In the early hours tomorrow morning, the final Grand Tour of the cycling season begins with the 76th Vuelta a España and the battle for the maillot rojo (red jersey).
Australia are off to a strong start from the opening few days of competition in both the trade team time trials and the individual time trials at the 2013 world road cycling championships in the picturesque Toscana region of Italy.
These are the ‘race of truth’ events, displaying the pure power and strength combined with precision and aerodynamics of an individual or team as crowds and atmosphere grow day by day.
It will be over the weekend when we see the championships reach their climax in the much sought-after road race titles.
We are sure to be in for a spectacle, when the best of the best will battle it out on the Tuscan roads.
One goal, one vision; to lay hands on that stripy rainbow jersey you get as a prize if you’re first across the line at the finish in Florence.
I have been named in the Australian squad for the elite women’s road race, alongside six other very strong and determined women.
This will be my fourth elite world road championship and each one feels as special as the last. It truly is an honour to pull on the green and gold bands of Australia and race your heart out for your nation.
The women’s squad has come together in Gavirate for a few days, although we are missing Shara Gillow, as she is already in Florence, having represented Australia in the individual time trial, coming 12th.
Gavirate is the home of the Australian Institute of Sport European training centre and we’re here to spend a couple of days together as a team, bonding and putting in the final training preparations before heading on to Florence to join the rest of the Australian squad.
The atmosphere is strong within the team; all the girls are excited and motivated to work hard together, to have an impact on the race and get on the podium.
We are a young squad in terms of age but among us we have a wealth of experience and European racing under our belts.
Over the past few years the Australian women’s squad has slowly been rebuilding since the retirements of the likes of Sara Carrigan and Oenone Wood in 2008.
Rachel Neylan’s silver medal ride at last year’s world championships and a number of other strong international results by Australian woman over the last year or two have really put us back on the map.
The 2013 world road race is shaping up to be a hard fought battle. We are set for a 140km race from the spa town of Montecatini Terme into Florence and then onto five laps of the tough and hilly finishing circuit.
Both the Dutch and Italian teams have named very strong squads and I’m sure we’ll see a fierce battle between the two nations.
Although my trade teammate Emma Johansson won’t have a strong Swedish team to support her, I see her as a strong favourite for the race.
It is going to be an interesting and aggressive race, the question many people ask is can Marianne Vos be beaten?
I think so, she knows how to hurt herself and go very deep but we have seen her suffer and become a bit more vulnerable than we are use to throughout this season.
It is the worlds and she is a winner, but I guess we’ll find out on Saturday. It is going to come down to attrition, patience and confidence.
The Australian team certainly won’t be sitting back just watching the race unfold without being involved. We want to have an impact, we want to win and we will use all of our cards to try and make that happen.
After seeing the circuit late last year, I knew it was a course that could suit my strengths and abilities. When I set out my goals for the 2013 season, the championships was the major target for the year.
After racing the women’s Giro d’Italia in July and having a short mid season break, my training and racing became structured all around the worlds and working towards that goal.
A month ago I came down to Florence for a weekend to train on the circuit. This was important so I could get a feeling for what it was like riding it, note out potential critical points where the race could be won and put in some specific efforts to get a feeling of the course at a max effort.
I have taken a slightly different final approach into the worlds this year. I did my last proper training block between the Sweden and Plouay World Cups in August and then it has been back-to-back racing.
This left me with 10 days to recover and do the final tweaks to hopefully put me in the best possible condition for the race.
I’m fit, strong, motivated and confident in myself to put together a good performance, as I hope to be one of the leaders for the Australian team on race day.
We have a strong and versatile team so I am looking forward to racing alongside the girls and seeing what we can achieve together.
It is a beautiful circuit, with amazing views and scenery, but you can enjoy that on TV, as I certainly won’t be able to enjoy it come race day.
Be sure to tune in and cheer for us girls, it is one of the very few races you can view live on TV or online streaming to see what we’re capable of.