Peloton Watch
  Anna-Leeza Hull to return to racing in second half of 2016 as she builds towards 2017  
  June 12th 2016  
   Anna-Leeza Hull in action in the time trial at the 2016 Australian Championships. Photo: PelotonWatch
  Anna-Leeza Hull made many sit up and take notice with her time trial performances in 2014 and 2015 as a junior, claiming two Australian time trial titles, the Oceania title in 2015, as well as bronze both years at the Junior World Championships.

The only time Hull has pinned on a race number so far in 2016 was back in January at the Australian Championships, an event she went in to knowing it would be largely to gain experience. Since then she has been absent from the women's peloton in Australia, taking a break from the life of a fulltime athlete.

With her absence the question of had she quit started to come up. With five months away from racing Hull gives an emphatic answer of no. Though she doesn't deny having thought about it.

Hull from the small village called Modanville in northern New South Wales has recently moved to Wollongong to start university with the added advantage of being closer to the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) as she looks to rebuild for 2017. When will she return to racing? In the next few months firstly in some local events before a NRS return at the Tour of the King Valley, August. But her return to racing is all about building towards 2017.

Haven't raced since Nationals in January how have the past few months gone for you? A few challenges to overcome?

Leading into nationals I carried a lot of fatigue but continued to train hard because I really wanted to do well and also a bit of denial as to why I was so tired all the time. I blew up a bit under four weeks to go until the time trial. I sort of hung on with my training for two more weeks after that but could never do my final session of the week. After that I had five days off and then rode a few days before the time trial so that I could race it for experience and decided to do a few laps in the road race to get an idea of its dynamics for next year before getting in the car with Brad to learn a few more things for when I race it.

Since then I have been up and down with training but mostly just riding for fun. A break from being a full time cyclist to live a different kind of lifestyle for a while has been a really nice change and a much needed break from the sport.

You have also left Specialized Women's Racing what was the reason for that?

Post nationals I spent a month living in Sydney with my coach Natalie Kaebisch and her family. After pulling out of the Tour Down Under and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race it was decided that team manager Liz, my coach Nat and myself would have a meeting to decide what I was going to do in the near future. I shared that I didn't want to race the NRS this year and we mutually decided to terminate my contract so I could have a proper break with no pressure to be in form to race and take my time getting back into form.

It was a difficult but easy decision to make and I would like to thank Liz, Bec (DS), my teammates and our sponsors for the opportunity that I was given.

You mentioned you wanted to address rumours you had retired so lets do that now. You are not retiring? Was there ever any thought about it?

For the past five weeks I have been living in Wollongong and in the Southern Highlands where I have spent time with some other cyclists. Questions arose more than once along the lines about whether I had quit. I'd like everyone to know that I definitely haven't quit, but I won't deny that quitting was on the cards. Being able to just go out riding when I wanted to was a really nice break. I wasn't enjoying training or travelling on my own for long distances. I have been back into full training load twice and blown up since nationals and am now on my third attempt with a different approach and all seems to be going well. I've now moved to Wollongong, I'm visiting NSWIS once a week, starting uni in a bit over a month and am looking for a job. My life is much more balanced and with a much more positive approach towards my life, I have been enjoying training again.

Have moved away from home to Wollongong to start university studying a bachelor of business, a new challenge for you what are you most looking forward to about it?

I'm loving living in Wollongong. I'm down in the Shellharbour region close to Kiama where I love the beaches, 20k from the uni, 15km from the climbs that go to the Southern Highlands (some of my favourite training) and significantly closer to NSWIS than I was. I finished school almost two years ago, did my final exams in October/November of 2014. Since then I haven't had much of a challenge other than the bike and have had limited contact with people living in such isolation and training lots of hours on my own as well. I'm looking forward to making some new friends and having something else to focus on other than the bike. I know now the significant change that it is going to make to my life to keep it balanced and to keep me busier, and even having things to stress about, other than just whether I will be in form by a certain date.

Returning to racing in the second half of the year what does your schedule look like?

I'll be making a return to racing in the next couple months, racing some NSW races for fun and to ease back into competition before stepping up into the NRS again for King Valley and the rest of the calendar.

What are your goals for the rest of 2016 and where would you like to be heading in to 2017?

For 2016, I don't have any result based goals for the races I am doing. My plan for the rest of the year is all process based to put myself in the best possible form I can for nationals and to build a foundation for 2017 and my career. I'm doing a full base period and build up to nationals to really see what I am capable. Along side this, I am working closely with my sports psych to develop and extend my psychological skills so that in a sense I will be more or less prepared for what is thrown at me.

Have been coached by Natalie Kaebisch for over a year now what has it been like working with her and how has she helped you develop?

Nat is a great coach. I can't sum it up much more than that. We work really well together and she has loads of experience from her career relevant to mine today. She has pushed me well beyond my comfort zone as a person and athlete. Over the past 6 months she has been more than patient with my forever changing mind of whether I am quitting or continuing in the sport. I'm more than thankful for her non-stop putting time and effort into my training with my what seem like never ending ups and downs. So huge thanks to Nat!

Currently in the running for Colonial Sports Boost with the winner awarded $10,000 to help their career. What would winning mean to you and how would it help your career?

Any athlete I am sure can relate to the never ending cost of travel, equipment and accommodation etc. $10,000 is a huge sum of money that I can hardly begin to explain the significance it will make for my future. Currently, my highest expenditure has been moving including my rent, utilities and food. Petrol to get to and from NSWIS is also another significant expense. Finishing with the team also means I have only got my one road bike that is going to need to be upgraded before I begin racing again and also a time trial bike is going to be essential. I haven't been left with much kit either so that has also taken up a significant amount of my budget.

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