After two years in the green and gold jersey of the Australian national champions jersey, Gracie Elvin is racing in the trade team kit of Orica-AIS but that isn't the only change in 2015 for the 26-year-old. This season has seen Elvin focus on success in the spring classics more then ever before as she pursued her personal ambitions, while simultaneously taking on a leadership role in the team. Currently enjoying a mid-season break back home in Canberra after 13 race days in Europe, plus the Ladies Tour of Qatar after the Australian summer of cycling, Elvin told Cyclingnews that her first half of the season didn't quite go to plan
"From a personal point of view, I am pretty hard on myself, I'd be lying if I didn't say I was disappointed," Elvin said. "I really was aiming for some podium results in the spring. It's a good time of year with the races that suit my strengths. I cracked into the top-ten a couple of times but I really wanted to podium and win but that didn't happen. Looking at everything I did and my preparation, I am still pretty happy so I am positive that I can keep going for results in the second half of the season."
Disappointed not be challenging for the wins, Elvin explained that her data backs up her belief that she is improving year-on-year. Adding that the increased level of competition in the women's peloton means the top-ten is increasingly harder to crack.
"Even just looking at my data files, I'm going stronger than I've ever gone before so it just goes to show that women's cycling is just getting stronger and stronger and the level is getting pretty high," she said. "It's cool to be a part of that even though it's frustrating I haven't been able to get the results I wanted.
"All my numbers are really good and just my general feeling as well on my bike in the races. I always put myself in the best position possible to go for a result and support teammates for a result so I have confidence in my racing ability and my form is defiantly getting stronger so it's a pretty cool feeling knowing that I am still improving and have heaps to work on. I can definitely take confidence from that and know I haven't plateaued as an athlete. So I'm excited to keep pushing myself and working on those things."
While Orica-AIS is yet to win in Europe this season, Elvin explained that an outsider might jump to conclusions without considering that 2015 is a year of change and transition for the team with several new faces on board. Not to mention the broken collarbone that derailed Emma Johansson's classics campaign.
"From an outside point of view, on paper it hasn't been a strong season compared to previous years. From within the team, we are still satisfied with how we are racing," she said. "We have a few new girls in the team that we are trying to boost up with as much experience as possible from riders like myself, Loes [Gunnewijk], Emma and they are definitely learning a lot and doing well."
With the influx of youth, the 19-year-old duo Alexandra Manly and Macey Stewart, Elvin has taken on a leadership role within the team. One she still adapting to but is coming to relish
"It's still something I am adjusting to. I guess because I've been a developing athlete for a while now, to change roles is always going to be difficult and I guess I am bit of quiet person," she said. "I'm not a born boss in a way but I am trying to lead by example which is one of the better ways to do what I am doing and hopefully the other girls can pick up on what I am good at. I also feel I can share some good advice on what I've picked up along the way.
"The new girls are learning quickly and fun to work with. Leadership is something I am defiantly going to keep working on, it's not something that I am perfect at but it's definitely been a fun challenge and one I've enjoyed it so far."
At 26, Elvin is yet to reach her physical peak as a rider but finds herself both passing on and taking on advice due to the dynamics of the team regarding age and experience. As one of the most successful riders in the women's peloton over the last five years, Johansson is model teammate for Elvin who explained how grateful she is to be racing alongside her.
"She's one of the most professional athletes I have ever met so I have been very lucky to work closely with her for the last two-and-half-years," she said. "She breaks down everything she can as much she can and worked on everything to the best of her abilities so it's really good for me to be around someone like that who takes every aspect of racing as important as the next. She's really focused, not just on her training, but also on her diet, her personal life and the way she races is pretty exemplary as well.
"To emulate that, helps me as rider and even just positioning. Like knowing that you have to spend energy to save energy later in the race. It's the small stuff like that which really adds up. Having her confidence in me has also helped a lot and she is one of the best riders in the peloton to learn from so I am pretty lucky to have her."
Return to Europe
To date, Elvin's wins have all come on Australian soil with a solo ride to victory at the bay crits in January her only taste of success so far in 2015. Upon her return to Europe and home base of Varese in the north of Italy, Elvin is focused on standing on the top step of the podium and breaking her duck.
"Consistency is important but I am still yet to get the win in Europe so there are two stage races that I have coming up. The Women's Tour of Britain and the Internationale Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen a month later which will be good opportunities for me to go for a stage win," Elvin said of her ambitions. "I'll be looking at those tours to be consistent and go well. I'd also really love to make the World Championships team, which is another big goal that I'll be working towards."
Having ridden the inaugural La Course by le Tour de France on the Champs-Élysées last year, Elvin added that the one-day race has quickly become a special event for her and another target for season 2015.
"La Course was such an amazing event last year. I love it so much and I'm really looking forward to doing that again. We'll have to wait and see the team roster as obviously everyone wants to go and do that race," she said. "If I do get to go, it's will definitely be something I'll be looking forward to it."