Peloton Watch
  The Austral: Caitlin Ward  
  December 15th 2014  
  The Austral Wheelrace is the oldest track race in the world. The first edition in 1887 was run at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The 117th edition will be held at Hisense Arena on December 20, 2014. In the lead up PelotonWatch will be bringing you interviews with former winners, podium finishers and challengers for the 117th title.

Below Caitlin Ward, 2013 Women's Austral winner talks what the Austral means to her.

PelotonWatch: What does the Austral mean to you?

Caitlin Ward: Some of my first memories of watching track racing are as a kid, in the stands watching the Austral Wheelrace. Back then I had never even thought about getting on a bike, but every year when it comes around it certainly means a lot - because I know that the Austral is where I got first exposed to the excitement of the velodrome. It is also a very prestigious and respected race and it is an honour to compete in it, and beyond wonderful that is back at Hisense in the glory it deserves. There are reportedly 20 former and current World Champions racing on the 20th, it is a race that is older than the European classics and it is bursting with history. I think anyone that has raced or been involved in it has a mutual respect for one of the greatest races in Australian cycling history, which is why it holds such a special spot in so many people’s hearts.

PW: How did taking the win feel?

CW: It was surreal, something that I had been wishing for and was so exciting when it came true. It is hard to put into words how winning feels, but I remember my smile beaming from ear to ear, my family on their feet in the stands and my team feeling as happy as I was. It was just a wonderful night in general, and was topped off with a win in a wheelrace that has always and will always be special to me.

PW: Where does your Austral win rank?

CW: The Austral win feels like it is on a different scale, to be a multiple medallist at Junior Worlds, to make the Commonwealth Games long team and to win multiple international sprint competitions over the winter of 2014 for me although I am very proud of them, are stepping stones towards bigger dreams and confidence boosters to remind myself I can do this. The Austral, however, has nothing to do with my sprint career really, and honestly I am so proud because of the circumstances I was in, the meaning of the race to me, the fact I could do it in front of my friends and family in the crowd, the prestigious nature of the whole event - the list goes on. To me its not how the Austral ranks compared to my other achievements, its how special that particular race was to so many people, and how much honour I feel to have earned my name being on the winners board.

PW: What would winning for a second time mean to you?

CW: Very special indeed, although The Austral is very different now than it was two years ago - it includes the UCI sprint and keirin so getting to ride the wheelrace will depend on how far I progress into the sprints, having a chance at winning it will depend on how my legs feel after a full afternoon of racing. It is certainly something I would love to do one day, definitely on the bucket list.

PW: What do you like most about handicap races?

CW: I have always loved a good handicap, I am not sure why. I just find them really fun and exhilarating and have always loved how unpredictable they are, whether I am watching or racing.
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