The Alé- Cipollini sprinter on trav­el­ling the world and prov­ing the naysay­ers wrong

Procycling - - Prologue -

I was around 12 when I started cy­cling.

I did ev­ery sport un­der the sun un­til I started get­ting shin splints. I asked my dad, who was a re­ally keen cy­clist, if I could try rac­ing. I think he’d been wait­ing for the day, be­cause he set up a bike straight away and the next morn­ing we joined Aus­tralian cy­clists’ daily rit­ual of start­ing rid­ing at 6am. One morn­ing, we bumped into a group of ju­nior riders. I had no idea what I was do­ing but at the end we did a hill sprint and when I got to the top of the hill I threw up. Straight away I was hooked: it felt huge and it sat­is­fied my com­pet­i­tive in­stinct. My parents took my sis­ter and me out of school to travel around the world.

I was seven. We had a mo­torhome in South Africa and a six-wheel RV in Canada. We were very lucky. I know it’s an un­usual up­bring­ing but I think it helped pre­pare me for when I came to Europe to race when I was 18. As I’ve got older, I’ve started to miss home more.

I value my fam­ily, friends and part­ner, so I feel a lot more things pulling me home. I think that as­pect of my ca­reer is go­ing to get harder in the next cou­ple of years, but I’m go­ing to keep rac­ing at least un­til the Tokyo Olympics. It was a plea­sure join­ing AléCipollini.

When I joined the team at the start of 2017, it was re­ally com­mit­ted to be­com­ing an in­ter­na­tional squad, and the old im­age of an in­su­lar Italian team couldn’t have been fur­ther from the truth. The team gave me the free­dom to di­vide my time be­tween home and rac­ing in Europe, which I re­ally needed. I needed time to re­con­nect with why I loved cy­cling and that meant rid­ing at home with my dad and friends and part­ner. I’m not the sort of rider that gets chan­nelled through na­tional teams. It’s the raw deal that sprint­ers get. Mark Cavendish had it too. Usu­ally when we’re young, we’re fat and we can’t climb, so na­tional teams don’t look at sup­port­ing us. Luck­ily, I had it drummed into me by my dad that sprint­ers win more bike races, so I never re­ally cared that I wasn’t a hill climber. I think mak­ing my own way here was char­ac­ter build­ing. When I was younger I didn’t have the best at­ti­tude to­wards con­struc­tive feed­back.

If I had lis­tened to some of that ad­vice I could have been two years ahead of where I am now. That’s what I try to teach my young team-mates. I’m hon­est with them and they can choose to hate me or they can lis­ten and progress their ca­reer more quickly. I was for­tu­nate to get onto a big team quite quickly and to watch Ina Teuten­berg in ac­tion for three years. See­ing her in the best years of her ca­reer makes me think that she’s the rider I want to be. She was in her late 30s when she re­tired. I’m 28, so there’s still hope. My Com­mon­wealth Games road race ti­tle is among my favourite wins.

It was spe­cial for so many rea­sons. In the past I’ve been told I don’t de­liver un­der pres­sure, that I have a his­tory of not per­form­ing in the green and gold, so to be in Aus­tralia, re­ally thriv­ing on the course and de­liv­er­ing the win was super spe­cial. I’m still wait­ing to catch a big win in the spring Clas­sics. I’m not fussy which one. I like to keep my mind busy.

I’ve got a Jour­nal­ism and Comms de­gree and I’m work­ing on a law de­gree now. I fin­ished my first de­gree – I call it my ‘soft’ de­gree – in 2014 and two years ago I en­rolled in an online law de­gree. In the pe­riod when I wasn’t do­ing a course, it felt like I got dum­ber! Keep­ing the head tick­ing over is im­por­tant so I can hold an in­tel­li­gent con­ver­sa­tion. I’m also mind­ful of life af­ter cy­cling – I’m not delu­sional, I know I’m not mak­ing my mil­lions in the pelo­ton. Races are get­ting longer and harder.

That’s great but lim­its are needed... If races be­come too hard it could make races bor­ing. I think women’s rac­ing right now is far more ex­cit­ing than the men’s.

Hosk­ing sprints to Com­mon­wealth gold on home turf

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