After 5 years representing Australia on the track, it’s time for a change. I call it, Nettie 3.0. I had a crack at track sprinting, I found my niche in track endurance, but now it’s time to turn my focus to something else; the road. Whilst I signed my first pro-contract on the road with Orica-AIS in 2013, I still don’t feel like i’ve ever been able to give it a proper crack. It has always come secondary to my track commitments and has been used as a refreshing break, with good short term goals, like the Team Time Trial at the Road World Championships. It hasn’t ever been my focus, as I’ve always competed at the Track World Championships (usually around March) and then tried to scrounge around for some road form, spending 6 months in Europe in 2013, 4 months in 2014 (Commonwealth Games), 5 months in 2015 and zilch in 2016 (Olympics). This has meant a grovel through most races, only really feeling ‘fit’ in the last couple of months of the season.
My best year on the road was actually my first, as a 21-year-old, and I know that’s completely to do with how much time I spent in one block. Looking back it was probably my most enjoyable, as racing becomes a lot more fun when you’re fit enough to actually be able to contribute to the team and have an impact on the race, let alone be in the running to win.
This year I have 8 months up my sleeve. Yes, I know it’s January and it’s a bit late to be making this decision, (given that the road season has already started!) but I was obviously not ready till now. The Australian Women’s Track Endurance team took a pretty big hit after our training accident at the Olympic Games. I took a lot of time off and had to sit back down and work out what I still wanted to get out of the sport. After 2.5 months I was happy to come back. I didn’t know exactly where I was headed, but what I did know was that I wanted to have fun. Some charity rides and fun races, like Noosa, the National Madison Championships and the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals had me locked in to a few events, giving me a reason to train. After a week on the track in Tasmania I was looking forward to getting stuck into some road kilometres before my WiggleHigh5 teammates arrived for the Tour Down Under. When my track coach emailed me about a double track session, 2 days out from the TDU, the alarm bells started going off. Sadly, I couldn’t think of anything worse. I wasn’t ready. Obviously the timing wasn’t great (re the Tour) but I honestly couldn’t imagine anything worse than the intensity and monotony of a team pursuit session at the track. 5 efforts, 20 minutes between, taking turns, riding laps of the velodrome.
Don’t get me wrong, if there’s a goal at the end of the tunnel, I’ll smash laps ’till the cows come home’. When you’re in the right headspace, the repetitive routine is ignored as it’s all part of a larger plan, a bigger goal – you are never truly in the moment during those sessions, but yearning for something greater.
That horrible feeling, that ‘cringe’ at the thought of coming back to the track could only mean one thing; the light had vanished. I couldn’t see the end goal. I wasn’t excited by the thought of representing Australia in the Team Pursuit at the Track World Championships. After 5 years, I needed some variation. I know there are others in this world who can stick to one thing, year after year, but I’m not like that. I need change.
The Madison has been included at the Track World Championships for women for the very first time this year. Now THIS excites me. This is something that I’ve been campaigning for, alongside Monique Hanley, ever since the first time we did a madison together, back in 2006(/7?). That would have been the goal this season, however it is such an unpredictable event that it’s tough to justify putting 3 months of training, flights and accommodation at two world cups and the world championships, let alone assuming I could take the position of one team member in a squad that needs to prioritise their team pursuit riders. I guess this goal might just have to be put on hold…
I was really enjoying being part of the WiggleHigh5 team during the Tour Down Under, which got me thinking… wouldn’t it be cool to try something different; to head overseas early and have a go at some of the one-day classics? I’ve never been able to do them as the timing always clashes with the track. Most of them are flat, with power climbs, and/or cobbles; all of which are right up my alley. I’ve always wanted to see how I’d go. I’ve also wanted to see how I’d go for the rest of the year, with a decent block behind me. Could I win a few more races? Would I enjoy it more? Could I line up in the road race at the Road World Championships as well at the Team Time Trial? Now that would be cool.
What do I do? Do I step outside my comfort zone and head overseas? Do I deviate from the five-year-long beaten path?
Speaking with my coaches, Gary Sutton and Matt Gilmore, the answer became pretty clear. In this headspace, I couldn’t go back. It was time for a change. The Commonwealth Games are going to be held in Australia in 2018, and the Women’s Team Pursuit has just been added to the track program for the very first time. Winning the Team Pursuit for Australia at the Commonwealth Games? Now that’s exciting. That’s something worth going back to the track for. And after a year spent on the road, with different goals I know I’ll be ready.
But for now, 2017 with WiggleHigh5… Bring it on!