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  Caitlin Ward Blog: Cali Track World Cup  
 
  January 25th 2015 By Caitlin Ward  
     
  I woke up on Sunday Morning as a nervous newbie, not knowing what to expect nor how I would handle all of the unknowns. A week later, I walked away having just had the greatest experience at the highest level of competition, being part of an amazing, supportive and professional team plus a few hundred splinters, a couple of burns, big bruises and a sore shoulder.

We arrived in Cali after nearly two days in transit to find our bikes, bags & equipment hadn't made it across from Miami and instead of waiting for the next flight to Cali, the airline had flown everything to Bogota (the equivalent of Sydney to Melbourne) where Rik Fulcher, our team manager, got our bikes on a truck to get them to the track the day before racing. It sounds dramatic but really, things like this happen all the time in international travel and the way the coaches and support staff handled it made it very easy for me to stay relaxed. Even if I was wearing the same clothes for nearly 5 days! Luckily, we were able to borrow the enduros road bikes, and NZ were kind enough to lend us their LeMond trainers so we were able to tick over on the rollers and do some off track efforts whilst we hoped everything would arrive before race day.

Friday - Team Sprint

I was very excited to pair with Rikki Belder for the first time, she is super speedy off the line and I knew it would be a great challenge for me to get on her wheel and I did it. Sometimes things just fall into place on race day and I think our team sprint was one of them. We ended up seventh with the quickest team sprint I have ever done and I was very proud of us to pull that out with close to no practice together at all!

Saturday - Sprint

It is always hard going into a competition where you haven't practiced the line time and time again. When I race in Australia I know most of the tracks like the back of my hand but because the track was so different, didn't have walls along with the lack of practice - my 200 qualifying was a bit disappointing. I was really lucky to have Nick Flyger help me refocus on the sprint rounds. I was then able to ride some of the smartest sprint matches I have ever ridden, where I ended up placing in around the top 10 at the World Cup. A massive confident boost and motivator for my competitions in the future.

I went back to the hotel and watched the Aussies dominate the pursuit finals on the TV, plus Emerson Harwood and Shane Perkins in the keirin, I got so excited in the keirin final that I jumped so high that my John West Tuna Snack pack went flying across the room worth that messy clean up though with Perko only missing out on gold by 0.002!

Sunday - Keirin

I woke up excited and ready to race, our usual 25minute bus ride to the track only took eight minutes because there was literally not one other car on the road. We got to the track and had the usual friendly greetings that I had become accustomed to over the last week or so. The Columbian people were all really lovely and helpful and made the event even more enjoyable. In my keirin heat I had some fast girls who had ridden quicker or the same as me in qualifying so I knew I had to be going quick to get through to the semis. I got boxed in coming into a lap and a half to go and had to back out and come around to stand a chance, but much to my surprise I not only did that but rode away from the pack and was safely through. I just made it through into the final with a photo finish in the semi with Wai Sze Lee from Hong Kong, and was more determined than ever. We had a minor delay with a spectacular thunder storm which meant we lost power in the velodrome for a little bit, where I was lucky enough to be kept company by Shane Perkins, who was a real role model for all us - being such a young team. Perko also pushed me off for the final; I never have been launched so far forward in my life! Between Nick and Perko I was filled with so much confidence and was really ready to execute our race plan and leave everything on track. I was feeling great coming into the bell and then I locked bars with Shuang Guo and hit the ground hard, with the Russian rider (Ekaterina Gnidenko) riding into my leg and straight over back which left me lying on the track centre, unable to fight for a medal. I have since been told that I have a great talent for crashing seeing as the way I twisted my shoulder and landed quit heavily on it in many cases would've caused something much worse than a sore shoulder, burns, bruises and splinters. A talent I hope not to have to exercise too much! After a few minutes to catch my breath I was able to pick myself and my mangled bike up and walk across the line to claim fifth spot (Guo had been disqualified), seven minutes behind the others, in the presence of a very loud and supportive crowd. A moment I'll never forget.

So now I am sitting safely home on the coast of Victoria very grateful of the work that the Cycling Australia staff that went to Cali with me put in. The icing and bandaging that Berthy May did to get me in shape for nationals, the countless hours of support that Hilton Clarke did to get me in form for the World Cup, the constant backing of Ben Willey and the other staff at VIS and of course my parents and family for staying up to watch my racing, and wish me luck and listen to hilarious moments that these trips always bring.
 
 
         
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