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The AIS Women's Team Diary 2003
Welcome to one of our more unusual diaries, with entries from the various members of the Australian Institute of Sport's Women's team as they conduct their European campaign.
With rising stars such as Oenone Wood and established power riders like Olivia Gollan, the team has been making a strong mark on the European scene this season. Under the management and coaching of James Victor that success looks set to continue for the year.
Hills, rain and hard days
Tour de l'Aude Prologue to Stage 3, May 16-19
By Olivia Gollan
It is 9.30pm Monday night in the South of France and I am about to climb into bed after another gruesome day in the saddle!
The 19th Tour de l'Aude has been a series of climbing days and surprisingly for this part of the world the wind has not played too much havoc thus far. Still six days to go though...
Prologue - May 16: Gruissan - Gruissan ITT, 3km
Friday afternoon was a nerve-wracking 3km prologue which weaved its way around 14 corners in the first 2km along the beach front of Gruissan, before turning for home down a long straight with a fairly strong cross wind. We all got the chance to follow at least one of our team mates in the team's service car before heading out on the treacherous ordeal! It was actually heaps of fun. With varying degrees of success we all managed to get around the course in one piece. I was last to go and had a car-full behind me. Managed to hold it upright after some dodgy maneuvers and finished a credible fifth - six seconds behind Petra Rossner who claimed the first yellow jersey, a second in front of her team mate, Judith Arndt.
Stage 1 - May 17: Port La Nouvelle - Port La Nouvelle, 123km
So I went into Stage One in the white jersey! The white jersey in this tour is for the stage winner from the previous day, but with five jerseys to present, and Petra in yellow, my fifth place had me clad in 'bianco'.
The first stage was fairly solid with two category 3 climbs and a category 2 climb. The French were fairly aggressive and the big guns weren't too concerned about any moves without good climbers attached. Eventually a French national team rider, Marcuz Moreau escaped from the main peloton with Aurora 2002 rider, Nataliya Kachalka. Nurnberger put up a chase but without much help from the rest of the field. The two managed a 1 minute 30 seconds advantage by the end. Marcuz took the stage and Kachalka had stolen the yellow from Petra Rossner.
Stage 2 - May 18: Rieux Minervois - Rieux Minervois, 115km
Yesterday's second stage was aggressive from the start. Ina Teutenberg (Saturn) had her team fairly organised and attacks were coming from everywhere. The French National Team and the Dutch teams (National team and Vlaanderen) were also getting stuck into it. Alison Wright and Emily Williams did an awesome job to keep everything covered until we hit the first cat. 1 climb for the week. Five kilometers of all of the best climbers in the field watching each other... It is going to be a big week!
Over the top we eventually ended up with about 40 in the front group and again it was the French National Team who were the main aggressors. Through the last sprint Saturn rider Maron Jutras was alone with a 20 second advantage over the bunch. Following the sprint, Anita Valen (Powerplate Bik) ended up off the front after sprinting for the bonus seconds and with Jutras' team mate and G.C. contender Lyne Bessette managed to get to Jutras in no time.
The three rode away to a 1 minute 50 seconds advantage in the end, with the yellow jersey team of the Aurora 2002 team trying to bridge across, but an organised chase didn't eventuate. Lyne Bessette won the stage and with her prologue result and bonus seconds gained through the day, Anita Valen claimed the yellow.
Stage 3 - May 19: Lezignan Corbières - Lezignan Corbières, 121km
This morning we lined up again for another spate of climbing. Two cat. 1 climbs and a cat. 2. Again the French were aggressive and Saturn were also getting amongst the action. The A.I.S. Australian team did a fantastic job to cover everything in the first 30km of the race - we had at least one of us in every move.
Over the first climb we all ended up in the front group and managed to cover all the aggression again. Emily Williams and Lorian Graham did an awesome job pacing the first two climbs and Alison Wright was on top of everything. Chrissy Riakos gave everything she had to bridge the gap to an Aurora rider who was hovering off the front in between the two climbs and Emma James had a hair raising trip down a descent getting bidons from the team car.
After putting a bit of pressure on over the final big climb I ended up with the front group of about 20 riders - after the descent from hell! Then it started to bucket down raining! Katie Mactier (Saturn) spent most of the last 40km on the front chasing things down for Lyne Besette. The French national team - in particular Magili le Floc'h were the main aggressors. The rain was so heavy it was actually hurting.
The run into the finish at Lezignan Corbieres was slippery, and just under the '1km to go' banner the World Champion, Susanne Ljungskog came down beside me and we both hit the deck. Thankfully we both get bunch time. In the bunch sprint Ghita Beltman (Dutch national team) took the win from Mirjam Melchers and Anita Valen. Anita still holds the jersey.
So, we're wet and exhausted and we're facing a double stage day tomorrow. We are in a great hotel in a tiny town called Capendu and the apple pie and hot chocolates have been a treat!