It’s hard to believe that another year is almost over. I know that as we get older it seems like the year’s go by faster but this year was unusually fast but I guess that is because I spent so much of it overseas. A total of 15 weeks on the other side of the world is a long time even if it was broken into 3 different trips. But it has been an amazing year, one of fun, friendship, learning and teaching.
In between training, racing at nationals, having family here for the start of the new year and my 19th Mega Swim to organise I found the time for a speaking gig in Orlando, Florida at a Pharmaceutical conference about MS and the drug I am currently on, which is the teaching part but also the meeting of new people who I can call new friends! Then it was back to Melbourne for more speaking and more training to get ready for the international racing season.
As I mentioned in my last couple of blogs, I decided that this year would be a year of “no expectations” for my racing. For the last 8 years I feel like I have been expected to win, because I have in previous years! But the competition is getting tough, the first couple of years might have been a bit different as there weren’t a lot of us in my category, but it is growing and the riders are getting stronger (and to be honest I’m getting older!). So I wanted to have fun and try some new tactics that I had been working on for the road race and didn’t want the pressure from anyone including myself to be on that top step of the podium.
The Australian Para Cycling team headed over to Europe on the 1st of May to take part in the first 2 World Cup events. The first in Corridonia, Italy where the course was probably the toughest course we have ever had to race on! Lots of hills…up and down, but very narrow streets, some cobbles and lots of pot holes! We were the lucky ones as we were there a week early so had a chance to get to know the course which helped but certainly didn’t make me a better climber! These races were won by my German competitor Jana, but I did come away with a couple of silvers! It was then on to Ostend, Belgium where I had a couple of really good races and came away with wins in both.
The team then left and I head to Germany to spend some time training and then racing with my good friends Ulrike and Hans-Peter Durst. We raced in Austria, Germany and Switzerland which was successful for me again winning all but one of my races. So over 12 races I came home with 9 Gold and 3 Silver. I was over the moon as I had tried a number of different tactics that I had been working on this year and they worked really well! I was starting to think this new way of thinking was working…”No expectations”!
Coming home was wonderful to see Russ and Jack but to was only for 5 weeks and then I was back on the road. First stop was Baie-Comeau, Quebec, Canada for the 3rd and final World Cup of the season. Jana (GER) and I were tied on points for the overall win so it was going to be interesting. But the best thing was that my sister and mom were going to drive from Toronto to come and watch me race. They hadn’t seen me race since 2012 when they were in London so it was wonderful having them there!
The road race at this World Cup was probably the best race I have ever had! Jill from the USA and myself actually worked together to get ahead of Jana before the first hill as we knew how good she was climbing. But even though we had 20 seconds on her she passed us up the hill! We caught her on the flats and then did exactly the same tactics on the next two laps and had dropped her. On the last climb up the hill I was able to get away from Jill and then I time trialed it for the last 2km to the finish line. I think I went places mentally and physically I have never gone to before in a race but I took out the win by 17 seconds. And with the win in the Time Trial I then won the overall World Cup Series.
It was then on to the Australian Institute of Sport, European Training Centre, in Gavirate, Italy for 3 weeks of training. This was great, not just for the beautiful scenery, but the training was fantastic and we didn’t have to deal with the jet lag from Australia leading into the World Championships. We are very lucky as Australian Athletes to have this facility with access to an Australian Doctor, Physiotherapist and treatment rooms, from here I even got to surprise my friend Ulrike in Germany for her 60th! Certainly can’t do that from Australia!
It was then on to the World Championships in Emmen, The Netherlands and meet up with the rest of the team. The Australians got off to an amazing start in the Time Trials winning 5 Gold medals on the first day, taking another 2 on day 2 and then anothre 2 during the Road Races. With other minor medals Australia was first overall for the first time ever on the road with 9 Gold, 1 Silver and 5 Bronze. I ended up with my 8th and 9th world titles, something I didn’t even dream would happen at the start of the season.
I then had one final race to do and it was in Yorkshire. The first ever Para Race held on the same course (or part thereof) at the able bodied Elite Road World Championships. Our race was held the day before the start of the Worlds and we finished up the same hill on the same course. To say it was amazing is an understatement! The Yorkshire crowd was unbelievable throughout the entire race, with crowds everywhere along the course from the start to 4-5 deep at the finish. I was even interviewed by BBC before the race. See video below!
It was then finally home to Russ and Jack for some down time and I can certainly say that I ate and drank whatever I wanted! But it didn’t last too long and I was back into the training regime, taking part in the MS Gong Ride, a number of speaking gigs and then one more overseas trip on the cards. I headed to Colorado Springs, Colorado to attend the International Paralympic Committee’s Athletes Forum, representing Paralympics Australia. It was an incredible 3 days meeting athletes from around the world talking all things Paralympic. I think that I spent more time travelling than I did actually on the ground but a valueable experience!
On a sad note we lost one of our teammates this year tragically. Kieran Modra one of our cyclists, was killed while on a ride, leaving a great hole in the Australian Paralympic Family and more so in the lives of his 3 girls and wife. Kieran was an 8 time Paralympian representing Australia in Swimming, Athletics and Cycling. He will certainly be missed.
As I sit here contemplating the final 2 days of 2019, with bush fires across Australia and the weather doing some really weird things I wish everyone a safe New Year. Can I ask everyone to think about the people who are living in those fire areas and doing it tough. If you are one to pray then please do so because they need it.
I really hope that 2020 is a fabulous year for everyone, I know it will be a big one for me as I host my 20th 24 Hour Mega Swim (and my last!) in February, fill my calendar with a number of speaking gigs and attempt to make my 3rd Paralympic Team, It will be busy but hey anyone who knows me knows I love being busy!