Australian Cyclist

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Writing, riding. Writing about riding.

As a rule I aim to use my brain as little as possible. This is a trend I have noticed since I became a full-time cyclist. My job is to push the left pedal with my left foot and then use my right foot to push the right pedal. Then repeat.

I used to get paid to write. At first I was a journalist at The Canberra Times newspaper and moved through a couple of other jobs in media, public relations, and retail, to land at the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport working as a Strategic Engagement Officer for the Australian Government.

As far back as 2011 I embraced social media as much as the next wannabe athlete. My coach at the time nicknamed me 'Tweet'. I built a website and started blogging. I shared regular status updates on Facebook, and tweets about my life on the bike. Then it all got too hard.

There are days now I struggle to even get a twitter post together, and take hours for an Instagram post deliberating over which photo to use, how to crop it, how many filters. And then when it comes to the caption it all gets too difficult and I delete it or save it to drafts, never to leave my phone. All my focus and energy is spent on the bike, and recovering.

During the Track World Championships in April the RIDE Cycling Review magazine editor Rob Arnold asked me to pen a daily diary. My first reaction was fear. What would I write? It was my third World Championships and I had won gold at the previous two titles. I was chasing more rainbows and I didn't want the added pressure or stress of a daily deadline to affect my performance. I had a job to do. And it wasn't to write.

At first I replied with an open mind saying I would be interested. There is very little media coverage of Track Cycling and I was now one of the experienced campaigners who could provide some insight into the World Championships. I thought more about what I would write. And then I kept thinking - as I tried to sleep. Drafting the right words kept me awake that night, and during the World Championships you want your mind to be empty when your head hits the pillow. I never wrote the diary. And I didn't win rainbows.

Our squad went into that track season with a renewed focus. The team was picking itself up after the disappointment of Rio. We trained for the first time for our specialist individual events. Since I first joined the program in 2012 we have trained purely for the Team Pursuit. It was nice to break off and do specific and targeted solo sessions on the track.

It has been my goal to break into the Team Pursuit team. I have been a member of the squad for several years but usually the reserve. At several World Cups I was raced in development teams in third or fourth wheel and even once at second wheel. I was part of the team that set the then Australian Record in Aguascalientes in December 2013 that was 4:22.533 at the time. I won medals at World Cups and trained in efforts up until two days before their World Championship win in Paris in 2015. But I often sat on the sidelines, or back at home when the team raced in major competitions, including for the Olympics when it was decided not to take the reserve to Rio.

Last season I got my opportunity. Our coach at the time Gary Sutton took a punt on starting me at the World Cup in Colombia. We went on to win gold. I raced in all three rounds, as first wheel. It was a new experience for me as starter. The gate start had been one of my weaknesses. I did exactly what the team asked of me.

Our bikes never made it in time to race the final World Cup in Los Angeles so I sat on the sidelines again and went into the World Championships in Hong Kong having only raced those three times in my new position.

Back at our training base in Adelaide we had all committed to the process and done the work. On race day I did exactly what the team asked from me. A slow build. In each round I clocked three identical times for my first turn.

In the gold medal final against the defending champions America, I swung up after my third turn on the front and watched from the top of the banking as we led into the final lap. Could this be a third year in rainbows? It was strange to again watch on - this time from on the track - and have no further influence on the result. Our team crossed the line in second. It was bitterly disappointing to finish with silver but we had improved our world ranking from fifth to second in one season.

On the eve of our first track camp of the season it is nice to reflect on some milestones and misses from my six years in and out of the high performance program. This season there will be no World Cups, no rainbows. The development is done. Our squad is strong. We have a new coach and a new direction. But our drive and passion remains. This season we will be chasing gold at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. And we will continue to chase gold to Tokyo.

 My headshot from  The Canberra Times  in May 2006.

My headshot from The Canberra Times in May 2006.

Rebecca Wiasak