To grow up on a farm [in north-western Tasmania] was a nice experience. We had a few horses, and I enjoyed riding motorbikes and things like that. I did Little Athletics and I represented Tasmania in cross-country running. I played a bit of basketball and then I started with triathlons, but I didn’t like swimming. I was really bad at it, but I was really good at the run and the bike ride, and I think that’s when I decided I wanted to try cycling, when I was 12.
Then my sister started riding and she used to ride with me until she had quite a bad crash [in the 2010 Tour of Geelong] that ended her career. She broke her back and wrist and collarbone. She was 18 and I was 17 at the time. I was away at a Junior World Championships in Italy and I’d just won three world titles and Mum and Dad were there supporting me. Then they got a call to say Sarah had broken her back.
It was definitely an emotional roller-coaster, going from such a high to such a low. At the end of the day family means much more to me than anything in the world, so when something like that happens you forget about what you’ve done and you’re more focused on helping your sister out and getting her better. Sarah spent a long time in a Melbourne hospital before she could fly home to Tassie. I just wanted to get back and spend time with her and help her with her recovery.
Afterwards I didn’t think, “I can’t get back on the bike because my sister had a crash.” If you were to always think “What if this?” and “What if that?” you would never make it in the sport.
Comm Games this year was a definite career highlight – to have a home crowd and my mum and my sister there when I won, and to go up and see them on the side of the track, is something that meant a lot to me. I won one gold medal in the team pursuit and the other in the scratch race.
Sport has always been my life. I was the type of kid who, whatever I played, I was like, “One day I want to go to the Olympics in this sport.” I think at London, because it had always been my dream to make the Olympics, I was really happy for myself and I kind of relaxed a little bit and didn’t get the result I wanted. With Rio it was, “I don’t just want to make the Olympics, I want to win a gold.” Then unfortunately we had our crash [in team pursuit training] just a couple of days before we raced, which knocked us around a bit.
We got fifth. It’s good, but you put so much training in and you sacrifice so much in life, when you go to the Olympics you don’t go for a fifth place, you go there to win a gold medal. I think to be really successful you’ve always got to aim high. The previous year we’d won the team pursuit at the World Championships and we’d broken the world record. I’ve got quite a few medals at a world level but I wouldn’t mind for more of them to be gold.
I live in Antwerp in Belgium. That’s definitely not something I would have ever imagined growing up in West Pine. But I guess every place is a small place when you compare it to the whole world. The people we meet, the things we do and the places it takes us… It’s really cool to experience so much of the world at a young age and to know what it has to offer. It’s nice to be able to have a home now where I can live out of my cupboard and not out of a suitcase.
I spend most of my life in Lycra so I really enjoy actually getting out of sports clothes and putting on a nice dress. I don’t get that many opportunities to dress in smart clothes, so when I do I like to make the most of it.
Sometimes the [Australian cycling] uniform might not be the most flattering but I really love putting on the green and gold. You’re not just putting on a team’s colours, you’re representing your country and your family and your aunts and uncles, and that makes it special. It always means a lot when you put those green and gold colours on.
I’ve now been cycling for a long, long time. My [Belgian] partner and I are getting married in October, so I think we’ll want to settle down and create a family of our own. But for now it’s about putting our dreams and what we want to achieve in time line order. The Tokyo  Olympics are my focus now and something I really want to do my best at. But I’m also really looking forward to the time when I can start a family and enjoy the other things life has to offer.
This week’s highlights…
• Netball: West Coast Fever v Sunshine Coast Lightning
Saturday, 7pm (AWST), HBF Stadium, Perth
• AFL: Melbourne Demons v Fremantle Dockers
Saturday, 7.10pm (ACST), TIO Stadium, Darwin
• Cycling: Tour de France – until July 29
Giro Rosa – until July 15
• Soccer: FIFA World Cup, quarter-finals – England v Sweden
Sunday, 12.01am (AEST), Samara Arena, Russia
• Motorsport: British F1 Grand Prix
Sunday, 11.10pm (AEST), Silverstone, England
• NRL: State of Origin, game 3 – New South Wales v Queensland
Wednesday, 8pm (AEST), Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on July 7, 2018 as "Scratch work".
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