By Les Clarke
Track World Championship silver medallist and World Cup scratch race champion Kate Bates was a surprise guest at today's launch of the Sydney Thousand at the SCG, and Cyclingnews asked the flying trackie the obvious question - why she was on our sunny shores and not slogging it out in Europe.
Bates explained: "I had a growth sort of thing in my throat, which I had to get removed. I reckon it'd been there for about six months, and when I was told to get it taken out I thought I'd be better off recovering here. It was more serious than I thought, and the words 'life threatening' were thrown about - but it's pretty good now."
Bates was supposed to ride the recent World Cup round in Spain, but today she was riding with Ben Kersten on the turf of the SCG, enjoying the sunshine in Sydney; "Yeah, Nat [Bates' sister, Natalie, also a Van Bemmelen-AA Drink rider] rang me and said it's like seven degrees outside - that's what the weather's like in Europe. I'd much rather recover here!"
She was a notable absence from the GP Feminas Castilla y Leon, the sixth round of the women's World Cup, and wasn't too pleased about missing it; "Yeah, I was supposed to ride Castilla y Leon, and I'm pretty disappointed I didn't, because I got second there last year." As it turned out, the tight bunch sprint to finish the event would have suited Bates' powerful style. She's also disappointed about missing the Tour de L'Aude, which commences this week, a longer event Bates had targetted; "I was looking forward to L'Aude as it's a good event, and I reckon I could've done well there."
The Sydneysider is due to be back in action with the AIS Women's squad for the women's Giro d'Italia in July. She'll ride half of this event before concentrating on the Tour of Germany, another tour on the busy women's pro calendar. Bates realises coming back into these events after a layoff won't be easy; "it's hard to race when you're aiming to get fit; it can be hard on your head knowing that you probably won't perform as well as you'd like, but you've got to do it."
She'll ride some one-day events before the Tour of Holland and then it's into the road World Championships, where the Australian women will be a little stretched for numbers. Bates hopes to overcome this with a great result, something she is very capable of, especially on the Madrid course; sprinters are licking their lips at the prospect of a mostly flat parcours. It'd cap off an excellent year, with the 2006 Commonwealth Games on the horizon and now the Sydney Thousand meeting to look forward to.