What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ Interviews: Oenone Wood In Tuscany

A couple of weeks back, Pez got a few minutes with one of the top women’s racers on the planet. Oenone Wood rocketed to the top with a series of great performances in the toughest races in Europe – winning back-to-back World Cups in 2004 and 2005. Although she couldn’t get the hat-trick in a tough 2006, next year brings a new team and a new resolve to grab even more success.

Oenone was riding through Tuscany as a special guest of Vйlo Classic Tours and took a few minutes out of her evening to speak to us about motivation, why women’s racing is easily as telegenic as the men and just which Aussie women have the best taste in books…

Yup – it’s Tuscany – may you treat yourself to a great holiday there.

In Tuscany With Vйlo Classic Tours
Pez: Hey, Oenone! How are Pete and Lisa treating you over there?

Oenone Wood: Great, we’re being very well looked after! We’ve done some pretty hilly days here, usually about 100kms in total. We ride through beautiful little villages and stop for lunch … which is always fantastically prepared.

The scenery here … you can’t go wrong. It’s really nice, and the roads are challenging without being too much.

Pez: The routes are always good with Vйlo Classic Tours. Is the food still up to standard?

Oenone Wood: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. Almost indescribably good, in fact! We’ve been eating a lot of foods that are typical for the region. Lots of great soups, beans, pasta dishes, nice meats. I definitely don’t eat like this everyday.

It’s not all leisure riding with Vйlo Classic as Oenone Wood gives the guests tips on sprinting just before lunch.

Pez: What’s been the standout?

Oenone Wood: Wild boar! I haven’t eaten tonight yet, but I’m expecting that Pete has laid on something elaborate. We’ll be having a big group dinner, which is great because it gives you a chance to mingle with the folks on the trip.

Pez: So you’ll be back next year?

Oenone Wood: Well, the priority is racing obviously, but if it fits into my schedule, and everything works out OK, then I’d love to be back. I’ve really enjoyed this trip, and it’s kind of set me up for a rest period at home before I build up for 2007.

Vйlo Classic knows a great place to stay when they see it.

2006 RACING – A Look Back
Pez: So, 2006 wasn’t quite the win-fest of the last couple of years. Are you happy with your year?

Oenone Wood: Yeah, I got some good results (a Commonwealth Games TT gold medal, the Sparkassen Giro Bochum, and stage wins in the Giro Donne and Tour de l’Aude to name a few!), but it was a hard year in terms of motivation.

We had the Commonwealth Games as a peak in March and it’s hard to keep focussed after such an early target in your season. Plus, us Aussies had a hard time after the accident last year, which is still affecting us. (Ed: The Australian cycling community was shattered after the devastating road accident that claimed the life of national team racer Amy Gillett on 18 July 2005 and seriously injured several team-mates).

Pez: The rewards in the women’s scene aren’t as great as for your male counterparts …

Oenone Wood: .. so that makes it a little harder to earn a living. I know there is a percentage of girls who have to look for other sources of income during the off-season, whether that’s personal sponsors or different jobs. It’s not easy but most of the girls are racing because they love to.

It’s not every day you Tuscan cycling holiday includes riding and hangin’ with a top pro like Australia’s Oenone Wood…

Pez: The 2006 season is over for you – when do you head back to Australia?

Oenone Wood: Well, once I finish here in Tuscany, I fly home. It’ll be a couple of weeks off the bike, then start slowly. I do cross-training, so I go swimming, running, roller-blading …

Pez: Isn’t that a bit dangerous?

Oenone Wood: Well, the first time I saw people doing it at home it looked really easy. When I tried it I wasn’t as elegant but it’s definitely a good workout!

Pez: What are the targets for 2007?

Oenone Wood: Well, one-day races are definitely my strength, but it depends on team priorities, and what the team needs from me. I’m looking at the Classics and single-day races, and also as a sprinter for stage wins in the big tours.

But in the tours, I may have a support role for others, too. You know, it’s nice being a leader, but sometimes it is just as special to work for someone else and play a part in a win – I was able to do that for Regina Schleicher this year a couple of times.

One of Oenone’s 2006 hilights was this win at the Spaarkassen Giro.

Pez: Your 2007 season will be starting at home though?

Oenone Wood: Yes, but the problem for all the Australian men and women, and for the New Zealanders as well, is that the Nationals titles are just too early in the year. They’d be better in mid-February than January. Once those races, the domestic ones and the Geelong World Cup are out of the way I’ll be back to Europe.

Pez: And back to Nurnberger?

Oenone Wood: Nope ………….. (Long silence) …. I’m changing teams, but I’m leaving the announcement to the new team.
[Ed: Oct 23 – Now that it’s official – Big congratulations to Oenone who is part of the magenta revolution. She’ll be riding for the Women’s T-Mobile squad next year.]

Pez: Who do you see as your big rivals?

Oenone Wood: Nicole Cooke is an obvious one. She’s very strong. Everyone on the Buitenpoort-Flexpoint team – an incredibly powerful line-up. And even although she’s a rival, I really hope to see Miriam Melchers back in 2007. She’s a great athlete and hopefully she’ll recover from the bad crash she had a little while ago.

One very important part of a trip with Vйlo Classic is the food…

Pez: And of course, the new star, Marianne Vos.

Oenone Wood: Well, we knew she was a big emerging talent when she won the Cross-country World title, but at the (Road) Worlds she put in an incredible performance. Next year is a big year for her because everyone will be watching her.

Pez: Women’s racing is ideally suited for more coverage because there always seems to be so much going on. The Worlds road race was fantastic…

Oenone Wood: You know, everyone that speaks to me about it says the same thing, that it was really exciting. There was action from the flag dropping, lots of people trying to break away. The speed was quick – I know the distances are shorter but the average speed for over 3 hours was almost as fast as the U-23 men.

Even better, we got the afternoon slot on the Saturday instead of the morning, so more people watched.

Pez: It was way better than sleeping through hours of a long flat stage in the Vuelta …

Oenone Wood: I know what you mean! I go out training in the mornings and once I’ve done my ride I have lunch then put the last couple of hours of the men’s racing on.

Pez: You mentioned the Aussie community earlier … it seems really tight.

Oenone Wood: Yeah, it’s pretty close, a good network of people. Everyone’s got the same ambitions and drive, so we understand each other and support each other.

The way the girls pulled for me at the Worlds in Salzburg …. I was just … awed with the effort they put in.

Pez: Some of them are still putting in the effort. Olivia Gollan’s racing in El Salvador!

Oenone Wood: I know! She’s trying to tick off every race on the calendar We were joking with her that either she wanted the longest season ever or she wanted to start preparing for 2007 really early!

Pez: What’s your favourite race on the calendar?

Oenone Wood: I really loved the Amstel Gold, but it’s not on the calendar anymore. The Fleche Wallone is a great race. All the World Cups – the Tour of Flanders can be a real struggle but it’s an amazing race to be part of.

Pez: And personally, how do you see your career heading? You’ve achieved a lot but you’re still young.

Oenone Wood: Well, I’ll definitely be here until the end of 2008 after the Beijing Olympics, then I’ll re-evaluate and see how I’m feeling. I didn’t start racing until quite late so …..

Pez: When did you start?

Oenone Wood: I started in riding in 2001, then did my first year in Europe in 2002. I felt a little out of my depth because I had the fitness, but not the bike handling skills. So I crashed … a lot … in my first year.

So I went home and decided to fix it. I got a lot of coaching and did a lot riding in car parks to improve my skills then went back in 2003, and things got better in my second year.

Pez: So what do you warm up to on the iPod?

Oenone Wood: Metallica is a good one for warming up, especially for a time trial, but I also listen to things like Daft Punk for that, too. Otherwise, I like stuff like James Blunt.

Pez: How about reading, because I guess you spend a lot of time in hotels, airports …

Oenone Wood: Well, the Aussies have a kind of book club I guess. Depending on where you are it can be really hard to find English-language books so we sort of swap books around amongst ourselves. I prefer fiction, especially the classics.

Pez: Who’s got the best taste?
Oenone Wood: Olivia (Gollan) has always got something good, and you can always rely on Nat (Natalie Bates), too…

And with that we wound things up, wishing Oenone a happy off-season and a successful 2007 with her new team.

To keep up-to-date with Oenone’s progress check out her website: www.oenonewood.com

For some great trips to Italy and Europe, check out Vйlo Classic Tours website at:
www.VeloClassic.com or call 212.779.9599 2006 color brochure and itineraries are available.

• And check out more great travel ideas in the PEZ Travel & Tours section.

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