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Benalla cyclist wins Australian championships

Felicity Wardlaw beat full-time cyclists to win the Cycling Australia Road National Championships’ elite women’s time trial last Wednesday.

MONIQUE FREER January 15, 2014 4:17am

Felicity Wardlaw won the Cycling Australia Road National Championships elite women's time trial. Picture: Ballarat Courier


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Benalla fire planner Felicity Wardlaw earned her place in cycling history last week after winning the Cycling Australia Road National Championships’ elite women’s time trial.

Wardlaw completed the 28km course at Burrumbeet near Ballarat in 38 minutes 46 seconds, ending the three-year reign of Shara Gillow.

After finishing third in the event last year, the 36-year-old defeated Gillow by 32 seconds and Bridie O’Donnell by 37 seconds.

Wardlaw, who works full-time at the Department of Environment and Primary Industries’ Benalla office, said she was proud to have beaten full-time cyclists.

‘‘I was in shock that I’d beaten Gillow and (Katrin) Garfoot and not just beaten them by a second, but by a significant gap,’’ she said.

‘‘What I’ve done is just show that with a bit of sacrifice and discipline you can achieve things when you’ve got limited time.’’

Flanked by family and friends, Wardlaw was on the verge on tears when she realised she had won the title.

‘‘I had my family there and they’d flown in from Tassie the night before, I had all my teammates ... my coach and all of the supporters were there — we had the biggest cheer squad — and it was pretty emotional,’’ she said.

‘‘It was just exhilarating and then there were just people everywhere.

‘‘It was relief that the hard work I’d done worked, and all the sacrifices I have made went into that gold medal.’’

Wardlaw thought she was in the running for a podium finish, but said she never expected to claim gold.

‘‘I knew the training we had done and the prep we had done would be close, it would be closing the gap from 12 months ago, but you just don’t know how you feel on the day,’’ she said.

‘‘I knew I had to put in a solid return leg because I knew if (favourites Garfoot and Gillow) were going to catch me it would be on the return leg. I really pushed myself — it was phenomenal.

‘‘I crossed the line like a bullet because in a time trial every second counts.’’

Wardlaw said preparation and mental strength were the keys to her improvement in the past 12 months.

‘‘What I’ve developed a lot from winning bronze to gold is a lot of mental strength, and with a time trial it is so easy when things are hurting that much, it’s easy just to give up,’’ she said.

‘‘I knew it was going to hurt that much, and I was embracing the pain, really.

‘‘I’d ridden the course three times before, I knew it was a rough, bumpy course, very similar to the roads we race on in the north-east.’’

The surprise victory means Wardlaw will reassess her goals for this year, which may now extend to aiming for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow or the World Championships.

‘‘I think I’ll have to have a crack at (the Commonwealth Games) for sure,’’ she said.

‘‘Winning this race is good but there are a few others things I need to do to back it up ... because I haven’t been overseas racing with teams, I need a bit more in my resume.’’

Wardlaw chose not to race in the criterium event on Thursday, but finished 13th in the 102km road race on Saturday.

She returned to work in Benalla on Monday, and said she was looking forward to sharing part of her prize with her colleagues — 24 Mars bars.

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