Road World Championships – Salzburg, 2006
From left to right, the Aussie team: Olivia Gollan, Nat Bates, Kate Bates, Emma Rickards, Helen Kelly and Oenone Wood.
On race morning, I woke up feeling “a little off” but put it down to pre-race nerves. After breakfast, I spent an hour stretching and then headed downstairs to our final pre race meeting to discuss our team plan and get some final advise and support from Wazza.
Oenone was our best choice for a podium result, so each of us was given a job to do to support her. We needed to keep Oenone as rested as possible for the business end of the race. As I can warm up quickly, I volunteered to work in the first few laps of the 6 lap course (132km). My role was to put my entire energy into these early laps – follow any dangerous moves, ride near the front and be there to help Oenone in the event of mechanicals. Nat was to take over next, followed by Liv. Lastly, either Em and Kate would take over and help Oenone towards the finish, depending on who was feeling the strongest on the day. The final few km’s twisted through the streets of Salzburg and so we discussed the possibility of a lead out near the finish. We were not predicting a huge bunch sprint, given the hilliness of the course, but possibly about 20 riders, fighting it out for the rainbow jersey.
Two team cars took us to the race start area, which was located at the first of two feed zones about 1km after the start/finish line. The aussie team had a huge Vittoria team bus to use for pre/post race preparation. This bus had all the essentials – coffee machine, toilet, showers, fridge and satellite TV. It was nice to have somewhere away from cameras and fans to get ready and concentrate on the race.
I warmed up on some rollers and but didn’t have very good balance. I have ridden rollers for years and can ride them with my eyes shut so I thought it strange I felt wobbly but didn’t really think any more about it.
It was a fantastic and patriotic moment when our team was presented on stage for signing in before the race started. And to represent my country with 5 close friends and team mates, was a great feeling. We wished each other good luck and rolled to the start line. Each of us had tied a yellow, green and pink ribbon to our helmet as a tribute to our friend, Amy.
The crowd at the start area was amazing. The gun fired and we were away. Hundreds of cycling fans lined the 18km circuit, waving flags and screaming encouragement. My heart was racing with adrenalin. I was riding on the front, which is typical for me in the opening km’s. I like to turn my legs over quickly for a few km’s and then I am ready for any moves. Also, I think it is much safer at the front during the first few minutes to avoid any early race crashes normally caused by nervous riders.
I concentrated on relaxing my breathing and tried to find my rhythm as we weaved out of the city centre towards the first climb. My breathing became laboured as we started climbing. In fact, I was absolutely gasping and the pace wasn’t even high. I felt like I had already ridden 200km – I had no power at all. I started the climb at the very front of the peleton and gradually lost position until I was back with the stragglers. I later downloaded my heartrate data to discover that I had been climbing at 192 beats/minute. With a maximum of 200, this heartrate was well into my red zone.
Photo @ CJ Farquharson, WomensCycling.net
I made an extreme effort to move up in the bunch but could not improve my position. We started the steepest climb of the circuit and I stood up to power over it, as I had done in training all week but seemed to go no-where. Within a few minutes, the team cars started passing me and heard Wazza tell me in the radio to use the cars to chase back on. I had my head down and tried to put power on the pedals but I wasn’t going anywhere. I kept chasing for another lap but knew I couldn’t rejoin the peleton – my race was finished.
I pulled out in the feedzone and sat down in a daze. Yesterday I had felt as strong as an oxe and today I had nothing. I shook my head in disbelief as I told the aussie doctor I had no power and was gasping for air out there. He told me I was probably just on the verge of getting sick and would wake up tomorrow feeling crappy.
I changed out of my aussie kit and sat in the feedzone and watched the race unfold from the satellite TV, (the organisers had put in each country’s team tent). A few laps later, with their jobs completed, Nat and Liv joined me in the tent, followed next by Kate. Em continued to help Oenone until an attack by Cooke on lap 5 that caused the peleton to split for good. A select group of 15 riders, including Oenone, got a gap and were up the road for the remainder of the race.
Nicole Cooke (Great Britain), Marianne Vos (Netherlands) and Priska Doppmann (Switzerland) were very aggressive but Oenone patiently followed wheels and conserved her energy. With 5 kms to go, Joel (Oenone’s husband) jumped on my bike and rode to the finish line. He wanted to be the first to kiss his wife if she won the jersey.
We must have looked a comic sight. About 15 of us were crowded around this little TV, screaming at Oenone (not that she could hear us) and telling her what wheel to follow. At 500m to go, it got really exciting. Judith Arndt (Germany) led out the sprint for Trixi Worrack (Germany) with Oenone starting her sprint down the right. With 250m to go, Marianne Vos (Netherland) found her after burners, moved left and surged ahead, claiming the rainbow jersey by a full bike length. She had enough time to look behind her before raising her arms and screaming with joy. The silver and bronze medals went to Germany and Great Britain, respectively. Oenone finished 6th and after experiencing cramping in the final few km’s, found it too hard to match Vos’s sprint, but a fantastic effort after a long season in Europe.
And now it is back to Australia to take a well deserved break and enjoy a little off-season relaxation! Ciao.
1 Marianne Vos (Netherlands) 3.20.26 (39.783 km/h)
2 Trixi Worrack (Germany)
3 Nicole Cooke (Great Britain)
6 Oenone Wood (Australia)