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Persistence pays for Kimberley Wells

Kimberley Wells' victory in the opening race of the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic unearthed another of those stories which keep coming to the fore in women's cycling in the current age of the push for reform.

Wells, who races for Australian domestic outfit Specialized-Securitor, overcame her more-fancied rivals including defending champion Melissa Hoskins (Orica-AIS) and Rochelle Gilmore (Wiggle Honda) who filled up the other two steps on the podium. But this wasn't a story about how the local team got the better of the big names. Instead, it was about Wells' persistence to be there in the first place.

Wells is a doctor by trade and remarkably having only really "dabbled" in cycling in the past, has been working as a locum in order to spend more time on the bike and further her racing career under the watch of Olympic gold medallist, Sarah Carrigan. It's a story unlikely to be replicated in elite men's cycling.

"It's a huge sacrifice," Wells admitted. "I still do extra study because I don't want to lose my skills but I'm pretty keen on the cycling," she laughed.

"I remember being in fourth year med school and wanting to do this. I lived in North Queensland at the time; disposable income is hard when you're at uni. As a woman trying to do cycling at that point, I couldn't do it. Basically I just had to wait another three or four years..."

Among the arguments for better pay and racing conditions for women is the disparity between the sexes when it comes to life after cycling. Women are more likely to study to give themselves something to fall back on post-racing career - and it's often to the detriment of that same racing career, in terms of the amount of time spent on the road.

The 27-year-old pointed to the importance of the growth of the Australian National Road Series in the development of the women's peloton and the improved "stepping stone" it can provide to Europe. It was a situation that new Oceania Cycling Confederation President, Tracey Gaudry pointed to in an interview with Cyclingnews in 2011.

"What we've seen for Australian athletes is that it's a big deal to base yourself in Europe, you're in a professional team environment that most of the time doesn't provide you with that holistic support that is needed to sustain the lifestyle, the incomes with the exception of a select few are less than you would world for back in Australia - people wouldn't get out of bed for what they're being paid - and
therefore when things don't go well for women, it's very hard to keep propping yourself back up," she said.

One gets the feeling that Wells knows she's in for a hard slog should she make it overseas, but it's a calculated risk with her education behind her.

"If I can keep going with those next steps, I'm more than happy to do that, but you need those opportunities," Wells explained, pointing towards the season ahead with Specialized-Securitor and the importance of team-based sport and racing.

Regardless of how her prospects turn out, Wells knows that she is not alone in her pursuit.

"It's really interesting meeting lots of other women who cycling because they do anything," she explained.

"From working in a bike shop, there's medical people, there's lawyers - everything. Guys can make a living out of it [racing]. Girls at this stage can't do that."

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