AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step’s Kiwi rider Ally Wollaston has had an up-and-down start to the 2023 season. She won the opener, the non-UCI level Schwalbe Classic crit that kicked off the Women’s Tour Down under racing, albeit not part of that actual stage race itself. With a sprint stage coming up the following day, she wasn’t able to quite get to the front of the racing as Daria Pikulik won the stage. Part of that is down to racing for the New Zealand national team and having to freelance the sprints against riders with full lead-outs. Wollaston finished 6th on that Stage 1 of the Women’s Tour Down Under.
“Day one of the Tour Down Under was a bit disappointing to be honest. I felt really strong but struggled with confidence in the bunch. After so long without road racing it was definitely a shock to be back! There were a few critical points in the race where I found myself poorly positioned, evidently burning a few too many matches early on in the race. Despite this I was still glad to somewhat be involved in the finishing sprint. To end up in the young rider’s jersey on day one was an awesome bonus!”Ally Wollaston
It was pretty much the only sprinting opportunity in the entire race as rolling stages followed for the next 2 days. Only a few sprinters made it with the front group on Stage 2 and Stage 3 was a whole other kettle of fish contested by GC riders. One of those was Ally’s teammate Ella Wyllie. She will be racing for Lifeplus-Wahoo in 2023 but at the Women’s Tour Down Under she was part of the New Zealand national team.
“That second stage was much better in terms of my confidence and race positioning. I raced to keep the jersey but unfortunately just missed the move over the summit of Mount Lofty. It was a good training day nonetheless!The final day was my favorite day. It was a really fun experience taking on a domestique role to help my teammate Ella Wyllie race for the young rider’s jersey. I spent the day bringing her to the front and ensuring she was in a good position going into Corkscrew climb. Ella finished second overall in the U23 category so it was a really successful day.”Ally Wollaston
The next races planned for the New Zealand rider are going to be largely track based for now. She is one of a number of riders who will be tackling plenty of track races as qualification for the 2024 Olympics in Paris ramps up. After the NZ national championships, for which Wollaston is surely a favourite, she will race track in Jakarta and Cairo before heading back to Europe. We should expect to see her around the tail-end of the spring classics season.
“The national championships are on a new course this year which I haven’t ridden on yet. By the looks of the course on paper, it looks like it will suit a punchy rider. There are no really long climbs, but there is certainly enough tough terrain for a sprinter to struggle.
After road nationals, it’s back to the boards with the first two Nations Cups on the track in Jakarta (23-26 February) and Cairo (14-17 March), That will be a fun adventure. We will be doing a team pursuit with New Zealand and I hope to ride the omnium in Jakarta and the madison race in Cairo. These Nations Cups are crucial to get Olympic qualification points so that’s why there is a big focus on track racing in my early season.
I took away a lot of confidence from the first races of the season going into the remainder of 2023. It was also a reminder for me of how much I love racing and how amazing this sport really is! I’m very excited to join my teammates in Europe in a few months and get stuck into racing.“Ally Wollaston