Maeve Plouffe is excited to take on the Santos Festival of Cycling, just her second edition of the Women’s Tour Down Under, though it will be run as an National Road Series event this year rather than its normal UCI classification.
Plouffe is a member of the Australian Cycling Team and is the youngest member of what is an established roster of experienced track endurance riders vying for selection in the team pursuit squad.
A young Plouffe mixed both track and road racing, and while her focus is firmly on the track leading into the Olympics, the NRS racing at the Festival of Cycling offers the 21-year-old a chance to race in front of friends and family in her native Adelaide.
“It is such an honour to be able to race in front of my family and friends and is definitely an opportunity that doesn’t come very often,” said Plouffe. “It’s one that I actually didn’t see happening when the realities of COVID-19 started happening because our race calendar became very limited.
“We don’t often get the chance to race in Adelaide so the Tour Down Under and the Santos Festival of Cycling is a huge deal…it really brings cycling to all of South Australia.”
2021 will be a first for the women’s peloton, the first time the course takes in the summit finish on Willunga Hill. Plouffe actually has a racing history with the climb, though she doesn’t have the most glowing memories of the experience as a youngster.
“The first race I ever entered was at age 13, the Willunga Hill Time Trial,” said Plouffe. “I knew nothing about it, and I rode it with sneakers, I didn’t have clip-in shoes and I thought ‘3km, I can do that’!”
“I bolted up this hill so fast for the first 100m and then I turned the corner and realised that it went straight up. I think it took me half an hour to finish it, I came dead last, I was crying…I did the whole thing in a big gear, I didn’t know what to do! I nearly quit cycling because of Willunga! It will be good to go out and conquer it.”
Plouffe made her world championships debut last year and was named for the 2020 Tokyo Olmpics squad, but now will need to make the 2021 squad as well. There’s precious little competition between now and the Olympics on the track, with the Santos Festival of Cycling set to feature both road and track, with the Adelaide Track League kicking off the Festival on January 19.
“Our team is looking really, really, good,” said Plouffe of the track squad. “We’ve been training super hard and our skills are getting dialed-down, so the Festival of Cycling is a great opportunity for us to build the road kilometres before we go into really track specific work.
“It’s really valuable to do the long races and get the road racing experience because it does transfer quite well. This is the perfect timing for these sorts of events and hopefully that will show on the track in a few months’ time.”