'The Comeback Kid'. It’s something announcers at the North Star Grand Prix repeated over and over as Australia’s Lizzie Williams attacked the brutal Chilkoot Hill in the Stillwater criterium and took off, soloing to her first international victory since coming back from a 10-year hiatus.
Williams finished that race ahead of UnitedHealthcare’s Alison Powers and Specialized Lululemon’s Carmen Small, giving Vanderkitten a second stage win in a row. Williams ended fourth in the GC and Vanderkitten took fifth in the team GC.
"We're ecstatic," Williams said. "Our team manager couldn't have asked for a better ending."
And Williams personally couldn't have dreamt up a better year.
It was just eight months ago that Williams decided to give bike racing another go, following a 10-year break from the sport. Williams had been an accomplished junior track and road racers but hung up her bike to finish her studies and become a high school teacher.
But then, almost a decade later, she got reacquainted with competitive cycling while training for a half ironman and riding in Amy’s Gran Fondo last September. Her hunger for competition resurfaced and she decided to withdraw from the ironman and prepare for the criterium national championships instead -- an event and title she had won back in 2003 when she was only 19.
While she did not win, the event spiraled into one heck of a comeback year, as she's been winning various races in her native Australia and riding with Vanderkitten in the North America.
As a Vanderkitten, she has picked up a number of top-10 finishes including a sixth place finish in the UCI1.1 Philadelphia Cycling Classic and the impressive solo victory at North Star.
"The ‘comeback kid’ – I like it, it rings true to what I’m doing," Williams said. "The last seven months have been pretty crazy and I’m still pinching myself."
Williams’ two-month riding stint with Vanderkitten ends after Tour de Delta in Canada on July 4th through 6th, after which she’ll be joining the Australian national team.
"I’m happy I could come over and have an impact on the races here with Vanderkitten," she said. "I’m thankful for all the sponsors and team for the opportunity."
Thanks to the Amy Gillett Foundation, Williams will join the Australian national team for two months of racing in Europe.
Each year the Amy Gillett Foundation awards a scholarship to some of Australia's most promising female cyclists to help them launch a pro cycling career. For Williams, this means getting the opportunity to race among the best at the Tour of Thuringen followed by the historic La Course race and the seven-day Route de France.
It’s pretty much non-stop racing for me for the next few months and she couldn’t be happier.
"I’m committed to this," Williams. "And I am hoping to land a full contract, do a full European season and maybe go to the Olympics."
We’ll be sure to follow Wiliams’ exciting year, and you can, too. Follow Lizzie on Twitter at @lizziedizzie83.