Peloton Watch
  Ellen Skerritt ready for next challenge in the European peloton  
  July 15th 2015  
  A mid season return last year from an extended illness has put Ellen Skerritt on a path to achieve her goal of becoming professional and racing in Europe. Skerritt's return at the Tour of the Murray River last year with second overall kick started her return. Quickly backing up by winning Amy's Otway Classic and the National Capital Tour to end the year second in the overall Australian National Road Series rankings.

The success of 2014 resulted in Skerritt identifying some lofty goals for the start of 2015. While she just missed out on her objective of gold in the under 23 time trial and road races at the National Championships, two medals set her up for continued success.

After a less than enjoyable experience at the AIS Selection Camp in 2013 Skerritt, the 2015 camp not in disappointment but one of five tickets to race in Europe in July, August and September.

PelotonWatch: Your first big goals of the year were winning the under 23 National time trial and road race titles. You claimed silver in the time trial and bronze in the road race. Missed gold but went home with two medals. Happy with your performances?

Ellen Skerritt: I look back now and going in with such outcome-focused goals, I see that I was setting myself up for failure. However, looking at my performance even though I had not achieved my goals I can be pleased with how I rode. And plus there is always next year!

PW: If you go back a year to 2014. You were not there you missed Nationals unable to even get on your bike. For 12 months later to come home with silver and bronze you must have a great sense of pride in how you have come along in the year between?

ES: Yes, I am quite happy with the progress I have made up until now to make this step up into the European peloton, it is quite an achievement in itself after last years setbacks!

PW: Oceania Championships were your second big target of the year again targeting gold in the under 23 category. You were sick the week before and in your own words you had an 'absolute shocker' in the time trial followed by some mechanical issues in the road race. Hard few days of racing what did you learn about yourself?

ES: Thank you for reminding me. It is one of those competitions you try and forget! I am still learning my limits within training and am working on my recovery procedures, and it has been about working out the balance of, "too much or not enough" in training. This particular weekend was the result of too much training and not allowing enough recovery leading into the race and the end result was illness. I am still learning to listen to my body and to know when I need to back off. More training is not always better!

PW: It was a quick turnaround with selection for the Women's Tour of New Zealand your first UCI race. Considering where you were this time last year what did it mean to be lining up in a professional UCI race?

ES: The Women's Tour of New Zealand was a great introduction to international racing and has given me a much needed confidence boost for the next couple of months ahead in Europe.

PW: Finished just outside the top ten and claimed best young riders jersey. Happy with how you went?

ES: Our aim as a team was to make an impression in the Women's Tour of New Zealand and I believe we achieved that. And I also believe the other Aussies would have to agree! With this process I managed to pick up and maintain the young riders jersey after the queen stage, which was a nice added bonus.

PW: You have had a busy block of NRS racing with the Adelaide Tour, Mersey Valley and then Battle on the Border. You have had problems in the past with fatigue how are you dealing with that this year?

ES: I have had a busy block of racing and in the middle of all this, AIS Selection Camp as well. There was quite a bit of pressure to perform at these NRS races because I knew selectors were watching, in terms of meeting the criteria for making selection in the Subaru High5 Women's Development Team. But at the end of the day all I could do was, 'talk with my legs' and do this to the best of my ability, because at the end of the day there was no point in stressing over what the selectors thought. I have learnt external stresses can have a major impact on performance and health, and I believe this year I have been able to cope much better with this. I have also learnt to improve on my recovery practices although it's not perfect yet it has had a very positive impact already.

PW: When you returned to racing the in the second half of 2014 you had a lot of success. Have you felt the weight of expectations on you has been higher?

ES: Yes and No. I have found within the High5 Dream Team, I am the youngster who has so much more to learn compared to all the girls in the team who have a lot more experience than I do. It's been a very humbling experience and the High5 Dream Team has been very supportive and understanding of where I am at with my cycling career. However in saying this I have very high expectations for myself so the only pressure of expectation comes from myself.

PW: You went to the AIS selection camp for the second time. Heading in how were you feeling?

ES: Far too confident to say the least! Having done the camp once before I knew what I was in for and knew what they wanted to see. Lets just say, I knew the game and how to play it! I wanted to be one step ahead of everyone and a little bit of extra confidence was the only way to achieve this.

PW: What were the most difficult and also the top most satisfying moments of the camp?

ES: The camp is known for being extremely strenuous, pushing you to your absolute physical limit but the most difficult part of the camp was the late night debriefs performed every evening. This is something you can't exactly "train" for, or even prepare yourself. Everything you did earlier that day - whether it was right or wrong, would be criticized and made exposed to the group as a whole. You could not switch off for even a moment because the very second you looked like you were about to switch off they would be integrating you again. Being sleep deprived had also taken its toll by the end of the camp and I'm not even sure my sentences were making sense anymore.

PW: On your blog you wrote that ahead of the first elimination you "made the conscious decision to not disassemble my bike or pack up my bags". Was the decision because you were confident? Determined? Or maybe even a bit of rebellion in wanting to control something in an environment where control is taken away from you?

ES: It was probably a combination of all that. I felt I wasn't ready to go home and I wasn't going to give them a reason to send me home... Packing up my bags, to me, felt like giving up and the act itself would create a doubt in my mind that, "maybe you're not ready yet". I didn't want anything to shake my confidence.

PW: You survived the camp and made it to the finish. After the difficult time you had on your first experience, what did it mean to make it to the end this time?

ES: It was redemption. And I would put it up there as one of my highest achievements so far. Finishing the camp gave me confirmation of the progress I had made since attending the camp for the first time in 2013 and it was very satisfying to know that my hard work did not go unrecognised. Nonetheless, at the same time it was a very humbling experience and I still have a long way to go.

PW: Your first time at the camp in 2013 was difficult but how much has it contributed to you developing in to the rider and person you are today?

ES: As I mentioned in my latest blog (#7) I had a truly eye-opening experience at AIS Selection Camp in 2013, which contributed to several NRS results in 2014. This push in the right direction turned my season into the best I had ever had. What I learnt about myself and the requirements of an elite-level racer has been truly invaluable to my cycling career.

PW: You are heading to Europe to race with the Australian Development team. How did you feel when you were told?

ES: I had known for several weeks that I was heading overseas with the team but it did not feel real until people started telling me, 'you're heading to Europe!'. I even had the flight tickets in my hands and it still didn't sink in!

PW: You have quite a bit of success in Australia the past 12 months. Do you feel ready for a new challenge of racing in Europe?

ES: I am more than ready and keen to take this step up into the European peloton. The unknown excites me... I really have no clue for what I'm in for! It is equally an exciting time for me because I have never been to before Europe and to get to experience Europe in the best way possible... Whilst riding your bike!

PW: What are you hoping to gain from your time in Europe?

ES: This exciting opportunity to Europe has so much to offer and has given me the opportunity to experience life and racing against the best of the best in the world. As my cycling career moves forward, I feel as though I am getting closer to achieving my biggest and scariest goals. During this time, I hope to gain the skills that are necessary on and off the bike to help cope with the 'cycling world' in Europe and create fun new memories to look back on.

You can follow Ellen's racing in Europe at her blog or on Twitter Facebook and Instagram
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