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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

AIS Women's Training Camp

Canberra, Australia, December, 2005

In early December, Cyclingnews publisher Gerard Knapp and advertising sidekick Kristy Scrymgeour visited the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra for a look at how they do things in the nerve centre of Australian sport. During the visit, which coincided with an AIS women's training camp, they spoke to the survivors of the tragic accident that killed Amy Gillett in July, and also to the new generation of Australian female cyclists who are following in the footsteps of Anna Millward and Oenone Wood.

In the following three stories, we interviewed AIS women's coach Warren McDonald, up and coming talent Amanda Spratt, and the survivors of the German tragedy.

Part I: An interview with Warren McDonald, December 23, 2005

It's all about moving forward - together

The AIS women's coach Warren McDonald
Photo ©: Gerard Knapp
(Click for larger image) The AIS women's coach  - and Cycling Australia's coach of the year - Warren McDonald, with talent identification coordinator Tammy Ebert.

The past two years, since Australian national women's road cycling coach Warren 'Wazza' McDonald signed on for the job, has seen highs and lows to the very extreme. caught up with McDonald at a training camp at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra to find out how he is looking to move forward into 2006.

It could be said that 2004 was the golden year, with 'Wazza' leading the AIS women's team to World Cup success for Oenone Wood, and then training the AIS riders to help deliver an Olympic Gold medal to Sara Carrigan. They were too good for a 'development' squad, with the majority of the girls going on to sign with professional teams by the end of the year.

But this year, McDonald and Australian cycling were hit with disaster, that of losing one of their athletes, Amy Gillett, in a tragic accident which saw another five riders severely injured.

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An interview with Amanda Spratt, December 24, 2005

Getting ready for the next step

Amanda Spratt is a real prospect for the future of Australian women's cycling, and with much success as a junior, it's now time for Spratt to move into senior ranks, a move that is not always easy. But this young, quietly-spoken girl from just outside Sydney is ready for the challenge. caught up with Amanda Spratt after witnessing her go through the "torture test" in the lab at the AIS camp.

Already accomplished.
Photo ©: John Veage
Click for larger image

Despite having just been through a lung-busting test on the indoor bike in the physiology lab, Spratt was still all smiles. "It's good to familiarise myself with the people here and the coaches," she told us. "It's a good experience and really my first taste of what it's like to be a senior. I'm a little bit nervous; there are a lot of riders here who I've looked up to for a long time, but mostly I'm excited."

Many coaches have spotted Spratt as a rider of the future, but in her eyes, this camp and the upcoming races are still a chance for her to prove to herself that she's ready to move up into the senior ranks. "Hopefully I'll get the opportunity to go overseas and get some racing experience," she says. "I won't be going for a full year. Just for short stints to get experience and see what its like. It depends on how I go at camp and in the racing in January."

Racing for the women is intense during the New Year period, starting with the Jayco Geelong Bay Classic in early January, national championships, the Adelaide crits, and for Amanda, "hopefully track national's", then the Geelong Tour at the end of February, and the World Cups in Geelong and New Zealand. "I'm looking forward to it," she says.

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An interview with the survivors of the German tragedy, December 25, 2005

The road to recovery

The road to recovery is measured in degrees and millimetres, each one painfully gained as shattered limbs gradually regain movement. reports from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra, where the five riders who survived the shocking tragedy in Germany this July were back in the lab, showing an amazing rate of improvement and still very much an important part of the women's road racing program.

Coping well: The AIS girls
Photo ©: Gerard Knapp
(Click for larger image) Coping well. It's said that laughter is the best medicine, and Louise Yaxley, Katie Brown and Alexis Rhodes show its positive affects. Only five months after the tragedy that took the life of their team-mate Amy Gillett, each is making a spectacular recovery from horrific injuries.

Katie Brown moved her left leg - initially thought to be so badly damaged, it would need to be amputated - on to the pedal of her new bike, and the rider gingerly, painfully, began another important cycle of rehabilitation.

It was less than five months earlier that Brown had ended up in a ditch on the side of a relatively quiet German road, after being slammed within an inch of her life by an out of control car. That same leg, as she put it, had been shattered to the point where "my ankle ended up around my armpit."

But a few days prior to her session in the AIS biomechanics lab in Canberra, surgeons in Sydney performed yet another operation. This time, it was removal of a section of synthetic cord, wrapped in a figure-eight pattern around her kneecap that had held her leg together. Its removal led to another a breakthrough for the rider; she went into triple figures - 101 degrees, to be exact - of knee bend.

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