Flashback: 1999 – Tracey Gaudry profile

The recent reshuffle of positions at the UCI has seen Oceania’s representative at cycling’s governing body, Tracey Gaudry, appointed as vice-president along with two others. This was part of the changes that took place as a result of the 24/18 vote from delegates that saw Brian Cookson succeed Pat McQuaid as UCI president. In the early years of RIDE Cycling Review, Gaudry would become a regular contributor to the magazine; before that, however, she was profiled by our dear departed mate Mark Carter who was an esteemed member of the Canberra Cycling Club.

This ‘flashback’ is from September 1999, a year out from the Sydney Olympics and not long after Gaudry’s comeback to competitive cycling after a long chemotherapy treatment after being diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia at the age of 20. The profile by Carter offers some insight many may not know about the UCI vice-president and CEO of the Amy Gillett Foundation. This story was originally published in RIDE #06

 

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Gaudry: the future UCI vice-president

 

By Mark Carter (RIDE Cycling Review #06, September 1999)

 

Tracey Gaudry has emerged as one of the ‘big hitters’ in this year’s season with an array of impressive performances around the globe, the crescendo being victory in the Canadian World Cup this August (1999).

At the start of the year (1999), Tracey made Chambery in the French Alpes her home away from home. The rest of her French Ebly team live nearby and train under the watchful eyes of the curious Grand Mistress of women’s cycling, Jeannie Longo.

As with many athletes in the grueling sport of cycling Tracey’s ride to the top has not been a prodigious rise. Tracey’s career has been a combination of toil and domestique duties while waiting in the shadows for an opportunity to shine.

In December 1989, at only 20, Tracey was diagnosed with Acute Lymphatic Leukemia. Life as an independent student, undertaking a double degree course while maintaining two part-time jobs and a hectic social life abruptly and devastatingly ground to a halt. The battle for life which followed included long periods of hospitalisation, several operations and continuous chemotherapy. Side effects included complete hair loss, continual nausea, headaches, hemophilia and immune deficiency. Despite little respite from this debilitating early-life sentence, Tracey completed her studies and embarked on an academic career.

Having remained in complete remission after more than two years of ‘chemo’, she worked concurrently as a lecturer in statistics, TV ‘Open Learning coordinator’ and medical researcher. All this while studying for a Masters degree.

The Great Queensland Bike Ride in 1992 was the catalyst for the next most challenging pursuit Tracey would undertake – her rise to elite international road cycling.

Within two years Tracey was state champion, had achieved top national status, represented Australia at the world championships and was the first female in history to complete the 274km Melbourne-Warrnambool Classic. The reward was a full-time residential scholarship with the Australian Institute of Sport in 1995.

In 1995 Tracey won the mountainous Canberra Milk Race – also 6th in 1994 – followed by a gold medal in the Australian time trial championship later in the year. The next year she stepped on top of the podium, ahead of Kathy Watt and Anna Wilson in the 1996 White Pages tour, in the NSW Southern Highlands before winning the AIS Classic time trial. These performances helped to cement a place in the Australian team to compete at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic road race where she finished a creditable 32nd after crashing in the treacherous weather conditions. After Atlanta Tracey retired to spend time with her new husband, Tony, and reflect on her career prospects outside cycling.

 

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New Beginnings

In November 1997 Tracey competed in the Tour de Femme – a mass participation race held in Canberra which attracts around 500 women. She was out sprinted through the final corner by upcoming junior rider Alison Wright who went on to win.

It was this race which inspired her comeback. Through the summer of 1997-’98, Tracey committed herself to representing Australia again. Almost instantly Tracey found her legs. Australian Coach, James Victor, selected her in March 1998 as a member of the national team to tour Europe. Her selection was vindicated in April after winning the Canberra Tour for the second time (again ahead of Watt and Wilson).

The AIS team departed for Europe in June and would be the only national team competing amongst professional trade teams. The season commenced as a learning experience – racing against well-drilled European outfits who were more experienced in the operation and tactics of professional races.

The pairing of Tracey Gaudry and Anna Wilson became a familiar sight over that summer. Tracey became Anna’s loyal lead-out rider in the sprints. Anna ended up in the Giro d’Italia sprinter’s jersey thanks largely to Tracey’s lead-outs.

After the ’98 season four of the Australian girls were offered pro contracts. Victor’s national team suffered an exodus – similar to Heiko Salzwedel’s men’s squad – due to more lucrative offers. Tracey and Juanita Feldhahn , signed with the French Ebly team, Anna Wilson joined Saturn in America, and Liz Tadich moved to the Italian Mazza squad.

At the start of 1999, Tracey was ranked 85th in the world. After her first UCI race of the year, the category-one Tour de Snowy, Tracey jumped to 26th! Tracey’s gritty solo performance on the mountainous fifth stage epitomised her determination and ability. She outclassed the world’s best riders. Breaking clear just before the second of seven mountain climbs on the 112km stage from Jindabyne to Thredbo via Charlotte Pass, she went on to win on her own by over a minute to her nearest rivals.

The unthinkable almost happened the next day… All Tracey had to do was negotiate a 60km morning stage to Cooma, followed by an afternoon criterium. The race was obliterated by all the hitters and after 60km only a dozen remained in the front bunch. Thanks to a tremendous team effort Tracey maintained her leader’s jersey and later cruised through the afternoon criterium, to overall victory.

Three weeks later Tracey was crowned the new Queen of Australian cycling after beating Kathy Watt in a two-up sprint to take the Australian championship on the Gold Coast.

 

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European Living

Three weeks later Tracey was back in Europe racing the ‘jewel of the classics’, La Flèche Wallonne, with her new Ebly team. The women’s version of the famed men’s mid-week climber’s Classic, covered just under 100km including two ascents of the awesome Mur de Huy, a 1.3km 19 per cent climb in the Belgian Ardennes. After fighting through hail, snow and gale force winds, only days after departing a hot Australian summer, Tracey finished 51st, 3:33 behind former World Cup winner Hanka Kupfernagel.

The next week it was down to the South West of France, for la Haute Garonne stage race. Tracey was steadily rebuilding form and rapidly learning about the treacherous road conditions, through the fickle European Spring. Despite suffering a crash on the opening day Tracey managed to finish third in the stage before claiming third on the final GC.

The next major rendezvous would be the Tour de l’Aude, in a similar region to La Haute Garonne – near Andorra and the Spanish border. Tracey rode a spectacular tour, claiming victory in stage seven from Pradelles Cabardes to Mazamet. With 400 metres to race Tracey attacked an elite group and won with enough time to zip the jersey and gesticulate a victory salute. She eventually finished 4th overall in what is widely regarded as one of the most mountainous races on the women’s calendar.

The next big-race show was a World Cup in Montreal. After an epic adventure of non-existent travel bookings and lack of sleep Tracey landed in Montreal albeit at the wrong airport… After three hours of waiting Tracey was finally collected by the team mechanic, at the same time she learnt of the fact that the UCI would not allow her to compete outside of her regular Ebly team, with her ‘one-off’ adopted team, Timex.

The UCI officials eventually assigned Tracey to a composite team alongside Kathy Watt. But it was her old AIS team-mate, Anna Wilson and several others including hometown favourite Lyne Bessette, that Gaudry found herself in a break with on the penultimate lap of the 8.3km course. By the time they’d reached the climb for the final ascent of the day their gap was over a minute. With 500m to go Bessette dropped back and Tracey attacked. Bessette soon cracked, leaving Tracey the most satisfying, yet painful 250 metres of cycling in her career to claim the victory.

Her schedule remained hectic – leaving Canada to rejoin Jeannie Longo’s winning Ebly squad in the Hewlett Packard Womens’ Laser Jet Challenge – before returning home to Australia for three weeks at the end of June.

In August (1999) Tracey struggled her way through La Grande Boucle (Tour de Feminin), before regaining form in the Trophee d’Or later in August.

While wearing the yellow jersey, Tracey’s team mate, Longo, attacked her in pursuit of Iolanta Polikeviciute, who was only six seconds behind on GC. In an abysmal display of selfishness and preposterous team tactics Longo broke the tempo of the five rider chase group, three of whom were from team Ebly to leave her yellow jersey stranded after Tracey had towed the group for the majority of the chase. The callousness of the move was all the more pointed, when you consider that Tracey had so faithfully defended Longo’s yellow jersey eight weeks prior in the HPWL Challenge.

The move almost ended up costing Tracey the race, however in an incredible display of gutsy time trialling in the penultimate stage, Tracey beat the Lithuanian, Polikeviciute by 47 seconds over 11.9km, to win by three seconds!

After such an epic year, look for Tracey in the World Championships in Verona, in October, where she’ll be backed by a powerful Australian team, currently ranked number-three in the world. Tracey’s future looks bright as she aspires for Olympic glory in the road race in 12 months time.

– By Mark Carter

 


 

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RIDE Media publishes both the Official Tour de France Guide (Australian Edition) as well as RIDE Cycling Review, a quarterly magazine all about cycling.

RIDE Cycling Review is now available in a digital format via Zinio.

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Author: rob@ride

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