Four reigning and five former world champions punctuate the selections for Team Australia for the 2017 UCI World Championships in Hong Kong.
However in superb signs for Australian track cycling, teenagers Courtney Field, 19, (VIC), Kelland O’Brien, 18, (VIC) and Kristina Clonan, 18, (QLD) are three of eight debutants who will don the green and gold in Hong Kong from April 12.
Queensland’s Clonan has been included in the final five-member women’s endurance squad and will race alongside dual world champions and Olympians in Amy Cure (TAS) and Ashlee Ankudinoff (NSW), plus dual reigning world champion Rebecca Wiasak (ACT). Alexandra Manly (SA) is set to make her debut with Clonan.
“To be perfectly honest, I’m riding with people who last year I watched in my little lounge room on the Sunny Coast at 2am as they competed at the Rio Olympics, so to be riding along side them certainly is something,” said Clonan, who will turn 19 on April 13 – day two of the World Championships.
Clonan earned three under 19 National and two World Championships medals in 2016 and with her success coming in the omnium, individual pursuit and team sprint, her versatility is evident.
“Of course I was working towards but was manly focused on my progression into the elite ranks, getting stronger so as I can be competitive amongst the ‘big girls’. I guess directing my focus to the progression took a bit of pressure off, and I was able to race these women I’ve been idolising without getting bogged down in who’s who.”
Clonan impressed while on her elite debut at the recent National Championships, with silver and bronze in the scratch and points races respectively.
“I’m stoked to be able to race in Hong Kong with these girls, and I will be like a sponge just trying to soak up all their information,” added Clonan from the team’s training camp in Adelaide. “Having the girls provide input on the way I race and just racing in general has been great and I’ve been able to pick up little things that I can do better as I progress through the senior ranks.
“My goal for Hong Kong is to experience everything and anything I possibly can. Being a first year I hope to go to plenty more world cups and get stronger and faster as I progress, but for the first one, Id like to get a feel of the racing and how they organise and prepare themselves for D-Day.”
Similarly, Victoria’s Courtney Field is eager to take every opportunity and advantage of her maiden elite selection.
“I was just in a bit of shock that I’m going, I didn’t think I was going to make it this season,” remarked Field of the moment she received the call from Track Sprint Head Coach Nick Flyger. “Being one of the youngest means everyone around me is so experienced and have so much knowledge that I can learn from. In that way I am very lucky.”
Courtney stormed onto the scene in 2014 after becoming just the second Australian woman to claim the junior sprint world title, before announcing herself on the elite stage while on debut as a 19-year-old, by taking World Cup keirin bronze.
Earlier this month at just her second Elite National Championships, Field upset three-time world champion Kaarle McCulloch (NSW) in the sprint semi finals, before going on to take silver behind Rio Olympian and reigning Commonwealth Games sprint champion Stephanie Morton, 26, (SA). She then claimed bronze in the keirin won by McCulloch.
“It is not an easy step going from juniors to seniors, honestly when I was a junior I thought I would of been able to handle it, but you get a big reality check,” Field revealed.
“It is really hard, a lot of training and a lot of one-on-one training skills on the track, trying to make up for not being fast enough. But I’m gaining more experience every time I race, just learning what things work for me and learning I need to back myself a little more. You would think racing lots would help with the nerves but it never does!”
In Hong Kong, Field will form a four-rider women’s sprint team with Morton, McCulloch, and dual fellow debutant in 2017 Oceania champion Holly Takos (SA).
“I’m trying to be realistic with my goals as it is my first Elite World Championships and there are a lot of good women!” Field added. “My goals are for a PB in the Flying 200m, also to make less mistakes, so I’m only getting beaten by someone better than me not also because I’ve done something silly.”
The youngest on the team is 18-year-old Kelland O’Brien, who is one of four debutants in the men’s track endurance team with Jordan Kerby, 24, (QLD), Nick Yallouris, 23, (NSW), and Rohan Wight, 20, (SA).
“It feels amazing this was a goal for me this season and I’m really keen to see what the team can do,” said O’Brien after being told the news by men’s track endurance coach Tim Decker.
In the under 19 ranks in 2015 and 2016, O’Brien stormed to two world and five national titles and just weeks after stepping into the elite ranks in 2017, he found immediate success with two Oceania crowns last December.
At the 2017 Nationals in Brisbane, O’Brien matched it with Australia’s elite, bagging winning silver and bronze in the scratch and points races respectively.
“It was a massive step up to senior racing this year but I definitely had my mind set on making good improvements throughout the season and learn as much as I can,” said O’Brien.
“I came back this season really hungry to prove myself and I want to keep that mentality forever.”
O’Brien is excited to be teaming with six-time world champion Cam Meyer (WA) and reigning world champions Sam Welsford (WA), Alex Porter (SA) and Miles Scotson (SA).
“Being the youngest in the team is really no different I think, everyone is treated equally on this team so I feel right at home with everyone,” he added.
“I’m expecting a very high level of competition, this is the best of the best so it will be the toughest racing I’ve ever been to for sure.
“My goal really is just to execute my job as well as I can for the team and give my everything that’s really all I can do.”
The Championships are set to take place at the Hong Kong Velodrome, with 20 events to be contested including the debut of the women’s Madison.
The team will depart Australia on Wednesday 5 April.
The Australian Commonwealth Games Association’s Gold Coast GOLD 2018 Team Preparation program will help to ensure that Cycling Australia’s cyclists receive the best access to training and competition opportunities, equipment and world-class athlete support services in the lead up to the Games.