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The Emma James Diary 2002
Welcome to Cyclingnews.com's newest female diarist, Australian Emma James. Emma's enjoying her first year as a scholarship holder with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) road cycling team, managed by coach James Victor. 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.
A strong French influence
After the last tour, the Trophee D'Or in France, I signed up with the French Mantes La Ville team that I had been riding with for the previous two months from late July. I really enjoyed my time with the team, and we had some good results as a team and individually. All the girls and support staff were friendly, cheerful and put up with my - at times limited - schoolgirl French! The director of the team, Dominique Chignoli was very dedicated, supportive and passionate about cycling. It is a big step for me - now a 'professional cyclist'! The only two remaining races for the team this year were the world cup rounds in Switzerland and Holland. It is important for the team to have at least four riders to start the world cup races, so it was also a bit of security to have an extra rider sign.
Grand Prix Suisse Féminin, September 8, 2002
For the Switzerland World Cup round I was still getting over a cold that hit me fairly hard after a solid bit of racing in Trophee D'Or. I retired after the third lap (of eleven) of the rather tough circuit. It was a fair bit of driving from Italy for a couple of days in Switzerland, but the weather was sunny with clear skies and quite warm temperatures for us to enjoy lunch by a beautiful lake near the freeway, and also for the racing the following day. The Australian team was provided with accommodation volunteered by a family living in Embrach, 100m from the circuit! It was great to see the lifestyle for a Swiss family in this little cul-de-sac in quite a small town 30km from Zurich. There was a small playground and communal veggie garden bordered by new-looking apartments. There seemed to be heaps of children, enough for a soccer game in the car park, and plenty of action on roller blades and skateboards. I even saw a couple recumbent bicycles out on the amazing bike paths around the town - one with a full fairing which is probably necessary for the numerous rainy days that very green, mountainous areas are renowned for!
It was a hard day of racing for all the girls who managed to finish this tough world cup round. From the sidelines the race looked quite interesting, with Suzanne Ljungskog and Zinaida Stathurstkaia in a break with about four laps to go. They were joined by Tatiana Statakina, and I thought these three would stay away. They were caught and the bunch finished very strung out from a very fast final lap, but the top 25 girls crossed the line in a couple of groups with only a few seconds separating them. Boubenekova, with the Edilsavino team won. Miriam Melchers (Farm Frites-Hartol) finished fourth and sufficiently far ahead of Petra Rossnar (Saturn) to be leading the World Cup series by thirteen points.
We returned home rather late after the long drive back from Switzerland. After a couple hours very easy riding the next day to help our recovery, we prepared for a big party that night to celebrate my birthday and Sara Carrigan's (both of us born on September 7 - but a few years apart!) It was a really wonderful night with everyone making a gourmet specialty and a fair few of our Italian friends joining the festivities.
Rotterdam Tour, September 15
The following week, the final world cup round was fought out over a flat windy 140km in Rotterdam, Holland. I had spent the week in Nijmegen, in the south of Holland, catching up and training with friends who had helped me last year when I spent a few months based in Holland trying to decide if I could go anywhere in this sport. It was great fun being back in familiar territory. I knew the train system, where to shop for all the best Dutch kwark (thick yoghurt), where to go for good rides and best of all great people to enjoy the week with. I was riding well, over my cold, and looking forward to the racing in Rotterdam. I had done the race the year before when a small group got up the road and then nothing else was allowed to go (except for Judith Arndt who bridged the two minute gap to the break, and then in the final 15km attacked the group to win solo!). I was sure I was stronger than last year and hoping for a good result.
Things did not go quite to plan for me on the day. I had thought that the Dutch riders would be attacking all day, and that Saturn would keep it together, but that after a hard day perhaps there would be opportunities towards the end of the race. The pace was fairly fast at the start, but I was happy to let my legs warm up following wheels mid field, sure that no attacks would be successful at this point. After about half an hour I started moving more and more towards the front.
Not long after we turned on to smaller roads, and I noticed a few Saturn riders on the front, stringing the bunch out. I still did not believe the group would split, and I sat in behind riders in single file not realising that gaps were opening up further ahead. I was strong enough to have ridden around all of them - and to the front - with a couple minutes solid effort, but I did not realise the urgency! I was dropped with my heart rate lower than in training. Saturn drove the peloton and I was left with weak riders, unable to get back to the peloton and with 100km left to ride and time enough to regret misreading the race. AHH Definitely something I should know about Dutch racing is that in the windy and flat conditions in Holland is that you can get caught out at any moment if the bunch splits and the pace has everyone strung out in the gutter. A painful lesson to re-learn.
The final two World Cup rounds were not the most successful way to start my professional contract with Mantes-la-Ville, but hopefully they have still some memories of me racing better and getting results in the Tour de Haute Vienne, Grande Boucle, Plouay and Trophee D'Or! I flew back to Italy to hear awesome results from the Aussie girls all trying to qualify for the individual time trial spots for the World Championships. Sara Carrigan even beat the World Time Trial Champion, Jeanie Longo Ciprelli!