Peloton Watch
  Macey Stewart claims team pursuit gold at first Track World Cup appearance  
  February 4th 2015  
  Triple Junior World Champion Macey Stewart made her senior international debut at the final round of the 2014/15 UCI Track World Cup series in Cali Colombia on the 16-18th January. A young Australian team was selected with two teammates from the Junior World Championships Alex Manly and Lauren Perry joining Stewart in the women’s endurance squad along with second year senior Elissa Wundersitz.

For a rider who claimed three World Championship titles, from a total of four Olympic events in 2014 the expectations put on them can be high. For the team though it was about learning and development with no pressure put on the riders. The opening day featured qualifying and actually doubled as Stewart's 19th birthday. A strong ride saw Australia post a time of 4:37.969 to qualify third fastest and within range of the gold medal and a birthday present for Stewart.

Saturday saw the team face Italy in the first round. Under the new format the winners of heats 1 v 4 and 2 v 3 qualify for the gold medal round. A time of 4:28.278 saw Australia improve on their qualifying time by nine seconds.

Riding against China in the gold medal ride saw a determined team start strongly out of the gate. A surge from China saw them briefly take the lead before coach Garry Sutton had Australia up the pace and storm to victory with 4:31.527, over two and a half seconds ahead of China.

For Stewart it continues a strong run of results over the past 18 months that have seen her confirm herself as not only one of the biggest talents but also one of the most recognisable cyclists in the world. The success continued at the National Championships last week with Stewart earning a second consecutive national team pursuit title with Amy Cure, Lauren Perry and Georgia Baker.

Despite the success Stewart realises there is a still a lot to learn and is remaining grounded. Below Stewart talks her World Cup experience, first Track National Championships as an elite rider and what is still to come as she starts her first professional road season with Orica-AIS.

PelotonWatch: Your first World Cup and you came home a gold medallist and overall World Cup winner in the team pursuit. How did it feel?

Macey Stewart: It felt absolutely amazing. It was such a great day over there in Cali. The team went in with a plan to really ride strongly throughout the whole 4km as it so hard on an outdoor track like that and the last kilometre is really important.

We had that plan and we really just had to work as a team and really think about each other out there on the track and we did that perfectly and it all came together as planned so it was awesome.

PW: You went in to the World Cup saying it was about learning and gaining experience what have you learnt and what experience are you coming away with?

MS: I think I learnt so much from it, it really is that step up at that level and I got to ride on a different track again, another new track. It was totally different we were running five spoke wheels in a team pursuit. I think I really refined my team pursuit skills and my standing start and I did that in the camp in Adelaide prior and I really put that to work in Cali. I have learnt a lot more about team pursuiting and something I really want to focus on for the future.

PW: Going from the junior to elite ranks is often challenging. Does the result give you confidence you are heading in the right direction?

MS: I think I still have a very long way to go and people progress at different levels. It is obvious with Alex Manly she is absolutely unbelievable. I think she is one of the most underrated cyclists there is out there. At 18 years old to be doing what she is in a team pursuit, pulling two lap turns and then come out and win a bronze medal in a senior points race at Nationals as a first year is unbelievable.

She is the same age as me and has progressed really fast and then there is me, I am slowly getting there I think. I have gained a lot of strength the past few months and I'm pushing much bigger gears. I'm not too fussed about how I am going at the moment. I know I sort of used to always be at the top of my game throughout juniors but I knew when I stepped up to the elite ranks it wasn't going to be like that necessarily. I have prepared myself for that and I am just going to have to wait. Play the waiting game and see how long it takes to be at that level. I'm unsure I don't think anyone knows how long it is going to take so I just have to see how I go.

PW: It is the first win for Australia in the women's team pursuit at a World Cup since Melbourne in 2010. Did that make the victory even more special for you?

MS: Definitely it was such an awesome thing to get our country up there on the top step of the podium once again. That is one of the most important things when you get over there, to represent your country well and to have those Aussie stripes on your back. To do that was something that was pretty special for all of us.

Our time was pretty unbelievable for such a young team and such a tough track like that with the wind and everything affecting it. We put in a really really good time and surprised ourselves a lot.

PW: The fist day of the World Cup with the qualifying round was your birthday. What was it like?

MS: To be honest I totally forgot it was my birthday. Every time someone sort of said happy birthday I was like oh that's right it's my birthday! It wasn't really something I was focusing on but Berthy May our soigneur had got me a birthday cake and we had sparklers and all sang happy birthday so that was really nice.

PW: After taking a big win so early in the year does it take some of the pressure off?

MS: I guess so but I think there is still a lot of pressure on me from people a bit outside the cycling world who don't really understand what it is like to step up in to elite ranks. As I said before I have always been so at the top of my game and I step up and people are sort of asking oh you must be disappointed with that race if I don't medal. But to be honest it really doesn't affect me it is more how it affects other people. I am really happy with how I am going, I have a lot to improve but I'm sure it will come in time.

PW: You have just finished your first elite track nationals. Happy with how you went?

MS: I think I made a few mistakes but I definitely still have a bit to learn. In the individual pursuit I went out in world record pace for the first kilometre. I wasn't really concentrating and I ended up blowing and doing my worst time over 3km by five seconds so it wasn't my greatest race but I have defiantly learnt from it and I didn't let it phase me too much.

The bunch racing is all very different at elite level, I am just sort of finding my place in the bunch. I haven't done much bunch racing in a while so just getting the feel of it again. I wasn't too fussed about how I went there.

The team pursuit speaks for itself. It was awesome and we worked together really well and you can't go better than gold so I was really happy.

PW: What is next for you?

MS: Next I have the Oceania Road Championships in Toowoomba in a couple of weeks. It is going to be very interesting I haven't done much road as I have been focusing on the track. So I have about two weeks to get my road legs so I think it will be pretty challenging. Then on to Tour of New Zealand with Orica-AIS, my first sort of big race with them so that will be interesting as I just find my feet in the professional road peloton.

Macey Stewart in action in the individual pursuit at the 2015 Australian Track Championships.
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