As I sit here typing this I have a giant Mars Bar staring at me from across the room. It’s sitting next to a shiny gold pan, a gold medal and a pretty new green and gold jersey. It’s hard to miss the writing on the front that reminds me I am Australian Champion for 2016. Yep, the year has started off pretty well! First big goal ticked.
I won the Australian Championship in 2012 as well, but I can assure you that it is just as exciting to win it a second time. My coach Gene Bates has been meticulous as always with my training in the build up to nationals and whilst there have definitely been days where I have been hating him for what I have had on my program, I’ve always known deep down that it will be good for me.
This year, for the first time ever, our race was run on the same day as the men in what was dubbed “Super Sunday”. This allowed for TV coverage of the last hour of our race as well as an increase in spectators and atmosphere out on the course.
An 8am race start meant a 5am alarm. As I sat there eating muesli and yoghurt followed by a little pasta at 5:15am I couldn’t help but smile at how amusing this situation seemed to be as I washed it all down with coffee and electrolytes. I then took to playing words with friends to take my mind off the race – I had spent the week convincing most of my team-mates to join or re-join after a hiatus … not that we really need another outlet for our competitive natures but a little healthy competition for the brain is always fun right!?
I had been trying for a few days to figure out how to score the ultimate 7 letter word against my team-mate Gracie Elvin. On Sunday morning at 6:20am I finally nailed it. I knew the mind was switched on and ready and after some good weeks of training and a successful Bay Crits I was sure my legs were ready to go as well.
As we sang along to our theme song for the day “everything is awesome” from The Lego Movie the mood was good and coffee was slowly doing its job. I packed my pockets full of Etixx bars and gels and took an extra one just for good luck. I’m known amongst the team for always carrying more than I need “just in case” and today I am happy I did!
With 2.5 laps to go, I ate my lucky gel and then attacked over the top of a move by my teammate Kat Garfoot. Ruth Corset came with me and as we turned left onto the descent there was daylight between us and the bunch. My team-mate Sarah Roy was already up the road in a breakaway with Louisa Lobigs, and although their lead got out to three minutes it had started to steadily come down as the race approached the final stages.
Kimberley Wells sprinted across to us and we made contact with the leading two to make a group of five with 16kms to go. Sarah had a great day and gave what she had left in the tank for me as we got to the final climb of the day where I attacked and got away with Ruth once again. Ruth and I raced together overseas for a couple of years so it almost felt like travelling back in time… and I am sure that if time or lungs had allowed we still would have argued over who was in fact the tallest (It’s definitely me, in case you were wondering, but don’t ask Ruth).
We continued to work well together until 1.5kms to go and then it came down to the final sprint – not something that either of us really known for. If you look far enough into my history I am a track points race rider and even further back a BMX bandit so the sprinting legs do exist, they’ve just been in storage for a while. Today they came out at exactly the right moment and I was able to out-sprint Ruth in the final and take out the Australian Championship. My teammate Rach Neylan sprinted to 3rd to make two Orica-AIS riders on the podium. Perfect dan!
It was great to be able to celebrate with my team-mates and staff as soon as I had crossed the line and making the day extra special, my whole family were there to support, cheer and celebrate with at the end. The last time they came was in 2012. They are definitely my lucky charms and now I am just going to have to figure out a way to sneak them all to Europe. There were plenty of “Go Aunty Mandy’s” from my niece and nephew and my 3 year old niece found the champagne spraying a hilarious display of “water splash bottles”.
It has been a quick turn around since the win, with little time to celebrate as I look to my next race – the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under in Adelaide. I’ve promised my partner that I will take the giant Mars Bar I won to Europe so I am now facing the ultimate test in self-discipline. I don’t like Mars Bars, I don’t like Mars Bars, I don’t like Mars Bars… if you say it enough times you start believing it right? Wish me luck…. And for the racing too ;).
This article originally appeared on VixenSports.