Ever since the Australia's long list for the UCI Road World Championships was released a few weeks ago, speculation has been rife as to who would, and should, make the final squad. With the team announced on Thursday, Kate Bates, takes a look at the balance of the women's team, which she calls an "interesting" crop of riders.
This is a talented team, albeit an inexperienced one. With the team having only six world championship rides between them, it is fair to say that any expectation is borne out of potential, not big race results.
For the most part, I am pleased to see them choose riders who are on form, rather than riders who shone early in the season. This being said, some riders on form have been left out, and others selected were so done because they proved themselves worthy at some point, even if not in the last few months.
Led by Tiffany Cromwell, the team includes Olympians Shara Gillow and Amandra Spratt, all of whom ride for Orica-GreenEDGE. Jessie Maclean is back for a second year after her first appearance in 2011, and Gracie Elvin, Rachel Neylan and Loren Rowney are all debutants.
Alexis Rhodes and Carla Ryan are the two notable names missing. Both have been Australian road champions in the past. It is curious to note that Australia will only start one individual time trialist, where there are three spots; two qualified plus one extra for Gillow as Oceania champion.
I believe Rhodes deserves at least one of these spots. She is a rider who has always performed when it counts, and who is known to add buoyancy to any team environment.
It is nice to have an opinion on selection, but by no means is it rocket science, and seven riders have been chosen. It is a talented team, but an inexperienced one. With the team having only six world championship rides between them, it is fair to say that any expectation is borne out of potential, not out of big race results or experience.
This being said, every champion has a breakthrough ride at some point, and there is much promise that this year may bring promise of that for the young Aussies.
Tiffany Cromwell deserves the title of leader on the road, and comes in with strong form after a second placing at the final world cup of the season. She is tenacious and we can expect to see her glued to Marianne Vos’s wheel when the going gets tough.
Shara Gillow will represent in both the time trial and road race, as well as the teams time trial on Sunday. One of the biggest talents Australia has seen in years, but still lacking a little tactically. She is a dark horse based on her strength.
Amanda Spratt is a young rider who should be held up as an example of hard work and determination. After an injury kept her sidelined for a few seasons, she has fought hard to get back to elite level, and has done so with a bang. She is the current Australian road champion, but after aiming for the Olympics, it is unknown whether she, and Gillow, will be able to lift again for world champs.
Gracie Elvin is in her first year on the road, having switched from mountain bike, and takes her place with automatic selection gained from being Oceania Champion. She is young, but shows huge potential, and Valkenburg will be a big part of her development.
Rachel Neylan is another example of determination, and persistence. Having joined the sport in 2008, from rowing, she quickly excelled but has since been plagued with injury. With a 4th in GC at the recent Tour de Ardeche, she is on form. I think her selection is deserved, but perhaps even she was surprised to get the call up.
Loren Rowney and Jessie Maclean are the two workhorses of the group, and have earnt their berths. Maclean has been at it for a decade, but the last two years have seen her blossom. She is a gritty rider who will leave it all on the road for her team. Rowney, in her first year as a professional, has quickly shown her talent and dedication to the cause, as a valued member of the world number one team, Specialized-lululemon.
These girls all have extraordinary stories, of determination, hard work and vision. Whether or not this will be their breakthrough year, it is hard to know, but I do know it will come. I think the girls will need some luck to get a result, but it isn’t a hopeless dream to aim for the podium.