Canberra cyclists Kimberley Wells and Gracie Elvin. Photo: Melissa Adams
Few would have guessed that Gracie Elvin and Kimberley Wells were on the verge of being crowned national champions when the year began.
Elvin is a support rider with Orica-AIS, and Wells a medical doctor who only picked up a contract for the national road series last year.
And while their paths to the green and gold jerseys were very different, they're set to cross more often, with Wells poised to put her medical career on hold to sign a contract with an international team by the end of the week.
But Elvin could have used Dr Wells in the bunch a few years ago.
Wells, who won the criterium title last weekend, hadn't even contemplated taking cycling seriously in 2009 when Elvin, crowned Australian road cycling champion, ''mangled'' her hand in a bike accident.
Elvin was taken by ambulance to Goulburn in a neck brace, had to have the tip of her index finger reattached, her middle finger was badly broken and the tendon completely severed in her pinky.
Making the lacerations worse, funding was then completely cut to Elvin's then-chosen discipline of mountain biking.
''I put my hand through my front wheel at 50 kilometres an hour,'' Elvin recalled of the accident between Canberra and Goulburn.
''That [accident] took me three months off the bike, and that was at the exact same time … they cut the program, so it was a bit of a bad couple of weeks - the mountain biking became a non-funded sport all the way down to state level.
''But I liked mountain biking so I continued to do it self-funded for a couple of years.''
The 24-year-old only switched back to road cycling in 2011 when she received an AIS scholarship, leading to her first national championship.
Wells' cycling career has a shorter history with the 27-year-old doctor's criterium title with Specialized Securitor coming faster than she could ever have predicted.
It kick-started what is bound to be a busy year, with teams from the US and Europe offering her rides within 48 hours of her win. ''I thought it would be the other way around, that I would go chasing people and begging them to let me on their team,'' Wells said. It's a far cry from her start, scraping together enough cash to buy a second-hand road bike as a medical student in Townsville.
A birthday present from her brothers of a cycling club membership in Townsville ''planted the seed'' of her competitive future, but she only got serious after moving to Canberra two years ago, committing to cycling with just locum work on the side.
''It took me a fair while to be in the right sort of place and have the right people around me to take it a bit further,'' she said.
Elvin still has a big support crew when she returns home too.
''I still ride with my dad to this day - every weekend if I can, and my sister's just started riding and mum rides, so the whole family's into it.''
The fact Canberra riders finished with seven medals at the nationals came as no surprise to Elvin, who also finished third behind Wells in the criterium. ''I get to train with so many great riders in Canberra and you get to see first-hand how hard they work,'' she said.
''To see them get those rewards in the end, it just makes you really proud to be part of that community.''