Australian sprint cycling champion Caitlin Ward has added her name to the growing list of Aussie superstars who cut their teeth at the Great Vic Bike Ride.
The 25-year-old Victorian claimed the sprint and keirin title at the Track Nationals in Brisbane last month, after a series of injury setbacks and a crash at the event last year.
“The keirin has always been my favourite event and I was pretty devastated last year to crash out of it,” Ward said.
“It was really nice to redeem myself this year and come out and not only win it, but win it with a really dominant performance.”
Ward finished her campaign with an impressive two gold medals, a silver medal and the Champion of Champions trophy.
Flash back to 2006, we wonder if Caitlin was dreaming of gold as a primary school student touring from Wangaratta to Whittlesea on the Great Vic Bike Ride? Or a year earlier when she was taking in the sights of Melbourne while completing Around the Bay in 2005?
But she is only looking forward now, with her sights firmly set on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“I love riding bikes but the Olympic dream is real and the closer I get to it the more I have to pinch myself and pray I stay healthy and I don’t have any more injuries and I can show the world what I’ve got behind these legs,” she told the Mornington Peninsula Leader.
Ward’s next challenge is in the USA in June, when she will compete in the summer festival of racing with the chance to gain valuable points towards Olympic selection.
She joins quite a list of people who fell in love with bike riding on the Great Vic and became professional cyclists including Simon Clarke, Sarah Gigante and Brendan Canty.
Simon Clarke has gone on to ride the Tour de France, while Sarah Gigante won both the under 23s and elite road race at the 2019 National Championships.
While the Great Vic and its unique relaxed and social atmosphere might make it seem like a long way from professional cycling, it shows that they're both all about the joy of riding.
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Feature image: Mornington Peninsula Leader