It’s been a rollercoaster five years for the 26-year-old who in 2005 was in intensive care after suffering severe injuries in a training accident that involved a car and claimed the life of her friend and team-mate Amy Gillett. She broke several bones in her back and suffered chest injuries; it was unclear whether or not she would live, let alone race again.
“I’m ecstatic and really, really excited,” Rhodes said after her victory.
In 2010, she seemed set to win the time trial national title but she threw her bike and was fined $100 when two untimely punctures put an end to her dream. Fast forward 12 months and she now has the green-and-gold jersey she desired, after a gruelling race.
Yet as recently as just two months ago, Rhodes was considering retirement.
“The Commonwealth Games I was happy with – coming fourth in the time trial. I was disappointed with the Worlds, riding just inside the top 20 in the time trial and I was hoping to go better than that,” said Rhodes. “I just don’t like riding around half-arsed and running top 20. It’s a hard sport and to not be competitive is not worth it.
“I’m not ‘the poor girl who was injured’. It wasn’t so much the sympathy but I don’t like making up the numbers; to be known as ‘the poor girl who got hit by a car’, is not what I wanted to be,” Rhodes continued.
“I also didn’t have a team for the 2011 season and I didn’t want to go overseas and ride in a small team.
“I wanted to be winning races,” she said, adding that Saturday’s result is a career best. “To win a national road championship and then wear the jersey in Europe, it’s something you dream about.”
Her luck changed in November when Garmin-Cervélo offered her a contract for two years thanks to the help of some close friends.
“Sharon Laws and Carla Ryan suggested that maybe I should email the team and I did, and the manager said ‘yes’,” Rhodes said. “That offer gave me a renewed interest and that gave me a bit more confidence to be able to do what I did today.”
Rhodes will be heading to the Garmin-Cervélo team training camp tonight, forcing her to miss the time trial, something which she was initially disappointed with – now a national champion however, it’s something she will forget pretty quickly as she looks forward to her 2011 season.
“I will be a bit of helper within Garmin and hopefully get a couple of opportunities for myself. I will go to Spain, then do Qatar and hopefully ride some of the Spring Classics and generally have a good season,” she explained.
Rhodes has also expressed her desire to represent her country in the next two years.
“I would definitely like to ride the world championships and then the Olympic Games next year but it all depends on what everyone else is doing and if I’m good enough.”