When Loren Rowney won the 2011 Honda Hybrid Women's Tour, it led to her signing her first pro contract with Specialized-lululemon. Not a bad jump for someone who had been racing the Australian National Road Series, finishing the season ranked second behind Grace Sulzberger. Now, having won Stage 2 of the Redlands Bicycle Classic last month and in the top-10 overall, Rowney is again headed for bigger and better things.
The results in the US had followed from a strong performance at the Women's Tour of New Zealand in February, where Rowney took out Stage 2, finished 3rd on Stage 3 and 5th on Stage 5, as well as a stage win at the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic over the Australian summer.
"I've had pretty good form for the past year," Rowney admitted to Cyclingnews. "Consistency I think is the word, which is good, you always try to do something in every race that you go in to but obviously coming to the States and racing with the team, I wasn't going to be a team leader so I didn't think the opportunity to win a race would happen so soon.
"It was a bit unexpected," the 23-year-old said of her results at Redlands. "Going into the race, because there was only four of us with Amber [Neben] really tired after El Salvador, Ronny [Lauke, team DS] said to Amber, Katie [Colclough] and myself that this was a chance to show ourselves which we won't get that many opportunities to do because generally, we'll be riding for someone else. If you see an opportunity, go for it."
Rowney will next line up for Specialized-lululemon at The Exergy Tour in Idaho, late May, followed by the Liberty Classic and then Nature Valley Grand Prix. When the Queenslander signed with team, which was borne out of HTC-Highroad, there weren't too many races on offer – not that that bothered Rowney as she says it was more about getting "a foot in the door". Rowney was also hoping to get a call up for the Jayco-AIS squad over the next two months.
Another option for Olympic selectors?
Given Rowney's prolific results, her name is certainly being mentioned when it comes to possibilities for Olympic selection in Australia's three-woman team in London. With GreenEdge-AIS' Shara Gillow seemingly a walk-up start given she is the nation's best hope in the time trial, that leaves two spots to be decided.
Rowney was not on the long list for Australia at the end of 2011 and it must be queried as to whether the locality of her results will count against her, up against the likes of contenders Amanda Spratt, Tiffany Cromwell, Alexis Rhodes (GreenEdge-AIS), Specialized-lululemon teammate Chloe Hosking, while Rochelle Gilmore (Faren Honda) has been struggling through injury and illness recently and has not had a win in Europe since 2009. Rowney won't be discouraged with the 140km circuit, featuring two laps over Box Hill, suited to her strengths.
"Chloe's probably got more of a kick than I do but I think that I would be a fantastic lead out for her," she suggested, with Rowney firm of the belief that Hosking should be selected. "Racing with her in Australia, we were quite intuitive with one another... I guess we'll have to see what happens.
"Rochelle hasn't had the form that she had at the Commonwealth Games. I know she had the big crash last year but these things happen in cycling. If she doesn't have the form in the coming months and she hasn't had the results that Chloe has – she's been very consistent; I don't see why they should put her on the team over Chloe. I feel, you know, Chloe's 21 years-old, she has been racing internationally for four years, she's quite an experienced rider and it will only be to the benefit of Australian cycling to develop her further."