By Paul Verkuylen in Geelong, Australia
One of Australia's best known and well liked female cyclists, Olivia Gollan, contested her final race on Australian soil before retiring at the weekend's Geelong Women's World Cup. Gollan was called to the stage by her Menikini-Selle Italia team-mate Nathalie Bates shortly after the winner's presentation, for a special presentation.
Rumors of Gollan's retirement were riff, but the politely-spoken member of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games team was hoping not to make a huge fuss over the personal decision to leave the sport.
"I am not really sure what to say, I was hoping to make a very secret exit from the sport," Gollan said, holding back the tears. "I am very pleased to have raced my last in Australia here in Geelong, with some of my good friends and family around."
Bates presented Gollan with a book containing a photographic record of her achievement over the past six years, compiled and printed entirely by her colleagues. An emotional Gollan confirmed to the crowd that she would retire from the sport after this month's Women's Tour of New Zealand.
"It has been an awesome time representing my country over the past six years and I would like to thank everyone who has been involved," she said. After receiving the gift from Bates, Gollan was congratulated by many of her soon-to-be former colleagues.
Gollan first came in to prominence on the women's cycling scene in 2002. At the time still learning how to race, Gollan took part in many of Australia's biggest one-day races including the Grafton to Inverell, which at the time didn't have a separate category for the women. She finished ahead of some of her more accomplished male counter parts and after realizing her talent became a regular on the national team.
Hailing from Maitland, some 30 km inland from the NSW coastal town of Newcastle, Gollan won the Australian Open Road Championship in 2004 before moving onto a professional contract with Nurnberger in 2005.
During her short but illustrious career Gollan represented Australia both at the Olympic- and Commonwealth Games, taking gold medals in both the 2004 Olympic- and 2006 Commonwealth Games Road Races. Gollan finished second at the 2003 women's Amstel Gold Race and has won such prestigious races in Europe as the Trophée D’Or Feminine and the Tour de Berne.
Gollan, who won the inaugural Women’s Geelong Tour in Australia in 2003, also claimed a top 10 finish at the 2006 Women’s Giro d’Italia, finishing in ninth spot, and has represented Australia at six World Championships.