The tenacity Glenn O’Shea has shown to win gold in the omnium at the world championships just five months after making his international track cycling comeback is a testament to the Olympic hopeful who has furthered his claim for Games selection.
The whole year they gave me targets that were mainly for selection for the worlds and I met all those targets
Health related setbacks have twice robbed O’Shea of competing at the world titles but the 22 year old is back to his best in Melbourne and in the only two endurance events on the London 2012 program.
“That’s probably made a difference, knowing where I’ve come from I guess,” O’Shea said.
Yesterday’s winning ride came after a silver medal in the team pursuit on Wednesday with selection for the Australia quartet a hard fought race in itself.
“I can’t say that any person’s position has been cemented in the Games,” Cycling Australia national performance director Kevin Tabotta said.
“All I can say is this is our last formal selection competition and I suppose it stands to reason that when you’re looking at the group that we’ve got right now -across sprint and omnium and teams pursuit, we’re going to have to make some decisions very quickly. I don’t think that that performance is going to hurt him.”
O’Shea, alongside Leigh Howard, was a gold medal favourite in the madison at the 2009 world titles but was forced to withdraw days before the national team departed due to chicken pox.
He was then diagnosed with a severe case of glandular fever that derailed the beginning of both his 2010 track and road seasons. He recovered and was set to make his return to road racing with the Continental Jayco AIS team at the Tour of Japan in May only to injure his wrist days before departure, which he never made.
That was it. O’Shea snapped and put the bike away.
But watching his contemporaries including Howard from the sidelines, in part, reignited a hunger in O’Shea, who moved to Adelaide to work closely with coach and mentor, Tim Decker with the goal of competing at the Olympics, the omnium being the ticket.
The former junior world champion returned to the boards at the 2011 national titles in January winning gold in the team pursuit and silver in the points race behind Luke Durbridge.
O’Shea was then invited to train with the Australian track squad at an Adelaide camp in March as a means of integrating back into the national program.
Eight months later he was selected to represent Australia at the first leg of the 2011-2012 UCI world cup in Astana, Kazakhstan where he won gold in the individual pursuit and the madison as well as silver in the team pursuit. The event doubled as his return to international racing. At the third leg of the world cup series in Beijing he won the omnium.
O’Shea’s performances earned him selection for the world titles, which is no mean feat with places so hotly contested that 2011 omnium world champion, Michael Freiberg was left out and under-23 time-trial world gold medallist Luke Durbridge resigned to focus on his professional road career.
“It’s an unemotional, clinical decision to bring Glenn here as the best omnium rider but also as our fourth best teams pursuiter in the country,” Tabotta said.
“And that’s pretty important going into the Olympic Games because we can only take five athletes so our omnium rider has to be also our fifth best teams pursuit rider at the bare minimum.
“Glenn earned his spot here at the world championships primarily in the teams pursuit and then subsequent to that he also earned his spot in the omnium and quite clearly so we believe.”
Tabotta says selectors will look to reduce Australia’s seven-man endurance squad after the world championships.
“The first thing we’ll do as a selection group is sit down and look at the performances here and see what decisions we can make in shortening up the group,” Tabotta said.
“From there, we’ll see whether any more tests or trials need to be conducted but I’m not in a position to say whether that’s going to happen right now. After some discussions in the next seven days we’ll know where we are headed.”
O’Shea initially considered the omnium as his best bet for Games selection but his performances in the blue riband team pursuit, which he exclusively trained for prior to the world titles, have also impressed the right people.
“I did one training session on my normal bike the rest was on my team pursuit bike coming into the worlds,” O’Shea said. “That’s all I trained for pretty much. For the pursuit and the kilo that probably made a difference but in realistic terms I think I’ve got a lot of improvement in the bunch racing.
“I had been told by coaches and selectors what they wanted from me, I won’t go into that. But the whole year they gave me targets that were mainly for selection for the worlds and I met all those targets.
“I’ve come here, I had targets as well and hopefully I’ve met them. Being world champion in the omnium I believe I deserve a spot at the Games but I’ll leave it up to the coaches and selectors.”