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The AIS Women's Team Diary 2006
Cyclingnews has been pleased to publish a diary contributed by the members of the Australian Institute of Sport's Women's team as they conduct their European campaign. On Monday, July 18, 2005, everything changed. In the light of the tragic event that took the life of Amy Gillett and put her five team-mates in hospital, the AIS women's road cycling programme was suspended.
But this year the AIS women are back. While surviving members of last year's team - Louise Yaxley, Katie Brown and Lorian Graham recover from injuries sustained in the accident last July, another generation of young women will endeavour to make a mark on the international stage.
Alexis Rhodes makes a return to racing following her remarkable recovery from life-threatening injuries sustained in last July's crash, being joined by Amanda Spratt, Hannah Banks, Candice Sullivan, Jenny Macpherson and Sally Cowman as they fly the Aussie flag in Europe.
Also see: Index to 2005 race reports and entries
Trofeo Guareschi - Italy, May 7, 2006
No ham and cheese
By Amanda Spratt
Well it has been a while since we last raced but we have now completed our last big hitout for this trip. We're now looking forward to the 5am wakeup call on Thursday to begin our trip to France for Tour de L'Aude.
With two weeks of solid training in the somewhat hilly region of Varese we were itching to get some racing under our belts. I'm happy to report that we are all still in one piece after this race, without an ambulance and a visit to the hospital, so things are looking positive!
We were faced with 30 laps of a 2.7km undulating circuit in Sala Baganza (near Parma) with only a small field of 80 riders. It's funny to think that just six months ago 80 riders in one race seemed almost beyond belief for me, yet now I consider it a 'small' field. There was no large stretch of wide road but with a smaller field it was not such an issue. It was more a case of avoiding pothole after pothole. I knew the BMX skills would come in handy somewhere down the track!
Our big sprinter Jenny Mac was back in action after recovering from damaged tendons in her hand after our first race. So we were back to a team of six, and with new team kit and helmets, morale was high.
The first third of the race was pretty steady with the only Aussie casualty being Al Rhodes who was forced to pull out after a few laps with illness. She has been suffering from a nasty case of flu but I am sure our driver will be back fighting fit for the teams time trial in l'Aude.
Things started to spice up with 20 laps to go as we got the call to start trying to split the bunch up to avoid a big bunch kick. We are really starting to mesh well as a team and were using every opportunity to try and get things off the front. Jenny made a strong solo attack that lasted just over a lap before being reeled back in by the bunch.
With six laps to go it looked like a decisive break of five had made their way off the front. A strong move by Candy Sullivan saw her bridge the gap to the leaders but a lack of organization at the front led to a big bunch sprint looming.
With four laps to go a mixture of stomach cramps, hayfever, and a little gatorade to top it off caused this one to pull out and watch from the sidelines as the whittled down bunch of 30 headed around for the last few laps. Let's just say that it was not the best combination for a criterium-style high intensity workout, and seeing my lunch across the road was not the prettiest of sights!
In the final sprint, Jen led out the bunch with 300 metres to go in an effort to get Sal at the front. In the slightly uphill sprint Aussie Rochelle Gilmore from team Safi took the win, with Sally the best placed of us in 11th. Sal has some good legs on her at the moment. I am happy to say that I can now call her my NSW teammate back at home, too!
So whilst we missed out on a supply of local ham and cheese, things are coming together well for this group of Aussies. We have had some really solid weeks of training, and although the trip is almost over it feels like it has hardly begun! We have now been clued up on the stages of the upcoming Tour de L'Aude, and whilst some stages may resemble the sort of course you would picture in a nightmare I am excited about the 'challenge.'
My friends think I am so lucky to be over here, travelling around Europe, being able to check out all the beautiful scenery, although something tells me though that I won't have much time to appreciate the beautiful French countryside in the next couple of weeks!
Last Thursday we went out and had a bbq on the banks of Lake Maggiore with the Aussie sailors. Hmmm...not the navy men as mother Spratt had thought, but the world and Olympic champion Australian sailors. It was good to touch base with some other Aussie accents and a trip out onto the lake in a little speed boat saw Candice spinning us round in donuts in no time for a bit of a heightened heart rate!