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AIS Women's Team

The view from the accommodation, looking up to one of the only hills in the tour.

A retrospective on the AIS

Cycling News
October 10, 2008, 0:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:24 BST

I find it difficult to write something profound about our racing in France, it's the end of the...

October 10, 2008

I find it difficult to write something profound about our racing in France, it's the end of the season and most of us are tired and are having to plan ahead for 2009. So instead, I will just take a step back and reflect on the past few years of the Women's National team. So much has happened in women's cycling; professonal teams have become more prevalent along with the number of professional Australian women than ever before. But how long will that last, after 2008? Teams fold, riders more on, leaving big voids in the depth of Australian Women's cycling.

By the end of the year, we will hear about quite a few of the pioneer AIS women coming to the finale of their cycling careers. These women were the ones I aspired to be like when I first started racing in 2001, I dreamt of racing alongside them in the Europe. Its taken a while to get over to here and now that I am racing in the National Team I can only look around and see the changes and know that this is the next generation of riders coming through.

The big question is; can we live up to the standards of our predecessors? With Olympic, World Cup Series and Commonwealth Champions, they are leaving behind some mighty big shoes to fill for Australian women's cycling on the world scale. Who will be the next generation Oenone Wood, Sara Carrigan and Olivier Gollans? Will we be able to step up to the mark in 2009 and do Australian proud?

For now, all I can say is 'watch this space' and offer a small insight onto how we went at our last tour for the 2008 season, Trophée d'Or Feminin. Though we had one of the 'old school' riders, Rochelle Gilmore, making us look good, who fortunately won't be retiring any time soon! With three podium finishes in the tour, Gilmore is still on fire. Her experience and professional attitude worked wonders for our team. I tried to brush up against her hoping it would rub off. The five day tour in the flatter region of France, saw four bunch sprints and a decisive hilly stage for GC. With Olympic medalists, Emma Johansson taking out the tour, the competition was obviously a class act.

To all the Aussie girls out there racing domestically, train hard and chase your dream. You have to make opportunities happen these days, don't sit and wait for them to find you. Now is your chance to step up.


Leonie Burford

Peta and I looking fresh BEFORE the race!

Plouay World Cup

Cycling News
September 13, 2008, 0:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:24 BST

The AIS / Australian National Team hit the road again, heading to the Plouay round of the World Cup....

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.

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.

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...

Peta And Josie

Brilliance in Bochum

Cycling News
August 20, 2008, 0:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:24 BST

Our journey started on Friday at 5am with a 10-hour drive to Bochum, Germany. We were going to...

Our journey started on Friday at 5am with a 10-hour drive to Bochum, Germany. We were going to Bochum to participate in a criterium on Saturday and a road race on Sunday. Riding as part of the Australian national team for the weekend were, Rochelle Gilmore, Emma Rickards, Vicki Whitelaw, Peta Mullens, Ruth Corset, Carlee Taylor, Leonie Burford and myself. The younger and less experienced riders were lucky to have the experience of Rochelle and Emma in our team and we were all looking forward to a good weekend of racing.

On arrival at our hotel, we were excited to hear other Aussie accents and see that the Drapac Porsche boys were also racing in the men's races this weekend. It is always good to see other Aussies at races as it feels like we are at a home away from home.

We set off for a ride with the Drapac Porsche team and not far into it something got caught in the boy in front of Peta's wheel, causing him some moments of worry, however, he held it up but unfortunately, Peta came crashing down behind him. She bounced straight back up, so it was nothing too serious, however, she was stuck with nasty grazes down her leg, which I can assure you she was not too happy about as it meant she would be racing with big hubbard bandages.

On Saturday night we had the 60km criterium. We went into this with the goal of keeping the race controlled so that Rochelle had the opportunity to win the bunch kick. This meant that the other seven of us had the job of covering every attack. We absolutely nailed this and after a great lead out from Vicki, Ruth, Emma and Peta, Rochelle was delivered with 200m to go and won the sprint in fine style.

Sunday was the road race and I can't really tell you much about what happened in the race as I opted not to start due to sickness that I have had since Wednesday. So I became the assistant soigneur for the day and what I can tell you is that it was quite a tough course, 6 laps of a 14.7km hilly circuit and that Rochelle sprinted to an impressive second, losing to the in form Suzanne de Goede. After another fantastic lead out, Peta still managed to hold on to a credible seventh place, earning her some valuable UCI points. All the other girls were safely in the bunch apart from Leonie who unfortunately had a small crash early on in the race and failed to rejoin the race but came out unscathed.

Most of the girls had to have a quick wash down after the race and then begin the drive back to Italy, with the exception of Leonie, Emma and Rochelle who all returned to their homes and myself who departed for Spain for a week.

Overall, it was a great weekend for the team with some great teamwork and some awesome sprinting that resulted in a double podium.

Marc convinced the pub to let him use the barbeque

Limousin car troubles

Cycling News
August 11, 2008, 0:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:24 BST

The Tour De Limousin was the first race the Australian Development Squad competed in this season....

The Tour De Limousin was the first race the Australian Development Squad competed in this season. The team, which ultimately consisted of Leonie Burford, Ruth Corset, Louise Kerr, Josephine Tomic, Peta Mullens and myself, congregated in the small town of St Sulpice Lauriere.

Arriving a couple of days before the tour began gave us plenty of time to familiarize ourselves with the course. However it only took a kilometre to figure out the tour was going to be difficult, when we started heading up a category one climb on our first training ride.

Not everyone had these same pre-race preparations though. Louise took one for the team by teaching us not to eat sandwiches from French petrol stations when she came down with a nasty case of food poisoning forcing her to spend the day before the tour in bed.

Meanwhile Marc, our awesome mechanic, wished he had a bed to sleep on when it broke in the middle of the night and he found himself on the floor. So the week started off with some good stories and the tour hadn't even started yet.

The opening stage of the tour was a prologue. The course started with a small rise, followed by some technical corners, a descent and a 'pinch' to the finishing line, all in an epic distance of 4.5 km. The team managed to get five riders in the top 20 (Tomic ninth, Corset 10th, Mullens 11th, Burford 16th and I finished 13th), putting us third in the teams classification.

Day two covered a distance of 121 kms. The three category two climbs and category one climb weren't long enough however, to do a lot of damage to the peloton. But add some wet and technical descents and the three girls who got up the road where soon out of mind. The day finished with a bunch sprint and our 'sprinter' of the team Peta came fourth in the kick placing her eighth for the day.

Saturday's road race looked like the hardest stage of the tour and it lived up to the expectation. The group split up going up the first category one climb of the day, but came back together before we got to the second major climb. The next category one climb saw a number of attacks by Edwige Pitel, who was leading the tour. This split up the group again and this time it didn't come back together.

I survived the attacks and managed to stay with the front group, whilst Peta and Ruth were in the chasing bunch, with Josie and Leonie safely tucked away in the surroundings of 'groupetto'. Unfortunately Louise got dished with some bad luck, and after puncturing found herself walking five kilometres in search for a spare wheel. When the 'sag wagon' following the last rider came with no spares in the back, she was forced to hop in the car. The stage finished with déjà-vu, with three riders escaping off the front group again. This breakaway would decide the three places on the podium, but the order was yet to change.

The team strategy for the last day of the tour was to try and get the young rider jersey. With Peta coming third in Under 23 category and myself in second, we had nothing to lose and were in a good position to try. However 31 seconds can be a lot to make up, especially when you are in the pain box and it wasn't to be.

Overall the team had some good results and efforts. Josie did a great job in trying to get in some early breakaways, Leonie always represented us well at the front, and Louise, despite her bad luck, was extremely talented at being a soigneur for the last day. I came 10th on general classification and second in the young rider classification, Ruth was 11th and Peta 13th, whilst being third in Under 23 standings.

The town of St Sulpice Lauriere came alive that night, and for the first time in the whole week we weren't the only people on the streets. John and Marc had done some sweet talking and the local pub allowed us the use their barbeque. So, the tour finished with a good night.

To top off what was already a memorable trip the car died it on the way home. With the temperature gauge going in the red whilst going 50km/h on an autostrada (freeway) we quickly decided to ditch the car and put what we needed in the van.

Leaving John and Marc behind for some bonding time turned their 10 hour drive into an epic journey back home. We, on the other hand, arrived just in time to meet up with Rochelle Gilmore and Hayden Josefski at Bar Cavour, a popular restaurant for the cyclists, to fill us up with a salad and fill them in on all the gossip.

Until next time,
Ciao, ciao

The Aussie national team lines up

Turning 21 on Tour

Cycling News
July 21, 2008, 0:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:24 BST

Wow, I can't believe it, it's July already! It's that time of year, where two of the biggest and...

Wow, I can't believe it, it's July already! It's that time of year, where two of the biggest and most important Tours of the year are taking place. The men have three torturous weeks with the Tour de France and for us women we have nine grueling days with the Giro d'Italia Donne. For the Australian Institute of Sport Women's squad/ Australian National Team we had quite a young team in terms of European racing experience, with four of the six girls being Giro Donne debutants. The line up included Sara Carrigan, Vikki Whitelaw, Carlee Taylor, Nikki Egyed, Peta Mullens, and myself.

With many countries just recently having their national championships we had fresh kits to match with faces and a new look for the now Team Columbia all to add excitement to the peloton.

The 2008 edition of the Giro Donne was an interesting one as the stages seemed to be for either pure sprinters or pure climbers and not too much in between. The opening stage was in the old town of Mantova with a massive prologue of 1.2 km, flat and fast that went well into the darkness. It was quite handy staying in the centre of Mantova until it came to riding back, as riding there in daylight with the rest of the team was a bit different to riding home solo in darkness, over cobbles with limited lighting.

I had a nice tour of the lively town before eventually making it back to the hotel. However Carlee was almost going to be escorted back with a policeman, as she was lost somewhere in the centre of town.

Day two saw me go from a youthful young teenager to having to grow up and become a big 20 year-old. Yes, that's right, I had the joy of celebrating my birthday on tour. What else could you possibly want to do? It was cool though being able to celebrate it with my team-mates.

Because it was my birthday Wazza gave me the opportunity to be the sprinter for the day to try and get a result. It was a completely flat stage that got off to a slow start in terms of Giro speed, which meant lots of gossip and catch up time in the race and also a crazy finish as everybody was still fresh.

I soon realised with all the jostling for positions and fighting for wheels that I'm not yet ready to be a sprinter! After a transfer we made it to the beach for our accommodation for the next two days, with dinner the team had organised an awesome cake for me that was a great way to top off the day.

The next couple of days seemed to be Déjà vu, with flat stages not ridiculously fast, a few twists and turns then coming down to bunch sprints that nobody could seem to get over the super fast finishing Ina Yoko Tutenburg. Then once we hit the mountains in the following stages, nobody could out climb the mountain goat of Fabiana Luperini.

The Aussie team showed some strength when we came to the time trial midway through the tour. The many sessions down in the dungeon on the ergo prior to the tour paid off for Vicki as she put in a stellar TT effort and won narrowly. It was great and it gave us a reason to celebrate. The final couple of stages were up around our base in northern Italy, so it was fantastic being able to race on roads we knew.

The best thing I found about the tour, what makes it quite unique, is the culture and festivities that goes on around it. Baby pink is seen everywhere and each host town adds its own touch. For just five Euro you scored yourself a supporters pack which included an official pink race T-shirt, a Giro Donne tie, a super cool umbrella hat and a number of various advertising materials.

You also meet many people and volunteers who follow the tour and help out. Peta and Carlee had made friends with one of the local Police officers, who was helping with the race and without fail everyday he would come and say 'Hi'. I also had a friend that would come to see me everyday and as much as I say my Italian isn't very good, he would still keep talking to me in Italian. Gotta love it!

Throughout the tour we stayed in five different hotels, always on the move. Starting in the attic in Mantova, with no air conditioning, sweating it up in the 37 degree heat, going to the beach then the thermal spas of Toscana to Lake Maggiore, and finishing up in the four star Holiday Inn on the ring road of Milan. It's like one big travelling circus; packing, unpacking, race meals and recovering to get through the tour.

All in all it was a tough tour, a great experience, and the whole team made it to the finish, with a stage win! We got to experience an Italian beach with the sand being covered in beach chairs and rainbow umbrellas - where you can walk out 50 metres and still touch the bottom.

There was also a fight over watermelon at one of the race dinners, but that's another story.

I decided to have a change of hairstyle part way through the race, getting it braided up by an African lady in the middle of the street. We had a huge downpour of rain before the starts of one of the stages, otherwise we were sweating it up in the summer sun. We covered 810 km of racing, two mountain top finishes, and many hours in the chamois.

Until next time, keep the rubber side down!


Breaking our backs in an 'easy 20'.

Sugar Coated Memories, Chocolate Coated Eggs

Cycling News
June 04, 2008, 0:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:24 BST

March 16th - 27th I am writing to you all from 'St Moritz', but not the exclusive resort town in...

March 16th - 27th

I am writing to you all from 'St Moritz', but not the exclusive resort town in Switzerland! I am residing in the AIS Altitude house, where all five rooms are named after famous altitude locations. It is here, in Canberra, where the AIS Women's Road Squad have gathered for a 10-day training camp in an attempt to refine early form for the season ahead.

Those attending include AIS members Amanda Spratt, Bridie O'Donnell, Carla Ryan, Josie Loane, Vicki Whitelaw and myself. Additional athletes in Sara Carrigan, Carlee Taylor, Ruth Corset and Louise Kerr, have come in search of intense training and enjoyable company before their oversea adventures. Our physiologists, Dave Martin and Laura Garvican, have joined forces once again, to assist Donna Rae Szalinski, our coach for the week, with her duties.

The camp entailed everything required in preparation for the overseas departure. Wound management for those friendly with the pavement, massage and physiotherapy for any final niggles, and even bad weather to simulate the current conditions we've been hearing of overseas. It became a common sighting, the team at Debacle, Milk & Honey, or Baskins & Robbins, where pizza, coffee and gelati are on offer…I can't help but notice the striking similarity to an Italian diet!

Another location often visited, this time on campus, was the gym. Most muscles in my body were sore simply walking to these session's, and after a mere hour, there wasn't a single muscle in my body that I wasn't aware of! Our strength and conditioning coach, Ross, instructs 'an easy 20' of this and 'an easy 20' of that. Everything always 'easy', and everything always in 20's! Not!

After our media launch early in the week, the camp progressed and we found ourselves back on camera, this time thanks to small devices attached to Spratty's helmet and Bridie's seat, signalling the start of racing at the ACT Criterium Championships. It was a hotly contested race that saw Bridie, myself and Ruth Corset clean sweep the elite category podium, of which we were able to review later in the week.

Sleeping has been a problem for us after racing, and again for Spratty when our overnight monitor thrust a torch in her eye! That aside, after racing, many of the girls decided to trial different hot/cold recovery treatments. We'd been encouraged to finish on cold to reap maximal benefit, which gave the girls an opportunity to discuss how great their legs felt when, at 3am, they congregated in the kitchen for a midnight snack due to inability to sleep!

So what was the highlight of our week? Not the chocolate eggs, the awesome BBQ at Laura's, or even the wonderful brownie mixture baked by Donna (although there were all quite memorable). It was easily our Easter Egg Hunt! Laura and Dave organised a special expedition on Easter day that saw us at three different locations, facing multiple challenges, and finishing with an abundance of chocolate! After a track stand competition and stunt time on the trampoline, we attempted a human pyramid.

Through applying Ross' techniques we were able to hold it for 'an easy 20' before back's began to buckle. During our game of twister, it was balance that escaped us first, and me that escaped second to find the remaining hidden bunnies! I was poor at this game…always relying on others to source out my allocated eggs when nothing else remained. We ended with coffee and more chocolate, and it was then that I realised this would be our last day together.

Our final night was spent in the kitchen, and despite requests for more beloved brownie's, it was pizza we were preparing. Mexican? I think I've been scarred, and will never be able to eat a pizza in Mexico! Now to tasty cooking, and it would be a crime if I didn't share with you the recipe for 'Ice Boy's Brownies' (after Donna's ice-hockey son). Although chocolate eggs will always represent Easter, I can't help but envisage baking a batch of the following recipe for years to come!

Until next time, happy pedalling.

Peta =)

AIS Women's Team

The A.I.S. Women's Team is proudly sponsored by: 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. For 2005, the team had a new lineup, including Amy Gillett, Katie Brown, Jenny Macpherson, Kate Nichols and Alexis Rhodes, who joined existing members Lorian Graham and Louise Yaxley to form a tight crew to take on the world. 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 program has been suspended. We believe the fighting spirit these athletes have displayed on the road will extend to their recovery from their injuries and we hope one day to once again bring you their stories in their own words.