Nettie at the Track Cycling World Championships
5-8 April 2012
Wow. What a huge week for me. To have spent every second of every day for the last 6 months working towards this week and to see it speed past at such a pace is so extraordinary. It feels as if I have been going at full pace along an uphill runway, only to finally make it to the end and launch into the airy abyss. ‘What now?’ is the question, but before those words can even escape my mouth I’m choked up by the realisation of what is looming ahead. With the Olympics in sight, I sit here on my porch in the middle of my break and try to think of things to fill up my time before the whole process starts again. My answer as to why I feel so lost can only be due to the fact that I returned from the World Track Cycling Championships with two silver medals. So close but yet so far. To have had a sniff of a gold medal in the Omnium especially, after six tough events and finish three points behind in silver was so crushing. Had I been told of what was to come one year prior, I would probably have been overjoyed with the thought of silver, but to be racing in the best form of my life with the smell of gold so near, that silver medal just wasn’t enough.
The Team Pursuit for me was a highlight. As the first event of the Championships for endurance women, we wanted to go out there and make an impression. We had been working day and night for this moment but it was now that we had to come together like we never had before and stand up to be counted. The qualifying team of Melissa Hoskins, Josephine Tomic and I faced the wild home crowd with one goal at mind, “PB”. All we could hope to do would be to ride as smoothly and quickly as we could, feel each other as a team and ride the fastest time possible. Everything else was irrelevant. The beauty of the team pursuit is that no one other than the three girls racing and their coach on the sidelines matters. No one else could affect our performance that day. We went out there, hearts racing, but with a task at hand. We used the crowd to our advantage and rode the fastest women’s team pursuit that had ever been ridden before. We had smashed our PB by 2.1 seconds and broken the World Record. We were ecstatic. Not just for the world record but to know that all that training was working and that we were headed in the right direction. It wasn’t over yet however, with three more teams to come, including the previous world record holders, Great Britain. Sure enough, they bettered our time by .2 of a second, which really gave us a kick from behind and produced two words from inside me, “game on”. We had qualified 2nd fastest and would face Great Britain in the final.
After a few hours of recovery, we tried to lower our anxiety levels and relax as much as possible before it was time to switch on and psych up again. After our warm up, we sat near the starting gate as Canada bettered New Zealand in the battle for bronze. It was now our turn, once again the underdogs, but ready to take home the dominant title for the first time in two years. The home crowd was extraordinary. We went out to our own schedule for the first six laps and then tried to ‘race’ the Brits. We were well up on them until the final kilometre, when the Brits really kicked into action. Despite riding against the crowd, Great Britain brought it home, re-breaking the world record. We had managed to crack another PB by .1 of a second, so that again was positive for us and we couldn’t have asked for much more. We would go home with a silver medal; a little disappointed that we weren’t rainbow-clad, but satisfied that we couldn’t possibly have done any better.
After the excitement and relief from the day, it was time to start thinking about the omnium because in less than 20 hours, I would be throwing my leg over that bike, yet again for another 2 days of solid racing.
Despite the late night, I had a nice, long sleep in the next morning as the racing didn’t start till mid afternoon. This frustrated me a little because due to the worlds’ schedule, the points race wasn’t until 9pm and the elimination till 10:50pm! Surely they could have planned this a little better and spread it out a bit over the entire day of racing? Needless to say, this was the way it was and all of my opposition were in the ‘same boat’. My flying lap was scheduled to be at 3:45pm. My legs were feeling relatively fresh considering the previous day of racing, so I made sure I warmed up well to get my absolute best out of this event. I was the ninth of twenty four riders to post a time, but I posted the fastest time at that stage and went on to watch as each and every rider failed to go faster. I won the first omnium event, having ridden a PB by .1 of a second with a time of 14.377, with Laura Trott close behind with 14.391. This was the perfect start for me, especially because I knew that Laura Trott was a big contender for the overall title and I would need every possible point over her.
The point score was next and although starting at 9pm at night, I rode the point score of my life. Point scores are usually my weakest event in the omnium, based on the fact that I used to be a sprinter. I’ve found it hard to adapt to the length of the race, especially having to ‘dig deep’ time and time again every ten laps for each sprint. I no longer think that this is the case because I felt more comfortable than ever before out there and I managed to put a few points between myself and my main opposition. This wasn’t to say that it was easy out there. It was a hard slog, but it definitely wasn’t as hard as I’ve faced before. I felt in control and managed to win the two sprints that I committed to and came second in the other. Four girls took a lap on the field, but these girls hadn’t performed exceptionally well at previous world cups or world championships, so I felt reasonably comfortable when they got away. My eyes were on the American Sarah Hammer, previous omnium world champion, Tara Whitten of Canada and Laura Trott from Britain. I came 5th, Trott 8th, Hammer 10th and Whitten 11th. This was great! It was a really positive situation for me to be in, going into the elimination.
The elimination came and went, in a matter of screams, yells, crashes, frustration and confusion -not unlike any other elimination I’ve been in! I managed to stay out of trouble for the majority of the race, staying on the outside of wheels and weaving through gaps. All was well until about eight riders were left, when I suddenly found myself stuck on the inside at the back of the group. Luckily I had enough time to jam on the brakes and sprint around the outside of some of the girls who were left, avoiding elimination. This really awoke me, but the numbers started to dwindle and we were suddenly down to five riders. I was in second position behind Tara Whitten. The legs were starting to feel it, but I knew I still had some energy left and needed to be aware of everything going on around me. In a split concentration lapse, the three girls behind me picked up the pace and moved around, blocking me inside the wheels. I tried to back out and go around the outside, but this time I didn’t make it and was eliminated 5th last. I won’t go into detail here, but boy was I frustrated. I was so, so angry at myself for finishing the race with energy left in my legs. Trott went on to win the elimination gaining five valuable points on me, which left us sitting on equal points going into day two. We were locked on 11 points, with Hammer and Whitten equal on 21.
After another late night and long sleep in came the fourth of six events, the individual pursuit. At the Australian Track Championships earlier in the year, I had ridden the fastest 3 kilometres by a female on Australian soil, so I knew that I had it in me to post a fast time. The only doubt that I had was that at the London Track World Cup six weeks ago, despite confidence from nationals, I could only back up on the second day of the omnium with a 3 minute 41 second ride. Eleven seconds slower than I had ridden a month before in the national pursuit. I remember how distraught I felt when I saw that time, especially when Whitten had ridden a 3:31, Trott a 3:35 and Hammer a 3:38. I tried to put all the doubt behind me and focus on the fact that I was in the form of my life, I had a huge home crowd with me and I could only do my best. I went out there and felt good. An individual pursuit never feels good, but this one felt better than normal. I felt in control. I rode a time of 3:32.4 and although I came fourth, I was back. I was more than happy with this time, it was the third fastest time that I had ever ridden before and it had come off the back of two big days of racing. Whitten won the individual pursuit with a time of 3:30.0, Sarah Hammer 3:31.6 and Trott 3:31.7, so I was back up there. Trott had only managed to get one point up on me which was much better than I had expected.
After a few hours of recovery, the scratch race was next. This was going to be the deciding race of the whole championships. I knew Trott and I would be inseparable in the 500m time trial, so the scratch race was where the omnium would be lost or won. I had to not only beat Trott, but try and get as many people to finish between her and myself as possible. My legs felt good within the race, so I tried to test her out a bit, but as expected, she was all over me like a bad rash. Her tactic was to follow me everywhere and not let me get away. In the end my attempts to break up the race went unrewarded, effectively zapping my energy in the latter part of the race where I finished just behind Trott. I was gutted. So many questions streamed though my head and soon the “What if?” ’s turned to “should have” ’s and regret started tumbling in. Had I saved my energy and left it to a final sprint, could things have been different? Or had I left it to a final sprint and things ended badly, would I have regretted not trying to get away earlier? It was a tough situation to be in and I knew deep down, that after that result I would be racing for silver. Needless to say, I had 37 minutes to make up my mind as to whether I was going to give the 500m time trial my all, or whether I should just pack up and go home.
My coach Matt Gilmore said that regardless of what happens, or what medal I end up with, let’s go out with a bang. Let’s use the home-crowd to deliver a world-class performance and use it as practice for the Olympics. It was one final event to finish off a hard few days and even longer 6 months. I went out there and delivered a cracker. I shaved .6 of a second off my London World Cup time posting 35.180 seconds for the 500m time trial. Unfortunately Trott beat me by by 0.007 of a second taking the win and the World Omnium Title. I came second, three points behind her with Hammer five points behind me. To have been so close at the end of six gruelling races was hard to swallow, but for my first Track World Championships, two silver medals iss really positive. It shows that I’m on the right track and that my training truly is working.
It was so lovely to be able to race in front of a home crowd, especially my friends and family. To have people who are so close to me be able to travel across Australia and see me race at this level in person, or even see me race at home on the TV was so special. The home Worlds has allowed those in my life to gain a greater understanding of the world of cycling and what exactly it is that I dedicate day after day of my life to. I feel that they have a better understanding and have really climbed on board my journey as I attempt to make it to London 2012.
I’m having a short break now before I get back into it and start the long-haul training process to London. The Australian Olympic team will officially be selected in the middle of June, so there is still two months ahead of close scrutiny, stress and emotional and physical rollercoasters before the final team is announced. I’m looking forward to it and hope that as a team we can continue along this path of improvement and perform to a whole new level by the Games in August 2012. 100 days and counting…