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  Successful return for Ellen Skerritt as she looks towards 2015  
 
  December 11th 2014  
     
  A consistent but illness impacted season in 2013 saw Ellen Skerritt with some difficult decisions heading in to 2014.

With the decision to take time off the bike to fully recover from post viral fatigue, Skerritt missed the first half of 2014. Despite the set back Skerritt returned at the Tour of the Murray River to finish second overall.

A win followed just over a month later, with Skerritt taking out the inaugural Amy's Otway Classic. The noted climber proved her strength is on more than just the climbs with the time trial and overall win at the National Capital Tour less than a week later.

Despite missing half the National Road Series, Skerritt finished second behind teammate Ruth Corset. With her fitness returned and renewed confidence from a strong season Skerritt has set her focus on the national championships in January and a professional career.

Below Skerritt talks dealing with post viral fatigue, her comeback, successful NRS season and her aims for 2015.

PelotonWatch: How did you first come in to the sport?

Ellen Skerritt: As a kid I was always involved in a wide-range of sports; anything from gymnastics to long distance running. There was never any pressure to perform and I never quite understood the concept of 'training'. It was only for the enjoyment. In 2009, I began competing in a few triathlons and at the same time through family and friends I met Ross McEwen who introduced me to his brother Robbie who graciously organised a bike for me as my interest in the sport grew. At the time it was just a hobby but has now evolved into a full-time commitment!

PW: You were selected to participate in the Women's Endurance Selection Camp at the AIS at the end of 2013. It is known to be a really gruelling experience. What was it like and what did you gain from the experience?

ES: Gruelling is an understatement. Think Survivor except replace a sunny-coastal beach with the unpredictability of Canberra’s weather filled with arduous challenges on and off the bike whilst being tormented with mind-games from the observers. I am more inclined to describe the experience as an 'emotional roller coaster'.

Coming into the camp I was very sick and unfortunately came out much worse. But it was a turning point for me. And one that I needed! Probably the most important aspect I took away from the camp was an increased self-awareness of myself and in relation to cycling as a team sport. And trust me they won't sugar coat a thing if you ask, 'Well what's the problem?'

PW: At the end of 2013 what were you hoping for from 2014?

ES: Coming into 2014 the most important part was to focus on a valuable lesson of living a balanced life, which meant getting on top of my health. This required a lot of self-control, patience and a number of sacrifices. The aim was to comeback halfway through the season stronger and healthier than ever. I started the NRS season with Tour of Murray and came away with second on GC. So close to having a perfect comeback.

PW: You were diagnosed with post viral fatigue. What was the hardest part of it and what was it like being forced to take time away from the bike?

ES: Going into the doctor's appointment I already had a pretty good idea of what he was going to say because a few months earlier I was in a similar situation but I chose not to listen. The hardest part this time was that I didn't have a choice. I had to take that step back in order to move forward. Being forced to take time off the bike was exactly what I needed. I took a holiday and visited my parents in Thailand, I enrolled in a Bachelor of Exercise Science and Sport Science – I found other things in life that could give me equal satisfaction.

PW: Was there a point where you thought ok this is it I give up I am not going to come back?

ES: There was a short period at the beginning of the year where I felt slightly lost and was looking at other options but through the encouragement of my parents, my coach Marcel and a few close friends I decided to give it one more shot. And I am not someone who does anything half-hearted so I gave myself a timeframe of one more year. And 2014 has confirmed this is where I want to be.

PW: You often see riders who have been forced to take a prolonged time off the bike when they come back they come back stronger not just physically but mentally as well. Do you think this happened with you?

ES: Absolutely. Having a break allows you to refocus and recover – both physically and mentally. For me, that desire or 'fire in the belly' has come back stronger than ever. I'm already excited for Nationals 2015!

PW: Your first race back was the Tour of the Murray River. First stage you finished second from a break and went on to finish second overall. How important was it to take a strong result immediately?

ES: It was extremely important to put myself back in the picture; not necessarily by getting a result but to show I am a competitive racer. The last impression I left the cycling world was at the AIS Selection Camp 2013, which was not a true representation of myself. I had a lot to prove to myself and others watching.

PW: It didn't take long after to claim your first NRS win, taking out Amy's Otway Classic. What did crossing the line first feel like?

ES: After Tour of Murray and Tour of King Valley, I was back in the swing of things and it was very important for me to show my full potential. I was more than ready for a stage win! Crossing the line hand-in-hand with my teammate Ruth Corset was very special and to be able to share that moment with her was great. Ruth has plenty of knowledge and experience to share and I definitely learnt a lot from her this year.

PW: You followed up by winning the opening time trial and overall at the National Capital Tour. Coming a week after Amy's Otway Classic how significant was it to follow up with another win so quickly?

ES: During that particular block of training I had been focusing on improving my time trialing and it was very important to show that I can be an all-round rider not just a climber as some may label me. I'm still growing as a person and as a serious competitor and for all we know I could be sprinter! Just kidding!

PW: Second overall in the NRS rankings despite missing half the year. You must be able to take quite a bit of confidence from that?

ES: Yes I'm very pleased with the results I have gained from 2014. I feel as though it has put me back on the map in the cycling world and as a serious competitor in the NRS women's field.

PW: What is the most important thing you can take away from 2014?

ES: The main aspect I learnt from 2014 is the importance of taking care of my body - both mentally and physically. I was trying to sacrifice health for fitness and I wasn't able to achieve my goals with this mindset. Nutrition is key. And listening to your body when you're sick is vital.

Remember: Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to move forward.

PW: What are your goals heading in to 2015?

ES: I have only recently signed with a new team for 2015 and we are yet to finalise my NRS racing calendar. But for each tour it will be my goal to fulfil the role designated to me – whether that means being a domestique or winning a stage.

My short-term goals for 2015 are to win the U23 TT and win the road race at Nationals and Oceania's. At some stage in the year I plan to be racing overseas. Wherever that may be!

PW: Looking further ahead where would you like your cycling career to go?

ES:
Looking into the future I see myself travelling the world, competing against the best. I plan to compete at the Commonwealth Games and Olympics. The ultimate goal is obviously the Road World Championship but that is so far away it's hard to envision at this point in time!
 
 
       
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