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.
Ever since I started writing this blog (about two and a half years ago) I’ve been following the women’s pro peleton. Prior to that, I have to admit I only followed the men’s, mostly because it was easily accessible with lots of TV and media coverage. Over those two and a half years I’ve learnt how to find information about the women’s tour and I think that 2014 is going to be big year for the women, and here’s a few reasons why.
UCI Women’s commission headed up by Tracey Gaudry
Last year Australian former pro cyclist Tracey Gaudry was named as one of three Vice Presidents of the UCI. That followed her earlier appointment as the President of the Oceania Cycling Confederation. That gives her two big roles and I’m sure she’s up to the challenge.
A new Women’s Commission of the UCI has also been formed and has already met for the first time to start planning its work.
I was lucky enough to meet Tracey at a forum in January and will be interviewing her in the next month or so for an upcoming blog post.
The women in action
I’ve just returned from a fantastic weekend in country Victoria to watch the National Road Cycling Championships.
It was my first visit but it most certainly won’t be my last. What a fabulous event. It was very professionally run by Cycling Victoria/Australia – the weather was perfect, the crowds not too large and the cycling was awesome.
We flew to Melbourne rather than choosing the 10 hour drive south and met up with my cycling enthusiast brother-in-law who drove us up to the goldfields district. He also organised for our free accommodation at his sister’s place near the racing so not only was it a fun weekend, it was a pretty cheap one as well.
We arrived in Buninyong in time to watch the men’s under 23 road race on Saturday morning followed by the women’s race in the afternoon.
This week I’m sharing a few videos I’ve found on You Tube that I thought other female cyclists might find motivational, eduational and entertaining.
Tiffany’s Top Ten Tips for Female Riders
Specialized-lululemon Get Into Cycling
Anna Meares takes Gold in London 2012
Evelyn Stevens: From Banker to Pro Cyclist
I hope you enjoyed them. There are plenty more on You Tube on a myriad of topics so search for your own topics of interest.
Tiffany wins the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2013.
Pro female cyclist Tiffany Cromwell has always loved sport. Despite her short stature (166 cm) she was a keen basketballer before she was identified as a potential cyclist in a school talent search program in her home state of South Australia. Interestingly fellow pro cyclist Nettie Edmondson attended the same school and was picked up in the same program.
The transition from baggy shorts to lycra was not a difficult one and Tiffany began her career as a professional when she joined (as a guest rider) the Colavita-Sutter team in 2007 at the tender age of 18 and headed to Europe. She’s since ridden for the Lotto, Hitec, Orica-AIS and has just signed a contract with Specialized-lululemon for 2014.
After two years with the Australian Orica-AIS team Tiffany says she’s ready for a change and in fact thrives on change. It takes her out of her comfort zone and helps her to raise the bar. She says that she wouldn’t have made the team switch for just any team, she’s very excited about joining the high profile Specialized-lululemon team which has had consistently good results since it was formed two years ago. Her debut race with the team will be the Tour of Qatar in early February, followed by the defence of her title in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Belgium in late February.
My photograph of Anna at Dunc Grey Velodrome
I was lucky enough to catch up with the amazing Anna Meares via email for an interview. I find Anna very inspiring and have been lucky enough to see her race a couple of times at the velodrome in Sydney.
Q: My Sydney Cycling Club, Lidcombe Auburn Cycle Club (LACC) has a girls’ development squad called the Pixies. They ride and race both track and road and range in age from about six to 13. What words of wisdom could you offer them?
A: I have heard of the Pixies (very cute little group and cute name). My advice would be to have fun, enjoy the sport, enjoy the company of old friends and new friends because these will be memories that last you a lifetime.
Q: At what age did you switch from ‘having fun’ racing and riding your bike to ‘serious’ training? How old were you when you found your first coach?
A: I was 13 when I found my first coach in Ken Tucker in Rockhampton. I probably went from having fun to serious when I was 16 years old.
I’ve always wondered what it would be like spending part of the year living in Europe. My fantasies have centred more around hanging out in Tuscany for six months and learning to speak Italian but I’m also interested in what it would be like to live the life of a female pro cyclist (not that I have the talent).
You may remember I interviewed Aussie cyclist Jo Hogan in January before she headed for the cycling season in Spain. Jo is now part the way through a great season in Europe and she reflects on her own website The Healthy Cyclist what it’s like to spend part of her year there.
Q: I understand that 2012 was your first year living overseas and competing on a World Cup level. Tell me about this. Did you have a second language or did you have to learn Spanish?
A: Yes, 2012 was my first full season of racing on the women’s professional European circuit and competing at a World Cup level. Racing at this level was like nothing I had experienced before. The large number of women in the field, the courses, weather conditions and being part of a team where I was the only English speaking team member. Being out of my comfort zone certainly kept me focused!