By Georgia Simpson.
I would first like to thank everyone for the amazing support they gave me on my journey to the Track Cycling World Champs this year. This was an experience of a lifetime and will be cherished for the rest of my life.
Now starting to fully recover from returning to NZ with Covid I have had a chance to look back on the last 6 months. The journey started after being selected back in April for the Junior Worlds Track Team and one of my goals for the last two years. It was a real privilege to be selected as we had only four girls and nine guys and I was the only first year in the team. Sadly, this became only a three women team as one of the riders chose to switch countries and ended up riding for Germany. The plan was to have three team camps including a final 2-week training block before leaving for Israel in meaning we were away from home for all of August.
What soon became apparent was the team’s biggest challenge was going to be Covid and this year’s flu and I can’t remember if there wasn’t one athlete that didn’t get either during the buildup. I managed to get the flu shortly after selection and was sick for around 7 weeks, really slowing what should have been the beginning of my building phase and missing racing opportunities like Road Nationals. Our second team camp in July was then cut short too, when two of the coaches and one of my teammates caught Covid. This however did open an opportunity for me when I stayed with two of the Elite track team members in Cambridge and I was able to ride and train with them for an extra week. Spending that time with Shaan Fulton and Michaela Grant was a great experience in itself. Just to finish things off though, the week before going into the last camp in Cambridge, I ended up getting sick again meaning I missed the first few days and had to build back into it slowly at a time when it should have been the finishing off stages of training. The amount of work my personal coach Grant Wilson, and the team coaches Elyse Fraser and Andrew Williams did to get me to the best condition possible under those circumstances was incredible.
Departure day finally came and that was an experience too, packing up all the bikes and gear to load onto the truck to head to Auckland and finally leave for Israel. The scales were used on everything as there was a lot of concern about not going overweight and getting a large bill. It is incredible to see how much gear ends up being taken to an event like this with a huge box of chainrings and cogs, lots of wheels plus spares and all of it having to be pulled right down including the axles out of the wheels to squeeze everything in and not damage things. Anyway, we were finally on our way and 30 hours of travel to get there. When we stopped in Dubai, I learnt how hot it was going to be too. It was 34 degrees at 4.30 in the morning! We finally got there, and we had 6 days before the racing started which gave us time on the track and to get acclimatized. The track itself was an open velodrome so it had a roof but no sides which meant there was an effect from the wind when it blew. It would have been too hot to be an enclosed velodrome like the one in Cambridge though.
Race week came and I was selected to do the Omnium event which is made up of four races on the third day. Starting with a scratch race then tempo race, elimination race, and then finishes with the points race. The scratch race was a real taster of what I was in for. The racing was much faster than any racing I have done in New Zealand and much more aggressive. In the scratch race I finished near that back of the field, which then meant I was near the back on the fence when starting the next races. Because of how fast and aggressive the racing was from the start it made it very challenging to move forward through the bunch. The final event however, the points race, I had found my racing legs and finished in 6th place on points in this race, including attacking of the front of the bunch for 9 laps and taking the first sprint. This was a good confidence booster and a reminder that I was good enough to be there. While the results may not have been what I was hoping for, I raced hard, aggressive, assertively, and positively throughout the whole day and the feedback from my coaches was incredibly positive.
I was also selected to race the Madison. This was my main targeted event where we believed we were in with a good shot of a strong result. Unfortunately, an hour before we were due to start racing, we had to withdraw from the race as my partner was facing some challenges to get to the start line. This was a real hard situation for me as I was super keen to race, and it was extremely tough being so far away from home support. While this is one of the toughest days I have had in sport to date, it taught me a lot about being part of high-performance sport and some of the hurdles that are beyond your own control. It also taught me to understand there are challenges that effect different people in different ways and to understand and support them when being part of a team.
While in Israel we did get the opportunity to do a bit of tourist stuff and learnt a lot about their culture. After the racing finished a few of us did a big day trip around Jerusalem, visited the dead sea where it was 45 degrees, and experienced the market life in Jaffa, and visited the great local beach and shops in Tel Aviv. It was a country and sights I will never forget.
As a team we learnt so much, we had some great results (and sometimes not such great results) which we all shared together. There were ups and downs for the whole six months, but I know I now have a great group of people that are now friends, and I have experienced what I hope to be the first of many trips overseas representing New Zealand. I have gained so much from attending these world champs and the whole campaign both as an athlete and a person. I now feel much more equipped and experienced for future national and international racing. I hope I did everyone proud, and I look forward to the upcoming racing in New Zealand and hopefully the opportunity to return to Junior Track Cycling World Champs next year.
A special thank you to my coach Grant Wilson, Strength and Conditioning coach Step McKenzie, The NZ Team Elyse Frazer, Andrew, Jason, Damo, and Jenny, Cycling NZ and everyone else that has supported me in so many ways.