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Photo ©: Schaaf

The AIS Women's Team Diary 2008

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The 2008 AIS women's squad
Photo: © Cycling Australia

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 2008 European campaign. A whole new crop of riders has filled the six prestigious spots on the team, and began the 2008 season with a number of top ten results.

Jocelyn Loane, Peta Mullens, Bridie O'Donnell, Tiffany Cromwell, Carla Ryan and Amanda Spratt will fill us in on their continuing adventures as they fly the Aussie flag in Europe.

Also see: Index to 2008 race reports and entries

Plouay World Cup

By Vicki Whitelaw

Peta and I looking fresh BEFORE the race!
Photo ©: Vicki Whitelaw
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The AIS / Australian National Team hit the road again, heading to the Plouay round of the World Cup. The team consisted of AIS riders Carlee Taylor, Peta Mullens, Tiffany Cromwell, Leonie Burford and myself. We were joined in Plouay by Rochelle Gilmore.

The weekend started off with an epic 13 hour road trip. I’m not a huge fan of long trips. Apart from the fact that I never sit still if I can help it, I find that any niggles are exacerbated by being crammed in a car for so long. It wasn’t all bad: I got to ride in the "Disney" van, our rainbow coloured, Mapei building block covered van with window screen block-outs depicting scenes from the Disney movies Finding Nemo, Sleeping Beauty and Winnie the Pooh. Classy.

We arrived only to wonder whether the GPS navigation system had lead us astray (again). The road into town went through paddock after paddock of campervans. Had we arrived at a motorhome show rather than a bike race? Turns out the combination of a World Cup and ProTour race in the one place had proven an irresistible draw for cycling fans. There was a carnival atmosphere - people camping out, a fairground (with Ferris wheel) next to the start line, VIP marquees, banquets, the works!

The attention we were getting was out of this world: cycling fans waving and cheering during our training ride, packed stands at the start line, even multiple requests for my bidon after the race. Not sure what the appeal was - it was dirty, sticky and used. Now a CSC bidon from Jens Voigt, that I could understand. But mine??

As for the race itself, Plouay is touted as the hardest of the World Cup races. Can’t vouch for that myself, not having raced them all, but it was tough!! As my Polar data shows, there were six laps with three jagged, steep climbs each lap. There was nowhere on the course to rest... just finding time to refuel was a challenge.

The Disney van.
Photo ©: Vicki Whitelaw
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It was raining when I woke on race day and I have to admit that I wasn’t enthusiastic. I would have preferred to ride the Ferris wheel than ride my bike. Fortunately the weather cleared and my spirits rose accordingly. When the starter’s gun went I thought "yeah, let’s go" but my legs responded "nah, let’s not." I struggled right from the start.

It just seemed that everything was harder. At one point I was struggling along in the middle of the bunch only to look around and realise that - oops - I was actually struggling along in last wheel. Better move up then. Easier said than done.

I started to list the things that hurt: quads, calves, back... I stopped doing that and started listing the things that didn’t hurt. A much shorter list. I was suffering so much I didn’t notice that the bunch had thinned down to only thirty riders.

A break went and only the Aussies weren’t represented. Carlee and I took half a lap to chase it down. We caught them at the base of the third climb. The counter attacks started. I tried screaming "uncle" but they wouldn’t let up. Pain.

Check out the mountainous profile. No wonder I was hurting...
Photo ©: Vicki Whitelaw
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There were speakers all around the course pumping out race commentary. Every now and then I’d hear the French version of my surname. Made me giggle. Giggling and climbing don’t mix. More pain.

There was now a helicopter keeping pace with our bunch. It felt so close that I wondered if the prop wash would carry me away. Hey, that’s an idea! Maybe if I signal them they will air-lift me to the top of the climb. Not working. Maybe I need to signal in French? Even more pain.

In the end Carlee finished in 30th and Tiffany showed real grit to ride solo to the finish. Sadly she was deemed to be outside the time cut-off. I finished in 15th. I’m really happy with that! But maybe I could get a top ten next time if I really make myself suffer...


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Vicki Whitelaw