Rookies ready to roll in Rio

Published 5 August 2016 (AEDT)

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JULY 25: Miles Scotson of Australia competes in the Men's 4000m Individual Pursuit Qualifying at Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome during day two of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games on July 25, 2014 in Glasgow, United Kingdom. © 2014 Getty Images

Of the 31 cyclists who will don the green and gold for Australia at the Olympic Games in Rio, almost half will be doing so for the very first time.

The Australian Olympic cycling team features 15 rookies, and we caught up with up them to see how they were feeling ahead of their debuts.

Track

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Seven debutants will line up on the track including Callum Scotson and Sam Welsford who formed part of Australia’s world champion team pursuit outfit in March.

Scotson and Welsford will team with Michael Hepburn, 24, Jack Bobridge, 27, and Alexander Edmondson, 22, in the team pursuit at the Games in Rio, while Glenn O’Shea will front up for the omnium.

“Making the Olympic team feels really special and is a dream come true for me,” said Scotson, 19, who will celebrate his twentieth birthday the day before the track cycling competition begins.

“Having a bunch of older, more experienced guys, who have all been to the Olympic Games, gives me a lot of trust in the team. They are always giving out good advice and steering Sam and I in the right direction.”

Similarly, Welsford, 20, is realising a childhood dream is now a reality.

“I dreamt as this as a kid so it's very special to me. It is great to surrounded by such experience and great athletes.

“They bring so much to the team such as previous experiences and little tips to help us young guys.”

After disappointingly missing the 2012 team at the final hurdle, Ashlee Ankudinoff is one of two debutants in the women’s endurance squad.

“A pretty cool feeling, it has been a long time coming, but I can now call myself an Olympian and that is never going to change for the rest of my life,” said Ankudinoff, Australia’s only dual world champion (‘10/’15) in the women’s team pursuit.

Ankudinoff and Georgia Baker will draw on experience from returning Olympians Amy Cure, Annette Edmondson and Melissa Hoskins.

“Yes, I am experienced at the world level, but the Olympics is another level,” said Ankudinoff. “I will definitely be going to Amy, Nettie or Mel for some guidance to help me few these Olympics Games, but I am looking forward to the challenge.

“We always have high expectations and us Aussies always know how to fight right to the end, so I would be disappointed if we walked away without a medal.”

Tasmania’s Baker, 21, rocketed into the team following a superb summer of cycling.

“It is pretty surreal, a long two years, anytime you get to represent Australia is a special honour, but to be an Olympian is just an amazing,” said Baker, who made her Australian team debut at the World Championships in March.

“It sounds cliché, but it is a dream come true. All the hard work has paid off, but the job isn’t one yet.

“We definitely didn’t have the result we wanted at the World Championships, so we have been working and training really hard to make sure we turn that result around.”

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In the track sprint team, Stephanie Morton makes her Olympic debut after winning gold in the London 2012 Paralympic Games as Tandem Pilot.

“It was an honour to become a Paralympian and to finally be able to say I am an Olympian as well, it is amazing,” said Morton, 25, who will contest the team sprint with four-time Olympian Anna Meares and two individual events - sprint and keirin.

“If can execute the fastest second wheel in the team sprint, and I leave it all out on the track win or lose, I can walk out with my head high.

“And as much as we might get to stand on the podium and get to put the uniform on, we appreciate there is a whole army of people who get you there, and my parents are at the forefront.”

The sprint duo of Nathan Hart and Patrick Constable will make their debut and will join 2012 Olympian Matthew Glaetzer in the men’s sprint team.

“It has a ring to it, I am very happy, very exciting and honoured,” said Constable when asked what I felt like being an Olympian. Constable will line up in three events – the team sprint, sprint and keirin.

“When I came into the high performance program just a little over a year ago, I was told anything is possible. So I told myself if I got it right, it could happen and it has.

“I have been training hard and it is reward for effort, but at the same time we still have a job to do. I am excited to see what I can get out and do.”

Hart will contest one event, the team sprint, where he will take on the integral first-wheel role in Australia’s line up.

“Pretty exciting, it has only recently just sunk in. I am really looking forward to being on the team with Matt and Pat,” said the Canberran.

“I am preparing just like I would for any race I would do, at the end of the day with my role, there are not many uncontrollable elements.

“It is just a time trial for me, I just try to go is as fast as I can go which I love.”

Road

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The road team features five debutants including Richie Porte and Simon Clarke who have both etched impressive resumes during a decade on the professional tour.

“It is an extremely satisfying feeling and definitely give you that feeling that all the hard work is paying off,” said Clarke, who has wins in each of the Grand Tours to his name.

“It was a career goal of mine to be selected for an Olympics, and now I am realising that goal, I can't thank the people enough who encouraged me to take up cycling and those who have supported me right through this near two decade to arrive at the level that I am at today.”

Porte, who recently became just the fourth Australian to bag a top ten finish at the Tour de France, has been humbled by his selection.

“Obviously you think back to when you’re a kid watching the Olympics, so to be here competing as an athlete is incredible,” said Porte, who is considered a leading contender in the epic 237.5km road race.

“It is one thing to race the Tours, and the world championships and all those major events, but the Olympics to me is the biggest event so to be here is just incredible.”

Technically all four men who will line up in the men’s road race will be debuting on the road. Mountain bike selectee Scott Bowden will fill the fourth position in the men’s road team after Australia chose to allocate one position from the men's road group, to the men’s track team pursuit team.

Finally, Rohan Dennis (SA) will make his Olympic Games road debut after winning silver on the track in the team pursuit in London.

In the women’s road team, dual Olympian Amanda Spratt will lead a trio of rookies in the road race in Gracie Elvin, Rachel Neylan and Katrin Garfoot.

“It is an honour for everyone to represent their country in the Olympics, for me it is just the same,” said German-born Garfoot who became an Australian citizen in 2014 and also becomes Australia’s oldest female cycling representative.

“Australia is my home now and I am very pleased that I get this chance. I surely would have not thought myself in this position when I arrived in Australia or before then. It is funny how life works out sometimes.”

For Neylan, a silver medallist at the world championships in 2012, she is ecstatic to have achieved a lifelong dream.

“This has been a lifelong dream. Since I was young I've been mesmerised with the Olympics, athletic performance and all it entails. I've negotiated a bold, unique and challenging pathway to get here which makes it so much sweeter,” Neylan said.

“As good as it feels however, arriving on the team is only the first step, the greater vision is performing in the Green and Gold, making Australia proud and inspiring a nation.”

While two-time national champion Elvin freely admits she has Olympic-sized nerves ahead of the race, she also couldn’t hide her excitement.

“I'm probably going to be the most nervous I ever have been, but you won't be able to take the massive smile off my face either!,” said Elvin, who finished sixth in the road race for Australia at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. “I'm always so proud to wear the green and gold, and this uniform will make me the proudest yet.

“I've been really enjoying the feeling of selection and being congratulated by not only my friends and family but also my peers and rivals at the races.

“It's great to have earned respect in my sport and it makes me really believe that I deserve my place in the team. I have had a great few weeks of some racing and at our training camp and am feeling fit and happy!”

MTB

Scott Bowden is the lone rookie on the dirt, with the Tasmanian selected after some solid performances in both the under 23 and elite ranks.

“Having the opportunity to represent Australia at an Olympic Games is an absolute honour and privilege,” said Bowden, 21 who was inspired to chase his Olympic dream after watching the mountain bike competition at the 2000 Sydney Games.

“Making an Olympics from quite a young age was something I've definitely dreamed of after watching it on TV every four years.

“I'm really looking forward to the race in Rio!”

BMX

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Two of Australia’s BMX team are ready to rock in their first Olympic Games. Anthony Dean and Bodi Turner will join 2012 silver medallist Sam Willoughby on the men’s team in Rio.

“As I get closer, I am more ready,” said Dean, 25, who was a reserve for the London 2012 Olympic Games. “There are no excuses, I have done everything I could have possible done.”

Turner, 21, is aware the competition will lift dramatically come Games time, but is still concentrating on his own race despite all that comes with the hype of an Olympic Games.

“It is pretty overwhelming, but I am very excited,” said Turner on the thought of being an Olympian. “With the team of guys who are all experienced the Olympics in some way, we are lifting the hype but keeping our heads down.

“It is the only race that really matters this year, and I know it will be a whole another level. I think that everyone will be going hard and wiling to risk it a little bit more.

“I just want to be my best on the day, have a good preparation, no hiccups and then hope everything goes to plan.”

AMY McCANN
olympics.com.au

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