Guest Blog: Jess Allen on how the Oceania Championship was run and won
I first heard of Jessica Allen in 2011 after she won the Junior World Time Trial Championships in Copenhagen; an incredible achievement for any junior but especially for Australian’s, who have little international exposure in the Junior ranks.
Jess was a prodigy of the West Australian time trialling system. A system that has produced the likes of Luke Durbridge, Cam Meyer, and Josephine Tomic.
On Saturday she claimed the biggest win of her senior career, the Oceania Road Race Championships, but admits her transition to the senior ranks has been anything but smooth. In a post race interview after the Oceania Championships on Saturday Jess said “Since I won the junior world title I really haven’t done much, I won the young rider jersey in the Tour of New Zealand a few months after the worlds but since then I don’t think I’ve even won a race until a local race last weekend.”
I think she’s being a bit tough on herself personally, but what she’s saying touches on an important issue.
It is hard for the junior women to be thrown straight in with the ‘big girls’ when they move from the U19s to the Elite ranks. For most the transition isn’t made easily – or quickly – and unfortunately there seems to be a huge drop off rate in the participation numbers of young riders. Whether this is because of the shock of senior racing or things like uni and work getting in the way is debatable I know.
The introduction of the new U23 rider jersey in the World Cup series is a great incentive for young riders but there has recently been calls for more.
In my last post I mentioned about the need to ‘shake up’ and reinvigorate the Oceania Championships so that the event adequately reflects what is at stake. Maybe Jess’ situation provides one avenue that could be explored in the future; turning the event into an U23 specific event to provide our young, talented riders the opportunity to shine. This is what the Europeans do with their continental championships.
More importantly however, and particularly for the women – who miss the U23 specific category offered in the men’s peloton – it would offer the opportunity for them to earn an automatic selection for the world championships.
Not only would this give our young riders more opportunities but it would also provide some sort of pathway for ‘development’ riders to start gaining international experience early so when they are 25, 26, or 27 and are expected to produce results they have experience to draw from.
That’s just some food for thought. But for now, lets get back to why we’re really here. To hear, ‘from the horses mouth’ as Shara said in a sister blog, about the Oceania Championships and just exactly how Jess took out the title.
Here’s her take on the 106kilometre road race, what winning the title means, and what she has planned for 2014:
Going into the Oceania championships I was feeling quite confident. My form in the last few weeks has been great and I was really looking forward to having a crack at a course that I thought would suit me.
My plan was to do the time trial and road race but unfortunately found myself run down with a cold a couple days out from the TT. Donna (my coach) and I thought it’d be best for me to miss it and hopefully feel better for the road race.
The plan for the road race for me was to be in any threatening early moves and save my team mate Kendelle Hodges for the later moves.
At the 8km mark, Chloe McConville attacked as we took a sharp left hander into a narrow cross wind road. I know Chloe is known for early moves in races and I wanted to be in it with her.
I jumped across to her solo and we started working. Before we knew it we had a group of five; Jess Mundy (Australian National Team), Lisa keeling (Bicycling Superstore) and Sophie Mackay (Specialized-Securitor).
Normally a break that goes after 8kms into a 106km race doesn’t stick but after I saw the composition of the break with all the big teams represented I thought we would have a chance of staying away.
I felt like absolutely rubbish the first lap and was hoping we’d get caught but I hung on and hoped I’d ride into it.
“It’s going to be bloody tough but I am willing to take on the challenge and work as hard as I can to get myself selected in the senior national team to help the girls succeed at worlds.”
The second lap Jess Mundy and Sophie started to really hurt and got dropped and I started to feel really good.
Our break got down to 50 secs on lap 2 after hovering at 2mins and I thought we may get caught. Chloe, Lisa as myself worked hard the final lap and I knew we had to drop Chloe to win the race as she’s a brilliant sprinter.
Lisa attacked us up a climb with 15kms to go. Chloe couldn’t respond and I knew I had to go across to Lisa. Lisa and I got away and worked together really well.
I tried to attack her in the last 5km but I was too spent. We were both cramping and it was pretty much a drag race/grovel to the line.
It was a very special moment crossing the line knowing that I was the Oceania Champion.
This is definitely a break through for me in the senior ranks. I haven’t really done much since my junior world title in 2011 so this means so much to me. It’s taken quite a while for it to sink in, I still don’t think it has.
To potentially qualify Australia and myself an extra spot for the senior world road championships is truly overwhelming. It’s going to be bloody tough but I am willing to take on the challenge and work as hard as I can to get myself selected in the senior national team to help the girls succeed at worlds.
My plan for the year is to race in North America. I will be heading overseas early May and will be riding for a Canadian based team called the National Cycling center of Hamilton. I am really looking forward to racing in North America as I’ve heard the racing is brilliant over there. I am also hoping to make my way over to Europe later in the season for more experience in bigger European racing.
I’d like to thank my coach Donna Rae-Szalinski for her amazing coaching and advice and the Victorian Institute of Sport girls for all their hard work and support. I’d also like to thank my wonderful family and friends for their continuous support.