Kaarle receives her recent World Champs bronze medal with team mate Anna Meares
I caught up with track cyclist Kaarle McCulloch last week to hear about her challenging last few years and her future plans to be in the team for the Rio Olympic Games next year.Like many female cyclists Kaarle didn’t take up cycling until fairly late in her sporting life. Up until the age of 15 she was firmly focused on running but realised that she was pretty good, but not quite good enough to go the Olympics, a dream she had harboured since she was 12 years old.
She had no interest in cycling but was persuaded by her step father Ken Bates who had a keen interest in the sport to give it a go. It only took a few laps on the track and she was hooked. That was at her local track in Sydney’s south, and within a few short period of time she was holding her first junior world medal.
By 2008 she was riding alongside Anna Meares and her sister Kerry in the senior world champs and World Cup events. She attributes her early success to the work ethic she had developed in her running.
If you take up riding in your 30s or 40s as many of us do, one area you need to focus on if you want to advance, is to learn some bike skills. As children most of us rode a bike, but the majority of us were not formally taught, so we didn’t have the chance to learn any bike skills and this particularly applies to women.
In my experience in meeting many female cyclists, women tend to approach cycling quite differently to men. Although many of us rode bikes as kids we usually did a few laps around the neighbourhood and didn’t jump off gutters, perform wheel stands or other daredevil acts like our male counterparts.
The good news is that it’s easy to improve your bike skills. Here’s a few tips on how to improve your skills in areas like cornering, pedalling, safe braking, descending, climbing, riding in a bunch and more.
If you think the Gong Ride or Around the Bay is a serious challenge, then think again. A few weeks ago I was contacted by a team of women who are training for a huge race/relay called Race Across America that takes place each year in June. Last year I wrote about two American women tackling it and this time it’s a team of four Australian women calling themselves the Veloroos – Natasha Horne, Sarah Matthews, Julie-Anne Hazlett and Nicole Stanners.
Race Across America known as RAAM is a race but instead of being in stages it is one continual ride similar to a time trial. Once the clock starts it does not stop until the finish line. RAAM is about 30% longer than the Tour de France and is not limited to professional cyclists. While solo racers must qualify to compete, anyone may organise a team and race.
Racers must traverse 3000 miles (4,828 km) across 12 states and climb over 170,000 vertical feet (51,816 metres). Team racers have a maximum of nine days and most finish in about seven and a half days. Teams will ride 350-500 miles a day, racing non-stop. Solo racers have a maximum of 12 days to complete the race, with the fastest finishing in just over eight days. Solo racers will ride 250-350 miles a day, balancing speed and the need for sleep.
I was contacted a couple of weeks ago by the PR agency promoting a Melbourne-based mass particpation cycling event called the MS Melbourne Cycle being held on Sunday, 19 April. One of the Ambassadors of the event is an Australian Para-cyclist who was diagnosed with MS 17 years ago, so I caught up with Carol Cooke via email.
Q1: Why did you decide on cycling as your sport after your MS diagnosis?
I didn’t really decide on cycling as a sport after my diagnosis. I had always been a swimmer and continued to swim after my diagnosis. In 2005 I was asked by the Australian Paralympic Committee to come to a talent search day. When I did I found that I was 24 years older than the oldest person there but I went through the testing and a couple of weeks later I was asked to take up the sport of rowing. Rowing was a new inclusion in the Beijing Paralympic Games. I did take it up and made the national crew in 2008, we attempted to qualify for Beijing but unfortunately missed by 0.8 of a second. I continued rowing and competed at the 2009 World Championships where our crew came 6th, so I figured that I would be in London for rowing. Unfortunately in 2010 Rowing Australia decided they weren’t interested in our crew. In early 2011 one of my rowing team mates called me, she had taken up Para Cycling and told me that there was a Trike category in Para Cycling. I had been riding a trike just as cross training back and forth to rowing. So my first competition was in April of 2011 at the National Para Cycling Championships and I haven’t looked back.
A couple of weeks ago Melanie from Cycling Victoria made contact with me and asked if I’d like to write about an event she’s organising called The Women’s Ride. I was intrigued to know more about it so I happily agreed to publish a post about this great event.
The Women’s Ride is a single day celebration of women’s riding. It’s Victoria’s first mass participation riding event designed especially for women, where individuals, organisations, clubs, social riding groups, bike shops or groups of friends are invited to submit a ride or event taking place on Sunday, 12 April 2015.
I was impressed to see the Melanie is the Women and Girl’s Development Officer at Cycling Victoria. It’s great that Cycling Victoria has someone in that role. I was also pleased to see that the name of the event incorporates the word ‘Women’ rather than ‘Ladies’ and that the logo is not pink (or at least only a little pink). Well done Cycling Victoria.
I’m of the view that anyone who rides a bike can call themselves a cyclist, although I’m sure when I started riding a road bike more than six years ago, it took me at least a few years before I’d tell people – “I’m a cyclist”.
A friend of mine sent me a link to an ABC report about an advertising campaign from the UK called “This Girl Can”. It’s spread through social media and is obviously resonating with lots of women, including me.
It sounds idyllic, riding your bike in the city of lights, but for eight Aussie women it’s more like lots of hard work for the next couple of days, as they take on the world’s best in the 2015 UCI Track Cycling World Championships.
There are three female sprinters and five female endurance riders representing Australia so I thought it would be nice to profile them here, because although Anna Meares in a household name the other seven aren’t quite so well known, at least not beyond the cycling community.
The three sprinters are Anna Meares, Stephanie Morton and Kaarle McCulloch and the five endurance riders are Ashlee Ankudinoff, Amy Cure, Melissa Hoskins, Annette Edmondson and Rebecca Wiasak.
I’m often guilty of not promoting the good stuff I’m involved in, partly because I’m not good at self promotion and partly because like the car mechanic who doesn’t look after their own car, I’m a comms person who fails to communicate about the things I’m heavily involved with.
So to rectify this I’m going to tell you about a great pilot program from Cycling NSW that I am playing a small part in.
Jacqui Bogue, who is a member of the Board of Cycling NSW and the Chair of the CNSW Women’s Commission approached me late last year about a pilot program of women’s bunch rides run by Sydney cycling clubs. She was approaching all clubs to ask them to be involved and I readily agreed.
I’m a member of Lidcombe-Auburn Cycling Club (LACC) and the team coordinator of our women’s squad, and while I don’t do much racing I work behind the scenes, and I’m really keen to get inexperienced female cyclists involved.
Members of the team in action in the TDU women’s series
A couple of weeks ago word got out via a few media outlets that Cycling Australia has suspended its European based women’s development program with budgetary pressures cited as the reason for the decision. Within a week, an announcement came out that a new Australian women’s team will grace the domestic circuit with the creation of the High5 Dream Team. It seemed like a lucky coincidence at the time but it now seems that two are actually inter-related.
The High5 Dream Team is the brainchild of Australian cyclist Rochelle Gilmore as a way to offer more professional support, guidance and direction for talented Australian female cyclists. Last year Rochelle met with the high performance coach of Cycling Australia and discovered that the high performance program would be ‘paused’ due to financial pressures on the organisation.
Rochelle got on the phone to some of the riders that would be affected and was appalled to learn that many of them would actually be forced to leave the sport because there was no where to go for them. Spurred on by a desire to help these women stay with cycling, in two months she pulled together the NRS team.
I’ve just returned from the annual migration of Sydney cyclists to South Australia to witness the increasingly popular Tour Down Under. This year, as well as watching the male professionals at their best, we were also treated to a four day women’s series. It’s not that there hasn’t been women’s racing incorporated in previous years but it was always just an aside. This year the organisers stepped it up a notch, promoted it well and attracted a world-class field.
The four race series included two crits and two road races, raced alternatively over four days from Saturday, 17 to Tuesday, 20 January 2015.
I missed the first race because I was busy volunteering at a charity event but watched the other three keenly including photographing the action.
The race series forms part of the National Road Series (NRS) which will continue into 2015 with the added attraction of a number of high profile riders who race mostly in Europe but are in Australia for summer. Wiggle Down Under (usually known as Wiggle Honda for European races) fielded a team including Aussie stars Nettie Edmondson and Chloe Hosking, Orica-AIS was well represented, as well as Tiffany Cromwell racing for the local Roxsolt team.