My last couple of blogs have been written with sadness in my heart, but this year has also been one of a number of huge highs to go along with those lows. With just a few days left in 2015 (where the heck did it go?) I thought I would write about those highs and look forward to the next amazing year!
As usual the year started out with lots of training to get ready for the cycling season ahead of me and then a lot of travelling to compete. I really never thought that at this time in my life I would be travelling the world as part of an amazing team and going to places that I never dreamed of seeing. The first stop was New Zealand for the first points of the year towards Rio. Countries have about 18 months pre a Paralympic Games to gain points for the country which will dictate how many spots we will have available to compete in the Para Cycling events in Rio. The most a country can get is 14 men and 7 women and at this point with only a couple of months remaining Australia sits on 6 spots for women and 6 spots for men and with 13 different classes in each gender that makes this team a very hard team to get on to!
In July were were off to Elzach, Germany for a week of training and then a World Cup race, then on to Nottwil, Switzerland for the World Para Cycling Championships. I have written about both of these events so I won’t go over them again. Suffice to say that I learnt a good lesson in Nottwill during the road race about tactics after winning the Silver medal to Jill Walsh of the USA. Coming home with a gold and silver was great but I knew that I had to really work hard on tactics and cornering for the next month. I spent the next month with a number of different people learning and understanding how to race and how to corner better, which was probably the most valuable thing I have ever done in 5 years of riding.
I was then able to put that learning into practice in September when we headed to Pietermaritzburg, South Africa (about 120km north of Durban) for the last World Cup of the year and it payed off with wins in both the ITT and Road Race.
The last points race of the year was earlier this month in Invercargill, New Zealand for a Time Trial and with that race finished it put me into the Number 1 spot in the world in the Women’s T2 category. So that is a good place to finish the year off!
One of the highlights of my year was the release of my book “Cycle of Life” which I finished in February and I held it in my hand on April 23rd, 17 years to the day that I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. My silent victory over MS! My speaking gigs have also picked up and I am hoping that this part of my life will continue to grow.
With my charity event, the 24 Hour Mega Swim, we hit a milestone of 15 years and were able to click over the $7 million raised since 2001 and with more events and venues coming into the fold I look forward to seeing where we can go from here.
So where to from here? Well next year is huge with the Paralympics to be held in Rio starting the 7th of September and I am hoping to be there. This time around I won’t have to race against the men, just the women, so I hope to be bringing home 2 medals next year. The next few months I will be knuckling down with training to give myself the best chance of success.
None of this year would have been possible without the support of a whole network of people I call ‘My Team’. A massive thank you to my husband Russ, who keeps the home fires burning to enable me to do what I do. Thank you to my coach Rebecca DiCello for continuing to challenge me. Thank you to the Victorian Institute of Sport for continuing to believe in my ability (Ben, Kylie, Nerissa, Paul & Anne-Marie). Liv Cycling Australia (Jo, Darren, Alistair and Katt) for the ongoing support in sponsoring me with new bikes, clothing and bits & pieces, I wouldn’t be able to afford all you give me. Thank you to the St Kilda Cycling Club for being such an inclusive club, giving me the opportunity to race, train and be part of such an awesome club. To my good friends Kym and Clare thank you for pushing me on training rides when I didn’t think I could do that one more repeat! And a huge thank you to the Australian Para Cycling Team, staff (Peter D, Muz, Tom, Paul, Eliza, Peter G, Dan, Peter S, Keren and Will) and all the riders for being such an amazing team to be part of.
I’m looking forward to 2016 and the highs & lows that will come with it. I know that it will be a challenging year but I will get through all of it one day at a time!
Happy New Year to everyone and see you in 2016!