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The AIS Women's Team Diary 2003

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The team at Fleche Wallonne
Photo: © James Victor

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.

Giro d'Italia Femminile, Italy, July 4-13, 2003

Part 2: The Quest for Pink

It has been an eventful few days in the south of Italy - to say the least. Highs have been followed by lows, jerseys have been worn and stolen, chances have been taken and have nearly paid off!

Stage 2 - July 6: Colle Sannita (BN) - San Marco dei Cavoti (BN), 85 km

Oenone Wood in white
Photo: © James Victor
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Stage 2 started with Rasa Polekevicuite in pink and from the profile the finish was obviously going to be the decisive point in the race. We climbed over several bergs and all suffered along the way. I managed to drop myself on the roadside down a descent and thankfully had some committed team mates to help me back to the front of the bunch. Lorian Graham, Amy Safe and Natalie Bates managed to go with most of the moves throughout the race and Amy managed to hold a 30 second gap with Louisa Taminini for about 10km.

A fairly large bunch hit the bottom of the climb into the finish and with 500m to go I dug as deep as I could and got a small gap on the rest of the field. We turned into the finishing straight and I was still in front with 150m to go when the majority of the gc contenders swamped past me. Zanida Starhuskia took the stage from Edita Pucinskate but Oenone slipped comfortably into 3rd - she is a legend. I finished 8th with bunch time and Oenone maintained the white jersey. Good day!

Stage 3 - July 7: Monteroduni (IS) - Castelpizzuto (IS), 84 km

Stage 3 started with a steep 6km descent so without much persuasion, Naomi Williams went straight to the front of the bunch with Oenone and I on the wheel and shot down the hill like her life depended on it. We got down in one piece despite one dodgy corner where Naomi (Ren) pulled her foot out and skidded along to a near stop before a guardrail. The rest of the day was carnage - to put it mildly. Rain started about half way through the stage and the roads turned to ice. After a lot of climbing through the early stages and a fair bit of aggression from the major players it became very obvious this stage was going to sort out GC.

A group of about 20 flew down the descent before the second last climb for the day and as we hit the bottom I was on Nicole Brandli's (Prato Marathon Bike) wheel with Amber Neben (T-Mobile) behind me. We had gapped the others down the descent and I was preparing myself for the explosion from Nicole. The attack happened and I gritted my teeth as I gave everything to stay there but Starhuskia (Chirio), Pucinskaite (Fannini), Neeben, Jolanta Polikieviciute (Aurora) and Sommariba (Spain) blew past me. We all splintered up the climb and Pucinskaite and Sommariba were the only two to go with Nicole.

Pucinskate and Brandli managed to off load Sommariba and finish the stage together - nearly 5 minutes ahead of the pink jersey. Pucinskaite took the pink and Brandli took the stage. There is now 5 seconds between them with a lot of flat to come.

Back in the field I was recovering from yet another crash down a slippery descent but was still in the group with the pink jersey, Starhuskia, Amber Neben, Modesta Vz (Acca Due), Luperini (Aurora) and Kimberly Bruckner (T-Mobile). We followed the charge of Aurora up the final 5km climb into the finish and I was very pleased to come last in the group over the finish line….. not! Hung on to 8th on GC.

It was still raining and I wasn't in good shape. But when Oenone came in a few minutes later I realised my day wasn't too bad. She had crashed a few times and lost time to Modesta who now has the white jersey. With about half of the field coming down throughout the day it was a busy night for the race doctor. Amy has stitches in her arm but is soldiering on. We were licking our wounds but not despairing. Not a great day….

Stage 4 - July 8: Frosolone (IS) - San Vito Chietino (CH), 141 km

Stage 4 was definitely a better day. After a lot of aggression early from Aurora up the only two climbs riders from every team started trying to send things down the road. My awesome team mates managed to cover everything and I was happily sitting in, saving my legs along the mostly down hill sections of the race. Amy Safe countered a move that Natalie was in and a group of 12 started flying down the road at the 60km mark of a 140km race. GO AMY!

Apart from many solid attempts to get a representative across from T-Mobile, the bunch were pretty content to cruise for about the next 50km. The break went out to 4 minutes at one stage and I was confident Amy was our girl. She had sprinter, Regina Schleicher (Chirio) with her and Dutch rider Andrea Bosman - so there were some threats with her.

Under a lot of direction from James, Amy put in a few really solid attacks but unfortunately no one else was committed enough to counter or make the race more than just a cruise to the line. Regina won the race from the Sats rider, Tina Mayolo and Bosman finished 3rd. Amy finished 6th totally exhausted and knowing that she had done everything she could to try and win the race. Bravo to a girl who is taking the Eurpean bit between her teeth. A better day!

So we were after the pink but it is becoming a bit distant. Will have to see how the next few stages go - the strength of our team has a few worried. I think we are set for some hard racing along the flat in the next few days.