Peloton Watch
  Danielle McKinnirey ready to step up after claiming Junior Omnium World Title  
  November 10th 2015  
  Dani McKinnirey  
  Photo: Kazakhstan Cycling Federation/UCI Junior World Championships 2015
  Danielle McKinnirey claimed the omnium world title at the Junior Track World Championships in Astana in August. McKinnirey was the fourth Australian and 2015 was the fifth time an Australian has claimed omnium gold at the Junior Track World Championships in just seven editions of the event.

Bringing her time as a junior to a successful end McKinnirey also finished with silver in the team pursuit. Adding to her first rainbow jersey in the team pursuit from Korea a year earlier.

18 year old McKinnirey's second and final year as an under 19 has seen her claim Oceania titles in the individual pursuit and points race, Australia omnium and individual pursuit titles ahead of her omnium gold and team pursuit silver at the World Championships.

Two months after returning from the Junior World Championships McKinnirey made her debut in the elite ranks. Selected as part of a youthful women's endurance squad for the opening World Cup of the season in Cali. After qualifying eighth the team improved across the next two rounds to finish sixth.

Just two days after returning from Cali, she took out the opening round of the Focus Women's Series in Adelaide. McKinnirey now turns her attention to the Australian Omnium and Madison National Championships in December and Track Nationals in February 2016.

PelotonWatch: Last year you were the new rider on the team. This year the defending champion in the team pursuit how did it feel heading in to Worlds as the defending champion?

Danielle McKinnirey: Heading in to the World Championships as a defending Champion was a combination of exciting and nerve racking. Last years experience of racing at that level most definitely gave me an advantage by equipping me with knowledge of what was required throughout the preparation and racing process for me to be in with a chance to win.

PW: A young Australian team this year did having the experience from last year allow you to take on a leadership role?

DM: Having such a young team this year was very different from any other year. With such an inexperienced squad naturally pushed athletes such as myself, Courtney Field and James Robinson in to leadership roles to guide others through the Junior Worlds journey. My style of leadership was to lead by example and be approachable for those athletes that wished to tap in to my experience and seek guidance or advise. Cycling Australia always sends really experienced coaching and management staff away with the juniors, the three returning athletes worked well with those people in guiding the young squad to gain some great results.

PW: Team qualified in 4:46.347 in the team pursuit. Improving to 4:37.493 in the ride for gold, an improvement of nine seconds. Pleased with how the team improved over the rounds?

DM: I was more than pleased with how we improved over the rounds I was ecstatic. Considering that some of my team was not in perfect health, a nine second improvement was pretty impressive. I feel like the second ride was an achievement in itself even without the fact we took silver in the final.

PW: After winning gold last year what did it mean to come back with a young team and win silver?

DM: Going in to racing I figured that New Zealand and Italy would be the teams to beat. New Zealand won bronze last year and I knew they would be hungry to go two better this year. I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried after qualifying third fastest in the first round. Winning silver with the team this year was as satisfying as winning the gold last year for different reasons. To win silver with such a young team was a really proud moment for me. Standing on the podium with the four girls was amazing and I think the girls that gain selection next year will be super motivated to go one better and stand on the top step.

PW: Selected to ride the omnium. You finished top five in the first five events including winning the 500m TT giving you 8 point lead ahead of the points race. How did the points race play out and how did it feel crossing the line knowing you were the World Champion?

DM: Heading into the points race Matt Gilmore and I had a race plan and I knew it was important to do what he instructed and also trust in my ability. The first sprint came up quick and I was in a good position to see who was going to play a part of this points race battle. After a few sprints and little attacks one move stuck. The rider on the attack was not a threat to my standing but the points were being taken away from the bunch that had second, third and fourth place still battling for the podium. That move took the pressure off me for a few laps and let me recover. The Polish rider (second on points) then jumped from the bunch so I knew I had to do something to maintain my lead. I chased and brought the break back. Chasing her down took a bit of energy out of my legs and coming in to the second last sprint Matt yelled from trackside, "if you win this last sprint you've won the race". It was at this point I knew I had to dig deep with all I had left. I was well positioned on the Polish riders wheel coming around for the bell and she gave me a really nice lead out for the sprint. It was a tight battle but I took five points and secured the overall Omnium win. Riding the final ten laps I knew I just needed to stay upright and out of trouble. Riding those ten laps knowing I was the new Junior World Champion was the most amazing feeling in the world. After crossing the finish line it was such an overwhelming feeling that it was almost dreamlike that I had achieved such a long held personal goal finally.

PW: Of the seven editions of the omnium, Australia has won five. What does it mean to add your name to that list?

DM: Adding my name to that list is an honour. The omnium is the toughest track endurance event and is very prestigious to be given the opportunity to race it at a world level being an Olympic event. I was grateful Matt backed my ability enough to give the opportunity to ride the event. The omnium is one of my favourite events particularly with the new format and how it has changed the racing structure. The points race is incredibly important now and such high stakes racing at the end of the Omnium adds another level of excitement and really anything can happen.

PW: Two gold and one silver at World Championships plus Australian and Oceania titles over the past two years what does your success as a junior mean to you?

DM: I have worked really hard with my SASI coach Jason Niblett in the past two years to achieve the amazing results that we have. Jason sat with me after returning from Korea and set goals for me with a focus of being selected in to the Junior Worlds squad for Astana. The past two years have had its ups and downs but things have come together for me when it is important. It really shows that even through the tough times you still need to give 100% because the hard work pays off somewhere along the line. My success as a junior has been really satisfying and I am proud of my achievements. Reflecting back now I have completed a little training with the elite women the reality is that my past twelve months has been invaluable experience and learning to support my transition in to the elite ranks.

PW: Two months since Junior Worlds. Back to school when you returned home. How have the past couple of months been with school, recovery and getting back in to training?

DM: I am not going to lie it was hard coming back from just having to think about me and the bike to now thinking about normal everyday life again. Getting back on top of my year 12 studies took some effort but with support from my school, family and friends, I pulled everything back together to finish my secondary education strongly.

PW: Selected for the opening World Cup of the season how does it feel to be making your debut just out of juniors?

DM: Making my debut with the High Performance elite women was a little overwhelming at the beginning but my nerves soon settled and I just got on with it. I was over the moon to be given the opportunity by Gary Sutton to train and race with such an amazing group of athletes, coaches and associated staff. My goal was simply to give 100% at every training session and soak up every opportunity I was given to learn and develop.

PW: Selected in your first senior Australian team for Cali World Cup in October. Young development team qualified eighth and finished sixth. Happy to improve over the rounds and what did you learn from the experience?

DM: Competing in my first senior World Cup was a huge step up from the junior competition, being able to qualify eighth and improve our placing to sixth position with such a young team was amazing to be apart of and just shows the depth in Australia for the women at the moment. Coming up into the senior ranks and racing in Cali, Columbia was an eye opening experience and if I take anything away from it, it would have to be that I need to back myself more.

PW: Going from junior to senior can be a big step up what are you most excited about and what do you think will be the biggest challenge?

DM: The most exciting thing about stepping up into the elite ranks is that I will get to race and train with athletes that I have looked up to and think of as my role models throughout my junior career. I am also really excited to be given the opportunity to race against more experienced athletes so as to further develop my racing. I think the biggest challenge for me will be the step up to push the larger gears and get use to the longer race distance but that is all just adjusting my training. My coaches are already putting plans in to improving those areas in to action and I am excited to sink my teeth in to the challenge.

PW: What are you hoping for in the 2015/16 season? All about development and taking that next step?

DM: The next 12 months for me is all about grabbing every opportunity with both hands and giving it my all. You never really stop learning and developing as a bike rider so it is a given that the next few years is about development. I will be focusing on refining my strengths, strengthening my weaknesses and doing everything my coaches ask of me in training and racing to the best of my ability. I have a busy program coming up in the next few months with Omnium Nationals, Australian Madison and Track Nationals looming in the not to distance future. As a junior moving to the seniors in Australia, I think I am privileged to start my apprenticeship in the elite ranks with so many amazing athletes on both track and road to learn from and race against I am looking forward to stepping up to the challenge.
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