Cycling: Ellis reaps benefits of road switch

One week into last year's training camp with road cycling team Jazz Apple, track cyclist Lauren Ellis was having second thoughts about her decision to take up team director Susy Pryde's offer of a berth in the newly established squad.

The wisdom of accepting Pryde and team manager Chris Drake's challenge is now evident -- Ellis credits the increased training workload and three months' racing on the North American women's road circuit with providing an invaluable base for her best season ever on the track.

Ellis, 19, combined with Alison Shanks and Kaytee Boyd to take women's team pursuit gold at the Beijing World Cup meeting last month, clocking 3min 24sec in what was then the fastest time in the world.

Since then, the Ashburton-born cyclist hasn't touched her track bike, concentrating instead on getting still more road miles under her belt.

This week a revamped Jazz Apple team, racing under the Champions System cycling team colours, take on a strong Australasian field in the three-day NZCT women's Tour of Wellington, beginning in Masterton tomorrow with a 127km stage around an undulating 30km Gladstone circuit.

Road cycling holds fewer fears for Ellis these days, but she admits readily to finding her introduction last year to the discipline a real challenge.

"It was a steep learning curve to start with - it was really tough," she told NZPA. "We were doing hundreds of k's a day, back to back. I was like `oh my goodness, this is so so hard'."

Pryde and Drake last year approached Ellis, already a well-performed track cyclist internationally at junior level, to gauge her interest in making the jump to the road. Initially, Ellis said, she was more than a little unsure.

"I was thinking 'gosh, I'm not really much of a road rider'. But they obviously saw something in me and reckoned I could do it, and they were right. I've just loved the time I've had with Jazz, and the time on the road. It's been really good.

"As a junior, I pretty much focused on the track -- I went to the junior worlds twice, and I'd never really seen myself as a road rider."

With a bronze and silver in the individual pursuit from the 2007 and 2008 world junior cycling championships, Ellis obviously had the physical and mental toughness essential to compete at a high level. What she didn't have was the thousands of kilometres' training base road racing demands -- hence the weeks of hard work raking up the miles.

"They told me 'you're going to get so much out of this' and I suffered and suffered and suffered. But they were right -- I got so much benefit, it got me a good base through the whole season last year."

Ellis will be joined this week by Jazz Apple newcomer Dotsie Bausch, a Los Angeles-based professional and former United States national champion.

Also in the team are Canadian under-23 rider Steph Roorda,Australian Ruth Corset, who finished second at the Australian road nationals last month, and New Zealand track representative Malindi Maclean.

Ellis said it was a little difficult to know what to expect over the next three days.

"It's the first time we've all been together, so we just want to have a good ride together as a team for our first outing. We've got lots of new riders, so it's going to be very exciting."

Ellis has a busy few days ahead, with the three-day tour followed on Sunday by the 119km women's International Cycling Union (UCI) sanctioned women's one-day race.

The Women's International Cup race has been granted UCI 1.1 status which means world ranking points will be up for grabs.

The Jazz Apple team will then be heading down to the track nationals in Invercargill from March 2-7, contesting the points and scratch races.

Ellis said plans were still fluid after that, but the team will be definitely heading back to the United States in early May for another three-month stint on the North American circuit.

Add a Comment