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The Emma James Diary 2003
Welcome to one of Cyclingnews' up-and-coming female talents, Australian Emma James. Emma's enjoying her second year as a scholarship holder with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) road cycling team, based in Tuscany, Italy. She's a gutsy rider who's decided that she'd rather be testing the waters of professional cycling than testing the salinity of the Sydney's waterways as an environmental scientist - which used to be her previous occupation before Emma decided to take the plunge.
Ciao from Italy!
We arrived in Rome early on Tuesday morning, March 11, after a long but relatively stress free trip on Malaysian airlines. Walking around Kuala Lumpur for a couple of hours meant that I slept for much of the second part of the flight. We had a few hours to wait before our flight to Bologna, and a backlog of eleven planes waiting to take off delayed us on the tarmac, but the short flight soon had us close to our base for the year.
Our Australian Institute of Sport team will be based in the same house as last year in the small town of Novellara, close to Reggio Emilia, between Milan and Bologna. It is still cold here. The days are sunny but the wind is really cold, so we train with long gloves most days and leg warmers and long sleeved jerseys. It is beautiful in the nearby hills, and the misty skies that last into the afternoon on some days give the landscape a really different, hazy, soft look compared to what I am used to seeing in Australia. It is a small taste of what a real winter would be like for a cyclist who has been returning to the warm Australian climate as soon as the European summer has ended for the last two years.
We had a few days to settle into training and get over the jet lag. I didn't find it too bad this year, but still was wide awake a couple hours too early on the first couple of days. Reading The Lord of the Rings can easily make a few hours disappear quite peacefully.
Our first race was on Sunday March 16. We had a fairly long drive (three to four hours) to the Tuscany region. The race was hosted by a town called Rosignano, and was a tough circuit through the nearby towns of Vada and Nibbiaia. Vada is very close to the coast, with beautiful scenic roads winding past small villages nestled in the rocky headlands. We toured a little in search of the pre race lunch and the official start area. Before most of the Italian races there is a lunch put on by the organizers in a nearby restaurant. It is typically rice or pasta with a tomato sauce, followed by a piece of 'crustarta', something like a jam tart. We were in for a long, cold, tough day so it was good to have a bit of pasta to fuel us up.
The first part of the race was generally flat, with a really strong wind blowing. It was not particularly comfortable in the peloton with riders being blown around in the tough conditions. After 30km we turned on to a different road and the cross winds were strong. The bunch split with the front group containing about 25 riders. I felt all right, but I was midfield, and did not respond quickly enough when the gaps opened up. About 10 of us were chasing for a while, and we were joined by about 30 more from behind. I was quite sure that we were out of the race with the leading group out of sight, but I was still hopeful that on the climb we might catch the group fighting out the minor places.
The front group had been driven to the base of the climb by the strong Acca Due O team, protecting Nicole Cooke (winner of this race last year) in the cross winds. The front group, surprisingly, rode easy up the climb fatigued from the Acca Due O train and gutterball action! Our group caught them half way up with about 45 km left in the race. I was surprised that the whole group was still together. We descended and then on a small flat section of road before the final climb, about five riders attacked. Rochelle Gilmore (Acca Due O) bridged across. I hesitated - when I should have just gone as soon as I saw a chance for one from our team to get up there. Olivia Gollan (with our team, AIS) was worried the break was establishing a such big gap so quickly, and she set off in pursuit. The climb was only a few kilometers away. Olivia managed to get to the break, and she worked with Schleicher and Martisova. The pace picked up on the climb with Oenone Wood (also with our team, AIS) feeling good, and riding strongly. The main group picked up a couple from the break who had been dropped, and a little while later, with 15km to go, the break was caught.
Towards the top of the second climb I was dropped, the pace up the climb faster than I could match. I spent the last 20km of the race in the tail end of the convoy with the main group just out of sight for most of the time.
The final couple of kilometers were generally uphill, but with a few fast down hill sections. The main group stayed together, with the world champion Susanne Ljungskog (Kookai) winning ahead of Nicole Cooke (Acca Due O). The best from our team was Oenone in fifth and Olivia sixth, both great results on a tough circuit. It is great to have a few riders from our team riding strongly in these early season races. We have plenty of opportunities to get some good results for the team in the up coming racing.