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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 della Toscana Internazionale Femminile - 2.9.1 Italy, September 16-21, 2003

Stage 2, September 18: Pontedera - Peccioli - Volterra, 115.4 km

The eternal two days

By Olivia Gollan

Fun at the start
Photo: © James Victor
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There are a few climbs in Tuscany that just keep coming back to haunt me. One of them is up a steep one km pinch into a town called Pecioli which I have now raced over eight times in my two seasons in Italy! Another is a 10km terror into Voltara which I have now dragged myself up four times. There were all sorts of predictions about the winner of today being the 2003 world champion - this will remain to be seen!

Thursday was always going to be the day to sort out the climbers and overall GC in the Giro della Toscana. As always in this tour, the peloton treated the bottom of every climb like it was the finish line of the world championships. Staying in the first 10 riders was critical and not that easy to do. All five of us - Katie Mactier, Margaret Hemsley, Emma James, Oenone Wood and I - got over Pecioli both times with the front group and hit the Voltera climb with good position.

Wired for sound
Photo: © James Victor
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Naturally the group split to pieces as the likes of Pucinskaite, Lungskog, Melchers, and Luperini put the hammer down as we hit the GPM. Oenone and I managed to hang on to the front runners and get down the descent. We were joined by the second group on the road about 15 minutes later and the attacks started. A group with Zabirova, Carrrigan and Priska Doppman had about one minute on the bunch as we hit the bottom of the climb for the second time.

With a concerted effort from Aurora and some help from Margaret we gobbled up most of the break. Pucinskaite attacked with about five km to go and took Lungskog, Melchers and Luperini with her. The four of them charged to the top and Pucinskaite took the stage and the jersey. I grovelled along about 30sec behind with Starhuskia, Lisbeth Simper and Anita Valen.

I finished 10th - a bit disappointed but incredibly relieved that the day was over.


Stage 3a, September 19: Pocari - Montecarlo - Porcari, 69.9 km

The Slipper Factory

One of the highlights of this tour is the free pair of Record Rox slippers we are given at the start of this stage. My feet will be warm for yet another year! This stage promised to be a bit easier than the day before but as we hit the only climb of the day things started to look very grim - we had to get over this thing three times. I was meant to be saving my legs!

Alison Wright managed to win the only sprint prime of the day - securing the Sprint Jersey for yet another day. The little Australian bulldog loves a sprint jersey! Naturally the three laps of the circuit were raced with desperation and there was a lot of action on the flat from non GC contenders. Rachel Heal (British National rider racing with Farm Frites) was very active and managed to keep herself in the front group all day to eventually take second in the stage.

Our director was very keen for Oenone and I to have a massive dig up the climb on the final lap to get a gap but it didn't happen as planned. Margaret put in a massive chase before the climb to try and limit the gap to the break of five that was hovering at about 30 seconds. My attack up the climb was shut down smartly by the serious GC riders. I tried to keep it going down the descent and onto the final steep pinch but to no avail.

It was Nicole Cooke who was the champion once again. Her gutsy style and determination to win is so impressive. She won the stage by a 20 sec margin from the main field after attacking the break and riding solo to the finish. NICE.


Stage 3b, September 19: Campi Bisenzio, 54.6 km

The Nightmare??

Giorgia Bronzini
Photo: © James Victor
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Not at all - the infamous night criterium was an absolute adreneline rush that I wouldn't miss for the world. You do have to wonder about a sport that has all of the main riders preparing for World Championships racing a criterium in the pitch black three weeks before the biggest event of the season. But how cool and how fast and how much fun!

It felt like we were going at 60km/h for the entire race but it was really only about 45. There wasn't a chance anything was going down the road - despite numerous attempts from all sorts of teams. Now down to three riders due to illness (Margaret, Katie and our Swannie at home in bed with the flu) Emma, Oenone and I tried to counter each other when we could but the pace was just too high.

Alison took out both intermediate sprints and now has a decisive lead for the sprinter's jersey. The rest of the race was essentially drag raced to the finish with everyone trying to stay up front and out of trouble. Acca Due took Giorgia Bronzini to the line for the win with Lungskog and Starhuskia taking second and third (Oenone our best finisher in about eighth). A few seconds time bonus puts the world champion closer to Pucinskaite. The climbs in stage four won't be soft pedalled - my life is still going into the pain zone. Bring it on!


More soon,