2018 has been stellar to date for Sydney's Kaarle McCulloch with dual Commonwealth Games gold, plus silver and bronze, a thirteenth national title, and a host of new personal best times across the boards.
On the eve of her departure to July's Japan Track Cup, McCulloch chatted with us about her memorable week at the Games, hitting the mountain bike trails, partnering with Steph Morton and the fire that burns for a second Olympic Games appearance.
"I guess the thing that stands out the most that most people never realise is how nervous I was ALL day."
GOLD COAST GOLD: What a week for at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games with four podiums from four events including individual & team gold!
I’ve dreamt my entire career to stand on top of the podium on my own at an event like the Commonwealth Games. I love the team sprint and it holds something very special to me, but to win the time trial and to be able to say I did that all on my own was very special.
The thing that stands out the most that most people never realise is how nervous I was ALL day. I really sincerely believe that if you’re not nervous you can’t do exceptional things and I was able to turn all those nerves into something really special.
I had already raced the event in my mind so many times before without outcome and so the ride itself was one of those ‘dream moments’ that you don’t get very often in your career. I can really only say I have had that kind of moment three or so times my career and they have mostly all come at critical times like in 2009 when Anna and I won our first World Title together.
When I crossed the line and saw 33.5, I was so happy because my goal was to ride 33.5. Also, when I saw Steph rode 33.6 I was so happy for her because that was a huge PB for her but I also knew that if I nailed it that I was capable of winning.
Some of the memorable moments of that night were when Steph came to congratulate me, I felt an honest and genuine connection with her in that moment and I think it speaks loads about our camaraderie. I was also able to go and hug my family who has known my aspirations and I really felt like they won that night.
"It has been a hard slog since getting back into it, as all offseason training is especially in the cold, but its the necessary evil of what we do, you have to hurt if you want to win."
VETERAN MOVE: When taking a post-Games break means hopping on a mountain bike!
I have learnt that it is so important to take a proper break after big events. As a team, we were allowed two weeks off at Gold Coast 2018- which included the second week in the Games Village after our racing finished and isn’t much of a break!
So when we were told to get back into some easy work two weeks after, I wasn’t quite ready and instead I let myself be inspired to get back on again. This didn’t take long though because…I bought a mountain bike! I have since been thoroughly enjoying being truly out with nature and just doing something so different.
I was able to spend time with my family and my boyfriend and I felt like my batteries were recharged when I did go back to Adelaide four weeks after the games. Since then its been a hard slog as all offseason training is, especially in the cold but its the necessary evil of what we do, you have to hurt if you want to win.
"I have been able to watch Steph grow every year and that makes me glad she is on my team and no one else’s!"
NEW PARTNERSHIP: McCulloch, a three-time team sprint world champion & 2012 Olympic bronze medallist, is firing with new partner Steph Morton.
I am really so excited for the Team Sprint! Steph and I have already been a force to be reckoned with but in all honesty, we haven’t really spent that much time working together. So now that I have moved to Adelaide I feel like we can go a step further in our partnership.
I am also just so proud of Steph. When she first came into this program in 2013, she was so raw and didn’t realise her talent. But I see her grow every year and she is starting to believe in her potential and I guess that makes me glad she is on my team and no one else’s!
But I think for myself also I just see improvement every day and I am glad I got through the rough times I went through because I feel like I am on the other side now and really pushing that last bit up to the summit of Mount Everest.
"It is a scary prospect of what it will take to win, but then you see the plan and the steps to get there you start to realise that it is very possible."
NO STONE UNTURNED: McCulloch knows what it will take to get to Tokyo 2020.
Tokyo is my big goal. The Commonwealth Games gave me the realisation that the sky is the limit. I feel such potential and energy, like when I was preparing for the London Olympics when I super focused and really balanced in all aspects of my life.
I also have a plan now through to Tokyo as set by my support team down in Adelaide, and when you can see your plan it is a scary prospect of what it will take to win, but then you see there are steps to get there, you start to realise that it is very possible.
I know what it takes to win, I know what it feels like to step out on to an Olympic Velodrome and I have been the best in the world.
So for me really it is about enjoying the next 766 days, working hard, believing in my plan and my team and building on the momentum that Steph and I have and putting that into a result on race day.
Kaarle will race the Japan Cup in July before heading back to Australia for Adelaide’s Oceania Championship in October and the 2018/19 World Cup season.
Photos © Tim Bardsley-Smith / Casey Gibson