On the eve of the women's road race in Bergen the Australian team were keen to put up a united front but Australian high-performance director Simon Jones admitted that he might 'possibly' carry out his selection process differently if given another opportunity. He also added that there were lessons to be learned after what has been a distraction for him during the build up to the World Championships.
Jones initially selected just five athletes for the women's Worlds team, deciding not to fill the quota of seven that Australia were entitled to. The decision was met with protests from several quarters and Rachel Neylan and Chloe Hosking – who were left out of the team – successfully appealed the decision.
Neither Hosking or Neylan were in attendance when the Australian team organised a press conference on Friday evening but Jones pressed home that there was harmony within the squad.
"They're going to add to the team. They're going to do team roles and they're going to hopefully help the girls contribute to the performance," he said.
In terms of selection Jones laid out the process and was admitted that there were lessons to be gained from his first outing as performance director at the World Championships.
"It's a pretty tricky business. Selections are difficult but we try and be as objective as possible and evidence based. It a bit of a different experience for me coming into the Australian system. There's definitely lessons to be learned but I'm here to learn. I want to say I'm tremendously proud to be part of this team and it's history and we'll go forward and we're focussed on the performance."
When Cyclingnews followed up with why he had picked five riders rather than seven he replied: "We just felt at the time, looking at the performances of the girls this year, the course and how well they've done. Those were the girls that met the criteria. We focused on the performance point of view."
When asked if he would do things differently if starting the selection process from scratch Jones said: "Possibly yes. Possibly."
Elvin and Spratt lead from the front
While the selection controversy has overshadowed the build up to Worlds the athletes have tried their best to remain professional and focused. Gracie Elvin and Amanda Spratt are two of the best cards that the women's team can play on Saturday.
"We won't have one clear leader but we'll have a few," Elvin told the press.
"We have a few different scenarios lined up and we've got the strength of riders to cover those scenarios. Myself and Amanda want to go deep into the race and we'll work different scenarios because we're different riders. We've also got some other strong girls on the team and I think that this is the strongest team we've had at a women's World Championships so we're just excited to get out there and see what they throw at us."
As for the addition of two riders, Elvin said: "We're super thrilled to have seven riders here. It's going to make a difference to our team and we're going to use those two extra riders. It's going to make all the difference."
Hosking certainly adds another dimension to the team. She is the fastest sprinter on the team and one of the quickest women in the world on two wheels having enjoyed a successful season. Whether she will get a free role remains to be seen but Elvin hinted that the team came first.
"She's coming here in great form so for sure it adds extra strength to our team. She's going to really work hard for us. If it comes down to a massive much sprint then we know that we can count on here."
Elvin, too, has had an impressive season with second places in both the Tour of Flanders and Dwars door Vlaanderen. She also pinpointed the Worlds at the very start of the year and has tailored her form around the Bergen Words.
"I've definitely had one of my best seasons ever. I've been targeting this race since the start of the season. I feel like my form is really good. The course is more difficult than I thought. At the start of the year I heard it was a Classics course and to me that meant short, sharp climbs but when I came here for recon the climb was longer. It's going to be a very selective race."
Spratt, who won the Tour Down Under at the start of the year, believes that the Dutch are the favourites for the race but both her and Elvin know their in-form rider, Annemiek Van Vleuten, from their Orica trade team duties.
"The Dutch come in as favourites. If you look at their whole line up, it's formidable," Spratt said.
"Any one of their riders could win. We're teammates with Annemiek the rest of the year but there won't be any favours out on the road. You can look at that final hill and think where she might want to attack. Knowing that is an advantage and it would be a dream to go away with her. We come in with seven girls that are in great shape, so while the Dutch come in with a formidable team, I think we have a team that can match them.
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