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  Alex Manly Blog: Team Pursuit World Cup title in Cali  
  January 2015 By Alex Manly  
  Just months after claiming two world titles at the Junior Track World Championships in the team and individual pursuit and fourth in the time trial at the Road World Championships, Alex Manly made her senior debut for Australia. Selected as part of a young development squad with Macey Stewart, Lauren Perry and Elissa Wundersitz for the final round of the 2014/15 UCI Track World Cup series in Cali.

Despite an average age of just eighteen and a half and three riders just months out of the junior ranks the quartet would claim gold and seal overall victory for Australia in the World Cup standings. Below Manly shares the experience of Australia's first gold in the event since 2010.

After junior track and road worlds came to an end early October I had a couple of weeks off the bike exploring Spain and one of my new favourite places in the world the Pyrenees. However as soon as I touched down in my hometown Adelaide it was back to business. I wanted to make my transition into seniors to run as smoothly as possible.

I was invited to my first senior training camp in November with the "London group". I remember sitting in the first meeting and looking around the table at the quality of women in the room. Olympic medallist, world medallist, junior world champions, national champions... They were all my idols and I was lucky enough to be sitting beside them. The camp was the toughest block of training I've ever done and had me pedalling squares. As hard as it was we all supported each other. The older girls helped me lots, teaching me new things and always were encouraging. Every girl on that camp has the dream of going to Rio and are prepared to do anything to get there. It was a truly empowering environment.

A month later and I was selected in a development team for Colombia alongside Elissa Wundersitz and my fellow 2014 junior world teammates Macey Stewart and Lauren Perry. So after three days of tedious flying, smelly odours and stopovers in Sydney, LA and Miami involving 4000 animated cartoon characters, we flew into the heart of Colombia, Cali as night fell. On our flight we had three other countries, Malaysia, Japan and New Zealand. That's quite a lot of bikes and equipment for one airplane. We ended up receiving none of our luggage, and watched enviously as the kiwis collected all theirs with no hassle or fuss.

Arriving in Cali

Day 1 in Cali, as we were bike-less we headed to the rooftop of our accommodation for a scenic core session, run by our reliable sports scientist Jason. Cali is on a plateau, from the roof you could see the edge of Cali going into the mountains, the skyscrapers, apartments and the streets lined with palm and mango trees. (Yes they do have mango trees growing in the streets- how cool). To prevent jetlag putting us to sleep the staff took us to the shops via taxi. This was the first time we experienced police escorting in the day time. One of the Policemen who looked after us was called Sebastion he had braces and only looked about 18. The other policeman was called Andres who was not much older.

Day 2 in Cali and our bags arrived. No bikes yet but we still went and sussed out the track. One of my favourite parts about Cali was taking the shuttle bus to the track. It was eye opening as you got to experience what goes on in a typical day at Cali. We got to drive through different social economic areas, sometimes we would see a person carrying a cart or man sorting through rubbish. There are always people looking out their windows and people watching. We saw a lot of stray dogs, homeless people sleeping in the streets and stalls full of fruit or corncobs along the roads. The craziest thing was the driving, almost everyone is on their horn (well our bus driver certainly was) and they drive millimetres away from each other. On regular occasions you will see cars stacked up with people. I saw three motorbike accidents and watched many narrow misses. At a certain pedestrian crossing we often saw buskers dancing and juggling in front of the cars, playing musical instruments and one time I even saw a guy flipping through the traffic! It was insane. By the time you get to the track you would have been amazed by at least five things.

Race Day

Walking into the track on race day gave us chills. It was so exciting to feel the wind brush your face, the atmosphere inside was absolutely incredible. It was my first time racing on a half indoor/outdoor track. The stand was packed to the rim and the crowd beamed with excitement. They absolutely loved cycling. In the pits we were getting prepared for our qualifying. We all had a few nerves and were watching the teams before us qualify. Then we were up. We had a plan and Gary made sure we knew exactly what needed to be done. Our race didn't go exactly to that plan. Our ride wasn't smooth but we managed to qualify an unexpected third, one second behind Italy and three behind China! It gave us some confidence to take into round two, settling our nerves.

Going into round two we were better prepared. We knew our splits, what had worked, what didn't and how we needed to improve to give us an extra second over Italy. Our team morale was really high and we all were buzzing with excitement to take on the Italians. We gave each other a few pats on the back and words of encouragement to remind each other we were all in this together. We started very smoothly. Macey came out of the gates perfectly and we all got on quickly. We rode a very impressive first kilometre, which helped us get the Italians in eyesight. No one wanted to be the one to let them out of sight, which resulted in a smooth consistent ride by the team. Our plan was executed to perfection and we still had the Italians in sight as we heard the bell for the last lap. We came through at a staggering pace of 4min 28 sec. This made us the only team to ride in the 20s, which scored us the top seed going into the final. I was so proud of the girls. We were thrilled to be in the green and gold and that ride gave us a lot of confidence to take into the final.

Round 3 - The final

Making it to the final put a massive smile on our faces. I think it's why we performed so well, we were all just so happy to be there. China was going to be hard to beat, but our theory was, if we put enough pressure on them early on, they would break in the back end as we had seen them do previously. The risk of riding this way, was that we might be the ones to break. However we had the mindset of "ALL or nothing". It was going to be a tough gig but we had nothing to lose. We started out well and were just ahead in the first couple of laps before we slipped behind in the middle section and the majority of the race. Gary was moving towards us, meaning we were down on the Chinese and rapidly running out of time to bring it back. With 4 laps to go we were still down and the dream of winning gold was slipping away from us. Then finally we came around with 3 laps to go and we had picked up the pace, we were back in the game. 2 laps. 1 lap and we were just ahead. We surged for the line and the gun went off and we knew we had won! It didn't feel real, here I was in a foreign country with three Australian girls of an average age of 18 and a half and we had won a world cup gold medal.

None of it would have been possible without the constant support from the Cycling Australia staff. Mechanics, coaches, soigneurs and our other teammates all contributed to our end result. The management was great and even though we had a few mishaps with luggage the athletes never needed to stress. It turned out to be a great trip.
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