Australian Champion firing on all cylinders
It will be a stronger, more confident version of Australian Champion Gracie Elvin (Orica - AIS) who takes to the start line of the Giro Rosa on Sunday.
In her first season as a professional, Elvin will be taking on the Giro Rosa for the second time having spent six months with the Faren Honda team in 2012.
"Last year it was a matter of seeing how I went and getting some really good experience," Elvin told Cyclingnews. "I was racing with Faren Honda and it was cool just to have that as an extra experience in itself and just be in a non-Australian team and see how differently it was run compared to all the AIS stuff that I've done."
The 24-year-old lines up with Amanda Spratt, Jessie MacLean, Loes Gunnewijk, Melissa Hoskins, Tiffany Cromwell, Shara Gillow and Sungeun Gu in the prestigious Italian stage race as part of an Orica-AIS team that is focussed on opportunism with no rider singled out as a GC contender - just yet. Both Gillow and Cromwell have won stages when the race was known as the Giro Donne and if Elvin gets the chance, she too will be hoping to add her name to the list of stage winners. Without the team's stand-out performer of 2013, Emma Johansson, Elvin told Cyclingnews that the squad was nonetheless confident.
"We're all in really good form and we've all been training really well so everyone's fit and happy and healthy so I think we'll actually get some good results and I reckon a few of the girls can get quite high up on GC," Elvin explained. "We're all really excited and are just keeping an open mind. We race so well as a team so anything can happen. We'll all support each other no matter what."
Elvin enjoyed a spectacular start to her season with Orica-AIS, winning the Cycling Australia Road National Championships in Ballarat, before finishing fourth overall at the Tour of Qatar - results that Canberran admits were "somewhat unplanned." The former national Under 23 cross-country mountain bike champion then headed into her first Spring Classics season. The extended cold-snap experienced in Europe only added to the already tough racing conditions but Elvin revelled in her preferred one-day events, eager to make the most of her powerful racing style, despite coming out the other side of the two months "mentally battered". A short break back in Australia followed before Elvin headed back to her base at the Australian Institute of Sport in Varese, Italy ready to hone her form for the longer races of the European summer. She may be sporting the distinctive green and gold bands of the Australian jersey, but very little changed for Elvin.
"I saw that result as a bonus," Elvin told Cyclingnews. "I didn't expect it so my mentality didn't really change going into the rest of the year of racing. I knew that I was going to have to be a domestique for the team and try and learn as much as possible from the more experienced girls and the Euros. I do put a bit of pressure on myself anyway I think, as anyone does. I don't feel like there's been more pressure; I've just been really proud to wear it and I know that the team was really happy for me too."
Perhaps her enjoyment of the one-day events stems back to her time in MTB but Elvin is just as buoyed to take on the stages races, the embodiment of living the dream.
"It's a really cool experience just being on the road and just sleeping, eating and racing. You're in this little bubble and I really love it."
The build-up to the Giro Rosa has seen Elvin "working on everything" in a bid to survive the tougher days in the mountains and help out Melissa Hoskins on the flat sprint stages. A few days ago, Elvin joined Orica GreenEdge all-rounder Simon Clarke in a motorpace session with her team's sports direct Dave McPartland and the results were encouraging.
"I was definitely feeling the burn in my legs but I didn't want to tell him to slow down because Simon was behind me and I thought he was probably going easy," Elvin explained. "I suffered along and it ended up being a really good session. I managed to get a personal best in a sprint [in wattage] that I was doing behind the motorbike so it was cool to have him there as a bit of an audience. It made me do some honest training and go as hard as I could.
"It was a good sign, it makes me feel confident going into racing."
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