Peloton Watch
  Ashlee Ankudinoff's path to Olympic redemption leads through London for Track World Championships  
  March 1st 2016  
  Ashlee Ankudinoff during team pursuit trial at 2016 Australian Championships. © PelotonWatch  
  In 2012 Ashlee Ankudinoff missed out on selection for the London Olympics but four years on she is in London for the 2016 UCI Track World Championships. Using the memory of that disappointment and other set backs along the way to help her reach the Rio Olympic Games as she chases Olympic gold.

"It has certainly motivated me to keep going as my ultimate goal in this sport is to become Olympic champion," Ankudinoff said of missing the London Olympics.

The journey has not been all smooth sailing for Ankudinoff the longest serving member of the Australian team, now competing at her seventh world championships. Only sprint stars Anna Meares and Kaarle McCulloch have more starts.

With individual and team pursuit junior world titles and two team pursuit titles at elite level to her name she is one of the most credentialed track endurance riders of her time but is looking to add another rainbow jersey to her collection on route to what she hopes is Olympic gold later this year.

Racing in the 2015/16 season started for Ankudinoff back in December in Cambridge, New Zealand where she pulled on the rainbow jersey at round two of the World Cup series.

The rainbow jerseys of Ankudinoff and Cure along with Georgia Baker and Isabella King shone in the final where they took gold ahead of Canada.

"It was a great way to start the season," Ankudinoff said of the team pursuit victory. "At the beginning of October we sat down as a group and were told that we were targeting Cambridge World Cup.

"We were going there to win. So to put the plan in to action and win in the rainbows was rewarding."

Ankudinoff didn't race again until the Australian Championships in early February, having been forced to miss the defence of her omnium title in December with illness.

Ahead of the national championships the individual pursuit title was the one Ankudinoff wanted.

The path to gold was first blocked in qualifying by reigning world champion Rebecca Wiasak. Undeterred by the prospect Ankudinoff put in a dominating ride not only qualifying fastest but dispatching the world champion by six seconds to the ride for bronze.

"I think I was just happy to have qualified first and riding off for gold against Amy Cure," explained Ankudinoff.

Ankudinoff racing to gold in the individual pursuit. © PelotonWatch

It was a close battle for gold between Ankudinoff and second fastest qualifier Cure in the final. Both Ankudinoff and Cure have been junior world champions in the discipline and had claimed medals at the elite World Championships.

After a number of near misses over the years with silver and bronze medals to her name Ankudinoff's determination powered her home. Claiming her fourth national title with the previous three having come in the omnium.

"To win an individual pursuit national title was a goal of mine for a couple of years, it was pretty special to win with my parents in the crowd.

"I knew it was going to be a tough title to win as I was going up against Beck who was current world champion and Amy who had finished third at the World Championships as well so I was happy with both of my rides in the IP."

Ahead of the World Championships in 2015 Ankudinoff was the only active rider not from Great Britain to have claimed a world title in the women's team pursuit. But was more than happy for teammates Melissa Hoskins, Amy Cure and Annette Edmondson to join the club as they claimed gold in world record time to end GB's four year run.

"Looking back at it, it was a real pinch yourself moment, I think it took quite a long time to sink in what we had achieved.

"It was incredible to have had that experience alongside my teammates."

A very similar team will line up this week in London with one exception. Melissa Hoskins will miss the defence of the title having come down with pneumonia last year and is focused on recovering ahead of the Rio Olympic Games.

"It is very unfortunate to be missing Mel heading into these World Championships but we are confident that we can put together three great rides," revealed Ankudinoff two days out from competition.

"Georgia Baker has really stepped up over the last year and has certainly earned and deserved her spot. She brings some great strengths and qualities to the team."

While Ankudinoff has been in this situation before looking to defend a world title in many corners Australia has now gone from being the hunters to the hunted. Great Britain want their title back while Canada have made big improvements this season and the Unites States are there as well.

"I guess it has changed our approach, but that's not to say we have been complacent ever since winning last years worlds.

"We have trained just as hard and we are all hungry for more success heading into not only these world championships but Rio."

Ankudinoff after claiming gold in the individual pursuit. © PelotonWatch

As the Australian individual pursuit champion and former worlds medallist many might be expecting to see Ankudinoff line up on day one in the individual pursuit. Along with Amy Cure the duo have put their personal ambitions aside to focus on the team pursuit.

"I'm not too disappointed as I don't think I had enough points to have raced it as worlds. My main focus this year is definitely the team pursuit as it is an Olympic event.

"Maybe next year I'll aim for that IP title!," added Ankudinoff who has here eyes fixed on Olympic gold in Rio.

"I love riding my bike with a great group of friends and wouldn't be riding still if I didn't love it."
 © 2016