Amber Halliday. Those of you who are into cycling may have charted Amber's phenomenal rise through the ranks of elite cycling over the past year and a bit - first bike race in January 2009, first UCI international tour win in February 2009. Amber is no stranger to sporting success, having been a triple world champion and dual Olympian in lightweight rowing before realising that pedalling bikes in the rain for 500km+ per week was far more fun than sitting in a boat and avoiding carbs. So here it is, Lisa's Mum's WORLD EXCLUSIVE interview with Amber (eat my shorts Phil Liggett):
Amber Halliday, thanks for joining ridehappy today. The last time we saw you was after stage 2 of the Tour of New Zealand in February, when you were doing a first-hand audit of NZ's paramedic and emergency facilities. Can you talk us through your findings? [For the benefit of readers not in the know - Amber crashed out of the Tour of New Zealand in Feb 2010 in spectacular style, sustaining a dislocated shoulder, broked humerus and generally making a mess of herself.]
They seemed to be all in order - I thought I'd take it upon myself to check them out for other riders in the case they needed them for the remainder of the tour. The best bit was the happy gas.
Your rise through the ranks of elite women's cycling has been unprecedented. Your first race was the 2009 national time trial championships, in which you came 4th after only 2 months of specific training. You then won your first international tour 6 weeks later, and joined the Australian national team for a season of racing in Europe. In January 2010 you won the national time trial championship against a star-studded field. All this only 14 months after taking up the sport. How do you sleep at night, making the rest of us look so bad?
The pressure that I brought on myself by doing reasonably well reasonably quickly means I don't sleep at night. I stay up, huddled in a corner, rocking to-and-fro chanting 'must win next race, must win next race.'
How does cycling compare to rowing? You've won 3 world titles on the water as a lightweight rower, do you find the challenge of facing forwards during a race difficult to get used to?
Facing forwards is awesome but the best thing about going backwards in the rowing boat is that when you're in front you can just sit out there and enjoy it. Maybe even play a little cat and mouse. The other main difference is cycling is like a fashion parade. Its all about the gear and how much carbon is in it and your clothes, and how you wear them - i.e. sock height. Rowers are dags who believe it is the athlete that will make the boat go fast. I love and miss that.
What are your plans for 2010 and beyond?
To get back on the bike after 7 weeks of my healing holiday and go race some TT's with my national stripes OS. I'll be in Geelong for the World Champs too - as a spectator and journalist if nothing else!
Is it true that your partner, Mello Bouwmeester, founded his world-class wheel building company purely so he could have an excuse to talk to you?
I like to believe it happened that way (even though he hatched his wheel business idea years before he met me). Such a sweetie - I mean, he could have just talked to me about the weather.
You are in the minority of elite female cyclists who actually hold down a real job as well as training 500km+ per week. How do you maintain the balance... and what have you had to sacrifice?
Some people would say I sacrifice journalistic quality and integrity but I beg to differ. By spending most of my day training, instead of in the office, I believe I am connecting with the athletes - my subjects - much better than those other journalists who only do research, networking, attend press conferences, functions, training etc.
You've been a SASI (South Australian Institute of Sport) scholarship holder for a few years now, first in rowing and now in road cycling. Did SASI try to talk you into any other sports? I hear their roller derby team is on the lookout for new talent.
If it involves hand-eye-ball coordination, I'm out. Dad did not possess those genes. He just has the genes which make you really good at sports that last a long time, hurt a lot and are not profitable. Thanks dad.
Do you have any role models or mottos that you live by?
Learn to laugh at yourself and you'll be constantly amused.
The SASI women's road cycling crew is a formidable force. I've noticed that there is an unusually high proportion of blonde women in the team - is it true that blonde chicks ride faster?
Nice 'n Easy #105 is worth about 10kmph I believe.
What advice can you give to cycling newbies that you wish you had been given when you first started out?
Ride the peleton like you're the rudest most aggressive taxi driver in New York and wear long socks.
Last question - as a media-savvy journalist and celebrity TDU commentator yourself, can you give me any tips on how I can get a gig with the SBS commentary team? Phil won't return my calls.
Use initiative - fly to Le Tour and show up at the broadcast point every day with your sweetest smile. Try to wear your least stalker-ish outfit. And if still no love, let the heckling begin.
Thanks Amber - Lisa's Mum hereby awards you the yellow cardigan for being the most over-achieving cyclist in the peleton. (It comes with a matching tea cosy) For those of you who want to keep in touch with Amber's adventures, get onto http://twitter.com/amberhalliday - heckle her enough and you'll go into the running to win a tea cosy for yourself.