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.
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.
The women in action at Sunday night’s crit
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.
The latest decision by our own illustrious governing body, Cycling Australia gives me a sense of a few tiny baby steps forward, followed by a leap back.
I read stories earlier this week of Cycling Australia’s decision to suspend the women’s road development program in Europe indefinitely. From all reports it was a financial decision but it seems pretty short-sighted to me.
The always eloquent Bridie O’Donnell has written a blog post that summarises the whole issue very well so I won’t paraphrase it here. Read it in full for the inside story.
Chloe taking the win at Omloop van Borsele © sportfoto.nl
Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Aussie pro cyclist Chloe Hosking over the phone. Chloe has returned home to Canberra for the summer season where her training program continues, as well as her university studies in communication.
Chloe has just completed two pretty successful years with Norwegian team Hitec. Her 2014 season began with a stage victory at the Mitchelton Bay Crits, and continued with impressive results in Europe including the EPZ Omloop van Borsele and a stage of the Lotto-Belisol Belgium Tour.
But despite her successes Hitec told her that they wouldn’t be renewing her contract for 2015. Chloe wasn’t too disappointed because she says she was ready to move but when discussions with Orica-AIS fell over at the final hurdle she was feeling a little anxious about her future. She made contact with a number of teams and found a great fit with Wiggle Honda where she’s signed up for the 2015 season. There she’ll be reunited with her friends Elisa Longo Borghini and Audrey Cordon and will enjoy racing again with Emilia Fahlin.
Amanda Spratt racing La Course in 2014
It’s that time of year when professional cyclists announce their team transfers for the following year. We can all read plenty about the high profile male riders but there’s not so much written about the women. So here’s a list of some of the higher profile Australian female pro road cyclists and their plans for 2015. Please note that this is not a complete list of every Australian female rider who is registered as a professional, so please don’t been offended if you’re not on my list.
Tiffany just won the Australian female road cyclist of the year award for 2014 and came fifth in the World Champs road race. She will stick with the same team next year but it’s undergone a makeover and will re-emerge as Velocio-SRAM. For the past three years it’s been known as Specialized-lululemon.
Nettie is making a shift in 2015 and is joining the Wiggle Honda team which is owned and run by fellow Aussie cyclist Rochelle Gilmore.
One of my personal mandates for this blog is to promote women’s cycling at all levels so this week it’s the top ends turn. Recently I caught up with Megan O’Neill Johnston who the Assistant Manager and Head Soigneur for the Canberra-based Suzuki Brumby’s women’s cycling team who had some very interesting insights into how a cycling team runs…..
Q: How long has the team been going?
Suzuki Brumby’s is a Canberra based team that started in 2008 and originally fielded both a men’s and women’s National Road Series (NRS) team, however in 2014 we are an all-female affair.
Q: How many members do you currently have?
We currently have 9 cyclists in the team; 7 who are based in Canberra, 1 in Victoria and 1 in NSW. We are all really close, not only as team mates, but as friends and I think this contributes significantly to the success and character of the team. There is a lot of comradeship and support for each other which I think is imperative in such a mentally tough sport.
Three years and one week ago, I was attending a talk about social media, and how we as business people could utilise it better. For me at the time, it was very relevant because I was working as a public relations consultant and the woman delivering the talk was of the same profession. One thing that she said really resonated with me, “I write a personal blog……………” and a thought jumped into my head. If I’m so interested in women’s cycling, why not start a blog about it.
A week later – 13 August 2011, Women Who Cycle was born. At the time I was very committed to the idea but I hadn’t really thought past my first few blog posts and the basic structure of my site. I looked at other people’s blogs and saw that many of them had been going for years and wondered how they sustained it. I also looked at many blogs that had been started and abandoned down the track, some very fleetingly, and others that hung on for a few years and then petered out.
A couple of months ago I wrote about 2014 being a very big year for professional women’s cycling. One part of that big year is the Women’s Tour of Britain, a five stage women’s road race which starts tomorrow (7 May 2014) in the small township of Oundle in the east of England.
And I’m pleased to say it’s shaping up to be a bigger deal for the women’s pro peleton than many had expected.
It’s attracted all the major women’s teams and many of their top riders including multiple world champion Marianne Vos who will lead her Liv Giant squad. Australian riders include Shara Gillow, Nettie Edmondson and Australian champion Gracie Elvin riding for Orica-AIS; Chloe Hosking for Hitec Products; Tiffany Cromwell for Specialized-Lululemon; Amy Cure for Lotto-Belisol; and Peta Mullens as a late inclusion for Wiggle-Honda.
You can read more about the race in an excellent article written by Tim Renowden for The Roar, an online sports news site.
The Race Director Mick Bennett also predicts that it’s an important event for women’s cycling, he says in the Race Manual “Welcome to the 2014 Women’s Tour – the first edition of what we hope and believe will be a cycling event that sets new standards for the fair and equal treatment of women cyclists not only in Great Britain but the world.”
A few months ago I was lucky enough to meet up with Kristy Scrymgeour who is the owner and manager of the women’s pro team Specialized-lululemon. Kristy was in Sydney enjoying her annual pilgrimage to her parents’ beachside home. I originally wrote this article for a UK website which they published but buried a bit in another article so I thought I’d share it again………….
Kristy Scrymgeour, despite living in Europe and the US for many years is still very much an Aussie girl at heart. She’s humble, and despite being fairly softly-spoken she gets fired up when she talks about her involvement in women’s cycling.
Like most Aussie kids she rode a bike as a child around her home in Sydney’s southern suburbs, but didn’t think of cycling as a serious sport until she reached university. Her opportunity came when the University cycling team was looking for an extra team member to race at the University Games and she rather bullishly put her hand up. She was studying science teaching at the University of Sydney and had only recently started cycling, after her boyfriend at the time gave her a second hand bike to ride.