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An interview with Olivia Gollan, October 2, 2004
Going for gold
Through 2004 Olivia Gollan has been a tireless worker for Australian team-mate Oenone Wood in pursuit of the World Cup title. At the world's road race on Saturday, she might just get a chance to add to a solid year with a victory of her own, as she tells Shane Stokes.
Although Olivia Gollan spent a lot of the 2004 season helping Oenone Wood secure her win in the World Cup, the 31 year old Australian national road race champion still picked up quite a few good results of her own. Gollan won the sprint classification in the Int Thuringen-Rundfahrt der Frauen race in Germany, took second in the Trofeo Museo Alfredo Binda and third in the Montreal round of the World Cup.
She also finished seventh in the Castilla y Leon leg of the series, eighth in the GP de Plouay and ninth in the Fleche Wallonne. The former triathlete was twelfth in the Olympic Games road race and ninth overall in the Giro d'Italia Femminile; in other words, a very solid season and one which she hopes to cap off with a big ride in Verona.
Cyclingnews: Can you tell me a little about your expectations prior to the season and how it all worked out for you?
Olivia Gollan: This year has been very big. Obviously it was Olympic year. My first goal for the year was to qualify for the Olympics and then, secondly, to be in the best form I could be when I got to Athens. So most of my racing and the breaks from competition that I had were keyed around having my best form in Athens.
So yeah, I got there and we won a gold medal so it was a great experience.
Second to that has been getting through the World Cup series and making sure that we were there to get a result at every race. It has been a very hard year, with a lot of very big races. Myself and Oenone were talking yesterday and I was saying that it is amazing that it is the worlds because we seem to have been racing these big things all year.
CN: Does it feel bigger or more of the same?
OG: It is just like 'ah, here we are again'. It is nice to come in and be calm about it.
CN: Do you think coming at the end of the season with so many big events before, including the Olympics, takes the pressure off a bit?
OG: It has been hard to keep focused mentally this year because we have had so many big races, including the Olympics. That said, I am really excited that it is here in Italy because this is where we are based. It will be fun.
CN: It is difficult to get yourself revved up at this time of year, to get the long training rides in before? How has your preparation been?
OG: It is hard. We came out of the Olympics and then had three World Cups in a row, a six-day tour and now we are here. I wouldn't say it has been the most ideal preparation for such a big race, but then again what is? I am still green in this sport so I am still learning about what brings me up, in terms of form. Hopefully I will be good…we did a tour about ten days ago. Sometimes I come out of tours really well so hopefully this is one of those times!
CN: How do you feel now, before your races?
OG: I feel all right, but we will just have to wait and see. There will be a lot of people in really good form for the time trial and then you will have a lot of people in semi-good form because they peaked for the Olympics and it is six weeks later, so it is hard to know.
CN: Who do you think will be the key people in the time trial?
OG: I think Karin Thurig, Dede Demet-Barry and Judith Arndt. The current world champion Joane Somarriba, I am not sure about her. She is a brilliant time trialist so we will see how she does as well.
CN: What are your expectations?
OG: I would really like to run a top ten place in the time trial but as I said, I don't know where I am at. So if I do that I will be happy.
CN: You were talking about the Olympics - what was the whole experience like for you?
OG: We weren't in the village initially but after Oenone's time trial we went there and it was brilliant…it was a great experience. Just taking in other events was great.
CN: What is your background in the sport?
OG: This is my third season in Europe. Prior to that I was working as a schoolteacher…I have only been cycling five years. I have been with the AIS's programme for three years now, In the first year I came over here I was experiencing it and learning. Last year I had a really good year, I podiumed in World Cups and won a tour in France. This year has been another step again, going into World Cups with the intention of getting results every time. Also, I think my role has changed a bit this year where I have been supporting Oenone a lot and that has been a great learning thing for me. I have found myself in a leadership role a lot of times where I have had to guide the girls. Only being so new to the sport, that is being thrown in at the deep end!
CN: What got you into the sport?
OG: I was just doing triathlon very badly…I was racing a bit and was told to go and race with the local cycling club. I haven't looked back since!
CN: Had you come up with key targets before this season?
OG: Yeah, I did… Oenone and I are both going to a professional team next year. I have got a great team and a really good contract, so I am really happy. I am really looking forward to next season.
My goal this year was to peak for the Olympics and I did. Sara won a gold medal and it was amazing, it was incredible. And Oenone has won the World Cup, so it has been a dream run.
CN: Does that rub off, when people you know well have big successes? In other words, does it raise your own expectations and confidence?
OG: Certainly, yes….it makes you think it is possible. I think for us on the national team, getting such good results this year certainly raises the level of the other girls as well who are just development. They have had to come out in World Cups and perform, which is a big thing for the younger girls.
CN: What is your target for the road race?
OG: I wanna win, I wanna win [laughs]. We will see how it goes. It is a really hard course and it is going to be a big race of attrition. We are going to see what happens during the race.
CN: You like the course?
OG: Yeah, I like the course. It will be interesting to see what happens.
CN: Who do you see as the people to watch in that?
OG: Similar to the time trial. Edita Pucinskaite is definitely one to watch. There will also be a number of other people who perhaps didn't get the results they wanted at the Olympics but who are looking for results at the worlds. People like Mirjam Melchers and Nicole Cooke and the Germans are key people who could certainly get a results, and who are desperate enough to get a result.
CN: Is there anyone who has really stood out in recent weeks?
OG: I think Edita Pucinskaite and also Trixi Worrack, who won the tour we did the other week. Trixi is a really young talent but she is awesome. I think they have got a really strong German team with a lot of good climbers and they will want a result as well.
CN: Finally, your plans for the off-season… Do you have an off-season in Australia - it seems like the riders don't really take much of a break there!
OG: Not really [laughs]. I have been spending the past few weeks organising my social life. Oenone, Natalie Bates and I are going to Switzerland to go snowboarding for five days on the glacier. God knows if there will be any snow. I am spending an extra couple of weeks and then I am going home. Hayley Rutherford and Graeme Brown are getting married in Perth and so I am going there for a week. Then I will start training again in November. I will probably have about a month of the bike and then I will get back into it gradually.
I have the nationals in January so that will be a goal.
CN: Have you done much snowboarding in the past?
OG: Yes… I am a bit older than the rest of the girls [laughs] so I have spent a full season in Canada skiing and snowboarding so I have done a fair bit. I haven't done it for a long time but I am looking forward to it!