Just a year ago Felicity Wilson-Haffenden was lining up at the Australian Road National Championships to see how she would fare against her rivals in the junior category given she’d now had at least a little time to hone her racing skills after having picked up a bike to allay the boredom during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
It was Wilson-Haffenden’s second time racing at the event, but after claiming both the U19 road race and time trial title it became the first time she really started to believe that she may have what it takes to pursue the sport to the top level. Now just a year later the 18-year-old also has a world time trial title and will be stepping out of the junior ranks at the 2024 Australian Road National Championships as a member of one of the world’s top teams, Lidl-Trek.
The Tasmanian’s first outing as a professional cyclist will be on Thursday, January 4, in the discipline where she holds junior national and world titles, but this year she’ll be out on the time trial course with the U23 and elite women. On Sunday January 7 it will be onto the elite/U23 women’s road race in Buninyong where Wilson-Haffenden will line up alongside Lidl-Trek’s defending Australian champion Brodie Chapman, three-time winner Amanda Spratt and Lauretta Hanson, who stood on the podium at the race in 2021.
The neo-pro’s season then continues at the Women’s Tour Down Under, which will see Wilson-Haffenden taking on her first Women’s WorldTour race in South Australia from January 12-14.
It will be a big start to what is bound to be another big year so before the racing begins, let’s find out a little more about Wilson-Haffenden’s rapid rise to the top tier of the cycling world.
Cyclingnews: When did cycling come into your life?
Felicity Wilson-Haffenden: I think I must have been 14, 15 or so and COVID hit, I was playing hockey before that and hockey stopped because of the lockdowns so I was basically just bored and got on my bike. And then the Tasmanian Institute of Sport had talent ID sessions so I went along to that and I must’ve been all-right I guess.
CN: So it was an accelerated path into cycling, at what point did you decide you were looking at seriously pursuing this?
F W-H: I got the opportunity in 2022 to go on the Australian Junior development trip to Europe for a month and I think that was when I was like, this is cool, this is what I want to do and then I think from Road Nationals in 2023 that’s when I realised that maybe I would actually be all right at…