London Track World Cup

January 15, 2012

2011/2012 London Track World Cup

The 4th and final UCI Track World Cup was a great event for the Australian track endurance women.

16th-19th February

With medals in every event we entered, spirits were high throughout the 48-hour haul back home. The Olympic Velodrome was great. A track similar to Sydney’s velodrome in Bankstown meant that we were quick to adapt and three days after arrival in London, we were ready to roll.

To start the championships off, was the Women’s Team Pursuit qualifying. We were seeded to start about halfway through the fifteen teams on the start list – a position we didn’t really want to be in given that we were unable to see what times the majority of teams had done and wouldn’t have a target time to aim for. But with Melissa Hoskins starting, me in second wheel and Josephine Tomic in third, we got off to an unusual start. Unfortunately, as the countdown finished, the electronic gates (which hold the first rider in place) failed to open, holding Melissa Hoskins on the line. This called for a false start and a few more minutes spinning the legs over, back on the rollers as the officials tried to fix the gate. Within a few more minutes we put the hold-up behind us, were back on the track and off to a clean start. We rode to a schedule and had a pretty smooth ride. We managed to ‘keep our heads’ and despite the nerves from racing in front of a sold out crowd, post a time of 3:21.426. This was a great time – a New Australian Record, but more importantly, a time that we hadn’t been able to formally post in a long time. The Australian women’s team pursuit had been off the mark at World Cups and Championships since the girls won the 2010 World Championships, so we were hoping that with a time like this we could finally put our names back in the mix leading into the 2012 Track World Championships.

Our time put us in 2nd position, 0.7 behind the Canadians. With a handful of teams still to come, I was feeling slightly anxious. I felt that we should have been closer to the Canadians and to be honest, was slightly doubtful that our time would hold up to put us into the finals. But sure enough each team went through and failed to beat our time. The Kiwi’s and the Americans had both gone slower which left the Dutch and the Brits ‘. We had qualified for the finals, but at this stage didn’t know whether we’d be riding for gold or Bronze. The Dutch qualified a second behind us, but unfortunately, the Brits beat us by a tenth of a second. Whilst disappointed at being beaten by such a small margin, we were ecstatic to finally be ‘in the mix’ again. All our major competition for the team’s pursuit were present at the London World Cup, so to be sitting in third position coming into a World Championships and Olympic season was really exciting.

But we weren’t finished yet. We still had one more chance to show the world what we were capable of and we wanted to go faster in the final. The final was held the following evening, but we swapped the team up slightly, in order to trial a new combination of riders. I was moved into the starter’s position, with Josephine Tomic in second wheel and Amy Cure in third wheel. Although nervous once again, we knew what we had to do. We had practiced this hundreds of times before. We just had to go out there and do it.

The track was hotter that night and the crowd more excited. Everything went to plan this time and we were away cleanly. We followed our coach, Gary Sutton’s schedule for the first 6 laps and then ‘rode against the other team’ for the final six laps. We were racing the Dutch and had been ‘up’ on them for the whole race. It continued this way for the remaining laps and we won the Bronze medal with a time of 3:19.164. It wasn’t until we looked up at the scoreboard that we realised that we didn’t JUST win the Bronze medal… we had BROKEN THE WORLD RECORD!!!! I knew we had ridden a fast time, but I didn’t realise it had been THAT quick!! It took a few moments to really sink in, but in the back of my mind I knew that there were still two fast teams to come, the Canadians and Great Britain, so I was uncertain as to whether our excitement would be quashed in a matter of minute’s time. Sure enough, both the Canadian’s and Great Britain went under our time, with the Brits taking the gold in a time of 3:18.148. Whilst extremely happy to be amongst teams posting world-class times, the Brits had just raised the bar. They had still beaten us by more than a second, so we knew that we still had some work to do. Nevertheless, we were on the podium having ridden faster than we ever had before, so that was positive reassurance that what we were doing back home was working and that we were heading in the right direction.

 

Omnium

After the excitement of the team pursuit, I now had to refocus on the next two days ahead. I was given the opportunity to ride the Omnium, which meant two gruelling days consisting of 7 races; a qualifying points race and the six omnium events, the flying lap, points race, elimination, pursuit, scratch race and 500m time trial. This was my first Omnium at an International level, but I knew that my form was good and that I had the same opportunity to step up and be the best, as each of my competitors.

The qualifying points race is a hectic one. With 40 laps, there are only 4 sprints of which 15 girls (in each of two heats) all try to gain points. I knew it would be on from the start, but after only scoring 1 point in the first two sprints, an opportunity arose where three girls tried to break away and take a lap on the field, so I went with them. I worked with one other girl from Czech Republic with two girls further ahead. All four of us managed to get a lap on the rest of the field, which gave us each 20 points. Although it was a pretty big effort, I now just had to ‘sit-in’ and hold onto the main bunch for the final two sprints and I would qualify. I held on and qualified in 2nd. Although I could have afforded to come 12th, it would have been extremely stressful as in my particular heat you needed at least 3 points to qualify. It also gave me confidence that I was fit and that even as a more ‘sprint’ based points rider I could ‘take a lap’ if the opportunity arose.

I now had an hour to wait before my flying lap. I was reasonably confident about the flying lap. I just had to ‘nail’ my line and could only go as fast as I was able. No-one else could affect my time. I went out there, held my nerves and posted a personal best time of 14.484 seconds. This would have been the equivalent of an 11.59 for a flying 200m – which would have been a pb for me even as a sprinter! I was stoked! Half my old physical size, but going faster than I ever had before. My time squeezed me into 4th, 0.005 behind USA’s Individual Pursuit World Record Holder, Sarah Hammer and .01 behind Great Britain’s Laura Trott in 2nd. Li Huang of China qualified first and the current Omnium World Champion, Tara Whitten of Canada was sitting in 5th, so I was amongst the names I needed to be after round one.

The points race was next. I was preparing for a world of pain, which is exactly what I got. I managed to get a few minor points throughout the first few sprints and was feeling more comfortable than I was expecting. But halfway through the 80-lap race, I began to get friendly with my head-stem. If anyone has ever heard of the term “Chewing the stem”, this is what I finally experienced. It means that the pace is SO DAMN FAST and that you are hurting so much that all you can to is grip the bars, grind away at the pedals and get down so low that you are almost literally ‘chewing’ the head-stem. This went on for 20-30 laps, as girls tried to break away, one after the other. The pace was so high that I didn’t have a chance or the energy to move up in the field, let alone sprint. Luckily with 15 laps to go, a bunch of 6 girls ‘took a lap’ and got onto the back. I wasn’t too worried about these girls because none of them had been real overall ‘contenders’ at previous world cup’s or championships. There wasn’t a whole lot I could have done anyway because I was in that much pain. Needless to say, once they had finally taken a lap, the front of the bunch stopped chasing, which meant that everyone ‘sat up’ and relaxed for enough time to get our breathing back. There were two more sprints to go, and with 3 points, I was well down the ranking. I needed points, badly. Unfortunately, this too was the aim of everyone else in the race, so I couldn’t quite get myself into position for the 2nd last sprint. I had one more chance, the final sprint. I was in a bad position at 6 to go, then a perfect position at 4 to go, then I got swamped with 3 to go, but SOMEHOW managed to squeeze out of the field, ride around the outside and much to my surprise and excitement, WON the final sprint! This took my points tally up to 8, which took me from 14th place to 8th place. This was a vital sprint, not only putting me 6 places higher, but it gave me confidence that no matter how badly I’m hurting within a race, if I keep my composure, I can still have it in the legs to come back even stronger in the final laps.

My overall omnium points tally was now at 12, which put me equal 1st with Sarah Hammer, going into the elimination that night. Although satisfied that I had made it through the points race and was sitting in first, I couldn’t relax because I had the elimination at 9:30pm that night. The elimination is the most unpredictable event of the omnium and it can ‘make or break’ your chances at gaining a medal. Due to the chances of getting ‘stuck’ at the back, boxed in with nowhere to go, you could find yourself eliminated during the first few laps, earning you 24 points (due to there being 24 riders) in one hit. If you have a good elimination, position yourself and come out in the top few, it could also be your chance to gain valuable points over your main rivals.

After heading back through the London traffic to our hotel, I had a chance to recover slightly and get some much needed food into me before heading back to the velodrome for the final event of day 3 at the London Track Cycling World Cup. I tried to remain calm and thought about all the tactical preparation I had done, learning how each of my competitors ride that particular event. I knew which riders were stronger (people who would generally ride near the front for most of the race) and which riders were more ‘tactically’ strong (people who would squeeze through gaps or ‘chop’ people in order to gain positions). The race was exciting. It was so fast and things were happening left, right and centre. I kept my calm and stayed on the outside of wheels to ensure I didn’t get boxed in or stuck at the back. I was feeling confident and actually remember myself thinking at one stage, ‘this is actually pretty fun!’ As more and more riders were eliminated, we were down to six. The tactics change with fewer numbers, with some riders preferring to ‘sit on’ and stay out of the wind, popping out for a sprint each elimination lap. Instead of the smoother pace at the front of a large field, these sprints really started to hurt the legs. I was in a good position, but in the end couldn’t pick the pace up anymore and got eliminated 4th-last. I was really happy with this. Not just because of my result, but because I knew I hadn’t stuffed up tactically – I’d just run out of legs. I knew there was nothing more I could have done. Laura Trott took out the win, Tara Whitten 2nd and Kirsten Wild 4th. Sarah Hammer was eliminated 8th-last which meant that I was in the LEAD at the end of day one. I couldn’t believe this… My first attempt at an omnium against a world-class field and I was leading. This was like a dream. I was on 16 points, defending world champion, Tara Whitten on 17 and Laura Trott, Sarah Hammer and Kirsten Wild all on 20. I knew it was still anyone’s game, but it was nice to get the most ‘unpredictable’ of days out of the way.

Day two consisted of the Individual Pursuit, Scratch Race and 500m Time Trial. After riding a 3min30s pursuit at the Track National Championships in Adelaide 3 weeks earlier, I was going in with confidence. I knew that I was on good form – we had just broken the World Record in the team pursuit 2 days earlier and I was looking forward to going out there and showing the world what I could do. I got up, had a spin on the rollers before heading to the track at midday.

Due to my overall lead, I was in the last heat, up against Tara Whitten. This was good. It meant that I could see all of my opposition’s times and could ride to a schedule to try and beat them. Oddly enough, all the times had been relatively slower than I had expected. The majority of people had been positing times in the 3:40’s, with the exception of individual pursuit world record holder Sarah Hammer, posting 3:38.6 and Laura Trott 3:35.4. I was expecting Hammer to have gone faster, as well as Trott, who posted a 3:33 at the Colombia World Cup. I was going to go out and win this individual pursuit. I had gone 5 seconds faster one month ago. All I had to do was a sub 3:35 and beat Tara Whitten and I would win the Individual Pursuit round. The AIS Omnium coach, Matt Gilmore put me on a 3:34 schedule, a schedule I knew I could do and hopefully with some control. I just had to stick to my schedule and if by 6-laps in, Tara Whitten was going faster than my schedule, I would focus on racing her to make sure I only got one point added to my tally.

Unfortunately my confidence lasted just 4 laps into the 12-lap pursuit. I went out hard, like I typically do and felt reasonably strong, but just four laps in my legs began to die. And I mean die. I could see Matt Gilmore – the AIS Omnium coach asking me to pick up the pace, but I couldn’t. Each lap I was getting slower and slower. After 7 or 8 laps he gave up on calling me to schedule altogether, instead succumbing to yelling encouragement each time I went past. These were some of the longest laps of my life and all I wanted was for it to be over. I remember thinking “Man, it’s awfully quiet” as I rode lap after lap in front of a Great-Britain supporting crowd. Then I would battle my own thoughts and tell myself to ‘forget about the crowd and focus on the ride.’ With a couple of laps to go, to my horror, Tara Whitten CAUGHT me. This was embarrassing, but I was then able to use her to try and pace me to the finish line. Having someone riding in front of you makes such a difference, so it gave me just that little bit more energy to try and chase her to the finish.

Finally, the torture was over and I looked up at the scoreboard to see a time of 3:41.4. “F*&K!” I was SO devastated. To have gone out there with the expectation of riding a 3:34 comfortably and to have finished with a 3:41 was gut-wrenching. As I rolled down into the pits thoughts flashed through my mind such as “you’re creeping”, “you’ve done too much”, “all this racing has taken its toll on you… you’re not going to have anything left for the final events.” I shook my head at Matt and said “I don’t know what just happened, I had nothing.” I jumped on the rollers and started to spin my legs down. Matt came over to me with a laptop showing the final results from that round of the omnium.

 

[quote type=”center”] “What did I come?” I said with a pained look on my face. [/quote]

[quote type=”center”] “6th, you’re still in 2nd place.” he replied simply. [/quote]

 

What? After all that I was still in 2nd… I suddenly realised that I had got so hung up on my time that I had forgotten that it’s your placing that counts in an omnium. Sixth was ok! Although I had honestly hoped to have won that round, a ‘blow-out’ and ‘devastating’ ride only cost me five extra points, it really wasn’t the end of the world. I wasn’t still just a medal chance, I was still in gold medal contention! But I had to quickly forget about the Individual Pursuit, because the Scratch Race was only twenty-seven minutes away.

I barely had time to finish my warm down before I got off to ‘kit up’ for the scratch race. I tried to recollect my scratch race thoughts as quickly as possible. This was the event where everything could change. If I stuffed up my positioning at the end of the race, I could cost myself a medal, whereas if I did a good job and my opposition stuffed up, this could give me the gold medal. I just had to head out there, keep my eye on my main competition and place as well as possible against them.

I headed up to the start line, still puffing from my individual pursuit. I told myself that all my major contenders were in the same boat and that they’d be suffering too. I just had to back myself. The majority of the race was start-stop, on-off pace as people tried to get away only to be brought back by ‘nervey’ riders. One rider did manage to get a lap on the rest of the field, Tatsiana Sharakova of Belarus. She wasn’t a close overall contender, so this was ok. Tara Whitten tried to get away on a couple of occasions, but both times I managed to get onto her wheel. The second time we got away with the Spanish girl and managed to get a quarter of a lap on the rest of the field. Unfortunately we weren’t committed enough though and ended up coming back to the peloton of which Laura Trott, Sarah Hammer and Kirsten Wilde had been driving on the front. The Scratch Race came down to a bunch sprint and although I found myself a little lost in the wheels, I managed to squeeze out and come home with speed. I came 5th in the bunch, but 6th overall (due to Sharakova’s lap). Sarah Hammer came 2nd in the scratch race and Trott 9th whereas Tara Whitten had a blow-out scratch race, coming in 12th.

With one event to go, Sarah Hammer was sitting in first on 25 points, I was 2nd on 27 points, Tara Whitten 3rd on 30 and Laura Trott 4th on 31. This was it. The final event. An event where no one else could change your result, it was entirely up to you. I had to mentally psych up and give it my absolute best, which is exactly what I did. I rode a 35.7 second 500m time trial, the fastest I had ridden in years. I was happy with that time, because I knew the racing had really taken it out of me and that I was no-longer in my best form. Unfortunately Laura Trott bettered my time, as did Sharakova which put me in 3rd position. Tara Whitten came 4th, with Hammer in 5th. That left Hammer and myself tied on equal points overall. We were both on 30. I couldn’t believe it. My first major international omnium and I was sitting in equal points. To determine the overall leader, the three timed events are combined and whoever’s total time is faster, wins. As Sarah had bettered me by a considerable amount in the individual pursuit, that was the decider. Sarah Hammer won the omnium I came in on equal points in 2nd, with Laura Trott 3rd on 32.

This was incredible. I didn’t expect to be so competitive in my first international omnium! I was completely over the moon. Obviously I would have liked to have won, but to have come away feeling so competitive was so encouraging for me. I think I impressed a few of the coaches and finally instilled a bit of confidence within them regarding my ability, desire and motivation.

I took so much away from that Omnium, I learnt so much and I gained so much more confidence in myself. I also think that my lack of attendance at major competitions was an added advantage as my competitors didn’t know what type of rider I was. I think that If I manage to get another shot riding the omnium at the World Championships then I will be slightly more ‘marked’ than this world cup, but boy wouldn’t that be an awesome opportunity!

I’m going to have a few days break, before launching into a two week road block. Then we’ll hit the track again and start a month-long training camp towards the World Championships. The next step for me is to make the World Championships team!

Bio

Annette Edmondson (born 12 December, 1991 in Adelaide) is an Australian cyclist who races for the Australian Track Cycling Team.

Annette is a three-time World Champion, Olympic medallist and dual Commonwealth Games Champion.

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