Tales from the Athens-bound peloton, July 29, 2004
Australia is fielding perhaps its strongest ever women's team for the Athens Olympics, with Oenone Wood, Olivia Gollan and Sara Carrigan carrying green and gold medal hopes. Kristy Scrymgeour spoke to the three musketeerettes about their chances and the road to Athens.
With only 18 days remaining before the Olympic road events, the Australian women's team of Oenone Wood, Olivia Gollan and Sara Carrigan is fired up and ready to go and it has been decided that Wood will get the ride in the time trial due to her consistent results this season.
In what was almost a controversy, Wood has finally been told that the time trial spot is hers despite Sara Carrigan having the most points at the time the team was selected. Carrigan earned her spot in the Olympic team by means of a points system that consisted of results in time trial events over the last year. Carrigan just beat out Hemsley for the third Olympic position and will ride the road race, but a clause in the selection criteria has allowed Wood to take the only time trial spot.
"Sara qualified with the most points," explained Wood, "but everybody had to do three time trials and it was the best of three. Unfortunately I only got to race two time trials because Coppa della Nazione was cancelled. Lucky for me there was a clause in the selection criteria that enabled the selectors to choose who rode in cases such as this."
As Australian time trial champion, Wood is happy with the decision and says she will ride unless she is injured or ill. "Already as it is, it was an emotional time," she explained," because nobody could give me an answer as to whether I was riding the TT or not. It wasn't officially announced until earlier this month."
Carrigan, who has just finished an intensive training camp at altitude in the mountain town of Livigno Italy accepts the decision, although is a little disappointed.
"If the strongest time trialer races on the day, I'll be happy. If I'm not going my best and am not capable of a medal, then I'm happy for someone else to ride, otherwise, I'll be very, very disappointed.
Carrigan adds that she is feeling "fantastic. I'm really happy with my preparation. I've been able to specifically target those areas in which I have been lacking this year."
Wood and Gollan chose racing over altitude training for their preparation for the Olympics and have just completed Thuringen Rundfahrt in Germany. "Thuringen was an awesome tour," said Wood, "and great preparation for the Olympics. The terrain is quite tough and good for strength training. Everyone there was on a mission to prepare for the Olympics so it was good racing."
Gollan added that the racing their helped with their confidence before the Games. "I felt good this week," she said, "and it's given me a little it of confidence. But there were some really fit girls there and we are really going to have to work together. I think that is our strength. We've had the unique opportunity in that we've been raving together all year. Oenone and I have been racing together for two years now and we just know what each other can do."
Wood was also happy with the way things panned out at Thuringen. "We were pretty competitive in Thuringen," she explained. "Olivia was sitting in second position and I was in fourth and we were working for Olivia in the GC. Unfortunately we missed the break [in stage five], but our results in the time trial were good so we're definitely on track and with a couple more weeks preparation, we'll be ready."
All three riders are first time Olympians, making the experience all the more exciting for them. "I'm really excited," said Gollan. "Now that all the racing has finished and I know that we've just got preparation for the Olympics, I'm starting to get a little bit nervous, but that's a good thing. I really can't believe [that I'm going to the games]. I think about where I was four years ago, standing on the side of the road with my down tube levers. It's great. My whole family is going to be there which is very exciting."
Wood is also excited, commenting that she has "never been to the Olympic Games, even as a spectator." She also adds that she owes a lot to the national coach Warren McDonald. "I couldn't ask for a better coach," she said. "He really listens and he takes advice from sports physiologists etc. He also really caters to the individual. Apart from that, he's a great guy. It's a bummer that he can't go to the Olympics."
McDonald took over from James Victor as national coach and coach of the AIS women's team at the beginning of this year, but Victor was appointed as coach for the Olympics so as to keep continuity in the program he was running in the years leading up to the Olympics. McDonald believes that the girls have a great chance of a medal at the games if they play their cards right. "They've been racing well all year," he said. "Missing the break at Thuringen was a bit of a wake up call. It will make them really think about what's going on in the race."
Gollan added that in the next few weeks they have a lot of tactical planning to do. "We are really going to have to sit down and nut out all the different scenario's and think about each others strengths in each situation," she said. "Knowing that one of us has a chance of winning a medal is encouraging."