Peloton Watch
  Macey Stewart to make Giro Rosa debut  
  June 29th 2015  
  The past 12 months have roller coaster ride for Tasmanian Macey Stewart, full of some of the biggest successes of her career but also two serious crashes. But now her biggest challenge to date a start in the biggest women's race on the calendar the Giro Rosa. At just 19 Stewart will be on the start line in Slovenia on July third.

Stewart's success as a junior has been well chronicled with two world titles on the track in August last year in the omnium and team pursuit. A third world title followed in September in the time trial at the Road World Championships in Spain. This gave Stewart, then still 18 three rainbow jerseys in the four endurance Olympic events in women's cycling.

After being involved in a hit and run accident while training in Tasmania an undeterred Stewart was back on the bike just days later and off to Adelaide for a track camp, which earned her selection for the final World Cup of the 2014/15 season. Gold in the team pursuit, Australia's first since 2010 followed.

"I was very excited when I was told I was starting the Giro," said an elated Stewart. "It's a race that I didn't imagine I'd be racing for a few years yet!

"It's the hardest women's tour on the calendar and definitely one of the most prestigious, so to be lining up at 19 years old, it's so exciting and a huge honour!

"I think I'll most likely the youngest in the peloton?"

The 10-day race starts with a two kilometre prologue that with her track background is perfect for her. "I'll definitely be focusing on the prologue as it will suit me best," said Stewart. "From then just doing as much as I can for the team in the following stages.

One thing is for sure and that is Stewart will not just be there making up the numbers. "I'm not sure how I'll go with my short preparation and in such a strong field but I'm happy to just be having a crack and enjoying the experience!"

A busy track season took its toll. "After a pretty full on six months on the track I battled some sickness throughout February and March which put the breaks on things a bit," revealed Stewart. "Having to pull out of Oceanias and Tour of New Zealand, and then heading to Europe later than planned.

"But in the scheme of things maybe it wasn't such a bad thing having an easier start to the year, considering how hectic my next six months will be!"

The change in racing and environment is a big step but Stewart is embracing it with both hands. "I'm loving the European racing and lifestyle. The racing is like nothing you can get in Australia, it's a huge step up, but it opens your eyes to so many more exciting opportunities and pathways that you don't realise exist throughout juniors. It's refreshing to know there are so many different ways you can 'make it'. I've definitely reassessed my goals since being here!"

Culture shock and the European lifestyle is something many riders have struggled to adapt to moving from Australia to Europe especially at a young age. Not for Stewart though. "How can I fault the lifestyle!?! AMAZING training, summer weather, sleep ins, great people, great food"

Stewart is also quick to praise the support received from both the AIS and her new Orica-AIS Squad. "There is access to awesome one on one coaching and support staff at the AIS European training centre," before an enthusiastic Stewart added "I couldn't be in a better place to move forward! I'm the luckiest 19 year old in the world!"

For Stewart 2015 is about learning and developing for the future over chasing results. Something Stewart is happy to embrace as she looks to her future in the sport. "The most important thing I've learnt so far is that I have time. With all my setbacks this year I've learnt that there's no need to get myself stressed or under pressure about things I can't control. I'm so young and hopefully have a long career ahead of me, there's no need to rush things!"

Going from an environment of racing and training with a group of a similar age to a team with riders spanning a ten to fifteen year age bracket hasn't been a problem either. "Although there's a massive age difference between myself and the rest of the girls we seem to get along really well.

"Either I'm extremely mature or they are all immature," says Stewart with a laugh. "They are great mentors and have shown me a lot about what it takes to be a true professional, both on and off the bike. The team has been unreal!"

While racing Dwars door de Westhoek in Belgium, just her third race of the year in Europe Stewart was involved in a crash and taken to hospital. Tests revealed bleeding on the brain. Reminiscent of a serious crash in 2012.

Having been in a similar situation before the experience allowed Stewart to deal with the crash. "I think having had a similar injury in 2012 made the whole process a lot easier. I knew what was going on and what I would need to do to get back to 100%," explains Stewart. "It was tough being in hospital so far away from my family, but having my boyfriend Jacob by my side throughout a fair chunk of my recovery made it a lot less stressful for me and my family.

"My mum coped a lot better knowing I was being very closely looked after," added Stewart. "The crash and comeback was naturally very mentally draining, but because there's no real pressure on me to be getting results this year I wasn't as worried, and I have faith that I can come back stronger than ever, as I have done it all before!

Recovering from the crash kept Stewart away from racing for nearly two months. "'It was extremely frustrating having to miss races but I've been in such a good training environment that I was able to just move on and focus on the next race I could do. It was hard watching the team be so successful lately and not be apart of it, but I've got plenty of time to make up for that!"

During her recovery a post on Instagram with the message 'So funny seeing how much I've changed! I was hiding my neck brace under the scarf because I was embarrassed. Been through a lot since then but I think I'm definitely a much stronger, better & happier person for it!' is a sign of her growth off the bike.

"I very strongly believe now that everything happens for a reason," said Stewart as she expanded on the post. "Every time I've had a set back, it has launched me into achieving or experiencing something great, so now when things go wrong I have a much stronger and more positive outlook on the future.

"I think as I have matured and been away from home a lot, it's made me appreciate everything I have and realise how extremely lucky I am to be able to do what I do, and have so much love and support around me. I've also learnt to be myself, and not worry so much about what others think."

Almost two months to the day after the crash Stewart returned to racing at the one day Giro del Trentino on June 20. With Orica-AIS having the dominant squad in the race and two of the big favourites Stewart controlled the race for the first 50 kilometres. Earning praise from sports director Gene Bates who is a former coach of Stewart's in his former role at the Tasmanian Institute of Sport. "Giro del Trentino was a great starting race for me!

"It wasn't a huge field and I was able to get up amongst the action and gain some confidence back! It was a massive step forward for me and another stepping stone for the team as a whole!"
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