An interview with Edita Pucinskaite, September 17, 2004
With the World Championships coming up on the same course as 1999, Edita Pucinskaite finds herself in good form and motivated to repeat her performance and win in Verona again. And after her victory in the challenging second stage of the Giro della Toscana, a World's repeat looks distinctly possible. Kristy Scrymgeour caught up with Pucinskaite to discuss her career to date and the coming World Championships.
Beginning her athletic career at a young age, Edita Pucinskaite finally found cycling at the age of twelve and has since gone from strength to strength. "The desire to express myself through sport got me started first with track and field and then after I began cycling," she said.
Despite her successes, which include a World Championship and a victory in the women's version of the Tour de France, Le Grande Boucle, the Lithuanian says it hasn't been easy. "I had to overcome many, many problems to improve enough to be recognized," she said, "but I think I'm lucky to have chosen to specialize as a cyclist and if I had to do it all over again, I would make all the sacrifices I've made again. Through cycling, I've been able to give a lot of satisfaction to my friends, my fans and family and I feel like I've realized my goals and repaid for my efforts."
Now Pucinskaite has excellent form and is considered on of the favourites for Verona. "I'm feeling good," she said. "I hope to keep this form until the second of October, but first I'm going to race the Tour of Tuscany, where I hope to be one of the best riders."
With a previous win on the Verona world's course, Edita is feeling relatively confident, "but there is a lot of pressure too. They will all be watching me. We will have to go up this climb of the Toricelle nine times," she added, "two more times than in 1999. So there will be more climbing, less flat and more kilometers. It will be a hard race!"
Although she's feeling good right now, Pucinskaite is unsure as to whether her form is as good as it was back in 1999. "Its hard to say when I was feeling the best," she said. "I think I am in the same condition as five years ago, but since then there are more and more strong riders who are on a high level. The Tour of Tuscany will be a very good test to say who can go for the rainbow."
Of the course, Pucinskaite said the hard climbs suit her perfectly. "It was hard and in 1999 I felt comfortable immediately. I had to watch for riders like [Joane] Sommariba and [Anna] Wilson, but I was feeling good and when I took off on the last climb, I got away solo and the few seconds I gained on the climb were enough to bring me to the finish line alone. I still have clear memories of this day, like it happened yesterday. At the finish my husband was waiting for me, with my parents and so many of my close friends, it was fantastic."
This year, Pucinskaite will have a few of the same riders to worry about, but also a host of new ones. On her list of riders to watch is Joane Sommariba again, as well as Oenone Wood, Nicole Cooke, Judith Arndt and Miriam Melchers. "I think I can be one of the top riders," she said, "but winning is always hard, especially when it's world's."
With both a rainbow jersey and a Grande Boucle victory to her name, Pucinskaite says both memories are just as dear to her. "Both were very nice victories which were very emotional for me," she said. "To win the Grande Boucle and hold the leader's jersey from the first to the last day was amazing. I had had to suffer for two weeks, and my team has been so important. At world's though, I remember an emotion like a explosion and to wear the rainbow jersey for a year was very nice.
Another motivation for Pucinskaite at World Championships is her disappointing ride at the Olympics. "I wanted to give it a good go there, but a crash at 3.5km to the finish took that away from me," she explained. "The Olympic Games always leaves you with good memories though," she added. "In Athens, where the Games were born, the emotions were even stronger. The race didn't go as I would have liked but it was a great experience, a true celebration of sport. It's a dream for any athletes to go to Games."
As for next year and the next couple of years, Pucinskaite will stay with Michela Fanini Record. "My goal is to stay at a high international level for a few more years and then retire to be a sport journalist. Currently I am writing for the monthly magazine Ciclismo. I'd also like to take care of the young athletes in the sport, although the first thing I will do when I will retire is have a baby."