rider are also leaving the team. For instance, why didn’t WM3 start Kasia in Plouay when they didn’t even start a full team? And instead Kasia was chilling at home and wanting to race it. It now makes sense.

Then there are aspects like equipment. Our contracts may say they end on the 31st of December, but teams usually want their bikes back before then. And sometimes it’s hard to get your next team’s bike straight away so you become a pro without a bike. I know it sounds crazy, but it happens. And we all make minimum fuss to not leave on bad terms. This is something I think can be improved a lot in women’s cycling, and an area that needs to be made more professional.

Now it’s time for my final preparations before the World Championships. I hope you are watching! Because I’m predicting that the women’s race is going to be one hell of a race to watch!

– The SHEcret Pro

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