Cycling: The two faces of ambition

By Anendra Singh

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EN VOGUE: Amanda Jamieson will wear the silver fern jersey she won at the nationals last Sunday with pride when she races abroad. PHOTO/Duncan Brown
EN VOGUE: Amanda Jamieson will wear the silver fern jersey she won at the nationals last Sunday with pride when she races abroad. PHOTO/Duncan Brown

OKAY so Amanda Jamieson will be the first person to admit she has a split personality but please don't anyone go calling a shrink.

That's because billeting two distinct and relatively enduring identities in her inner sanctum sits quite comfortably with Jamieson.

There's the unobtrusive 19-year-old from Waipukurau that everyday people are accustomed to and then there's the alter ego - the teenager in tights who mutates into a thick-skinned warrior on two wheels the second she slides on to the saddle of her bike.

"I'm kind of shy as a person but on the bike I'm not afraid to defend myself or push people around because that's what you've got to be like," she says.

"The person on the bike is totally different to what I'm usually like."

Jamieson jets off tomorrow to Adelaide for the annual Santos Tour Down Under to ride for her new international European team, Maaslandster Veris CCN, based in the Netherlands.

Apart from the criterium circuit the rest of the nine-day Tour Down Under, starting on Saturday, is unfamiliar to the Cycling CHB Club rider, who made her debut there last year as a New Zealand national women's team member.

Her Maaslandster teammates are Carley McKay, of Australia, Kylie Waterreus, of the Netherlands, Desiree Ehler, of Sweden, Verena Ebhardt, of Austria, and Tsubasa Makise, of Japan.

She's the youngest at 19 and the newest kid on the block in the United Nations-like setup.

"It'll be cool to meet them all for the first time because we all come from different countries in the world."

She went to Europe last year for three months of experience in the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as to establish contacts.

A Dutchman who ran a camp, where she was based with five other foreigners, put his feelers out on her behalf and Maaslandster got back so she signed up.

Last year at the Tour Down Under, Jamieson had a blowout in the first stage, got caught behind a crash in the second stage and another punctured tyre in the third simply took the wind out of her campaign.

"I couldn't even get to finish the tour, which was disappointing," says the teenager who rode for the New Zealand team and who will this time be her rivals, albeit with predominantly different riders, such as track specialists Georgia Williams and Racquel Sheath.

Apart from the criterium, every other day's stage is different from last year but Jamieson knows what to expect and believes her European stint has made her peloton savvy.

The European events tend to take it to a higher plane and demand a more intense mental fortitude.

"They are louder and the fields are huge. They are really aggressive."

She has a more confidence-fuelled tensile presence in the peloton nowadays.

"You've got to be strong and not let anyone push you around because you're racing against professionals there and they don't muck around.

"If they get a whiff of you as someone they could get around as a bunch then you get shoved to the back all the time."

Her first race in the Netherlands was a rude shock because she found riders engaging in verbal stoushes although she couldn't understand the different languages.

"They are pretty feisty but it was happening everywhere I went so I got pretty used to it."

She was a lone ranger among others of a similar ilk and forging an alliance wasn't on the agenda but results were vital for elite teams to pick up a rider.

It didn't help that Jamieson contracted a virus. Antibiotics curtailed her drive.

"It didn't scare me or anything. A lot of people go there and just give up so I'll be able to handle it."

At the National Road Championship in Napier last year, she was the first in the women's under-23 race but wasn't recognised for her feat like the blokes.

"It wasn't an official category so it was pretty much swept under the carpet."

Last weekend Jamieson emulated that feat and got the kudos she deserved in Napier.

"I think women's racing is growing all over the world so they are starting to recognise it."

It was a great build up to the nationals with Jamieson winning the K1 Coromandel race in October, when she outsprinted Kate McIlroy.

She then clinched the Taumarunui Cycle Classic crown, edging out Olympian Jaime Nielsen, who won the national time-trial and was fifth in the road race here.

"They are people I look up to because they are amazing riders so I think winning the under-23s is a good start for me," she said, finishing sixth overall in the open women's category but two places better than last year.

Jamieson has earned the right to wear the silver fern on tours abroad to the delight of Maaslandster.

From Adelaide she'll move to the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Melbourne to join the Kiwi national team of Sharlotte Lucas, Georgia Catterick, Ruby Livingstone, Grace Anderson and Mikayla Harvey.

Following the Great Ocean race, from January 26-29, she'll return home to rest for a few weeks before heading back to the Netherlands on February 21 to rejoin the Maaslandster stable for eight months in the hope of wooing bigger teams.

Jamieson is indebted to coach Dylan Stewart, of Napier, for a great regime and The Hub Cycling Centre for keeping her bike in top shape.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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