The Australian Women’s Olympic Track team is in top gear to tackle the Tokyo Olympics after taking centre stage across Mount Gambier’s week- end of cycling.
The Limestone Coast was lucky enough to call home to elite riders Annette Edmondson, Alexandra Manly, Maeve Plouffe, Ashlee Ankudinoff and Georgia Baker, who wowed competitors and spectators alike during the Lush Deserts 100 Mile Classic and MGA State Kermesse Championships run by the Mount Gambier Cycling Club.
A gruelling 111km Open women’s hand- icap race opened proceedings on Saturday and Manly came to the fore.
After more than three hours of pain all over the Limestone Coast, the 23-year-old South Australian edged out young-gun Ruby Rosemann-Gannon in the sprint to the line.
In dismal conditions on the following day, the national women returned alongside 14 others to fight for the state Kermesse title.
This time dual Olympian and South Australian Annette Edmondson took home the chequered flag.
Although two riders pulled out on the eve of the doubleheader due to sickness, women’s track endurance coach Glenn O’Shea said Mount Gambier played a vital role for the team’s preparation towards the rescheduled summer games.
“Obviously the Olympics were supposed to happen last year, but after they got rescheduled this came at a really good time,” he said.
“The Mount Gambier Cycling Club has put on two great events and we want to get down here and support them.
“Especially now there is a women’s race (in the 100 Mile Classic) we want to help get that off the ground which is important.
“So it is not just about the Olympics, it is about supporting the clubs who put on such good races.” O’Shea, a highly credentialed cyclist in his own right as a national and world champion, plus a 2012 Olympics and 2014 Commonwealth Games medalist, was also an advocate for the handicap nature of the 100 Mile Classic.
“Unfortunately we do not see many handi-cap races anymore,” he said.
“I think they are fantastic because you have to work hard to catch the front of mark- ers, so it forces you under pressure.” Despite two days of racing on the asphalt of open roads in the countryside appearing worlds away from sprinting laps on a smooth wooden velodrome in Tokyo, O’Shea said it was too good of an opportunity to pass up with the riders still building fitness.
“There are not many opportunities to race, so the chance to get them in that mindset and race was really important,” he said.
“It is just about sharpening their mental skills and making good decisions in a race when you are feeling tired.” As the countdown to the opening ceremony winds down, the women’s team’s work rate lifts and Mount Gambier provided the perfect launching pad for success against the world’s best.
Following the successful weekend, O’Shea said the team of five is ready to tackle Tokyo head on.
“The riders are in pretty good condition, so it does not surprise us to see them at the pointy end of these races,” he said.
“We are coming to the end of a pretty heavy building phase and in a couple of weeks we will ramp our track training, so things are looking good.
“There is nothing else you can do except for controlling what you can control, so that means training hard and putting in a lot of work.
“They are in a good mindset to make it happen, so we are confident.”