I was lucky enough to catch up with dual Australian road champion Gracie Elvin via email. Gracie is currently racing the European season and is a member of Orica-AIS. I enjoyed watching her win her second national road title in January last year. Enjoy.
Q: How did you get started in cycling?
A: I always rode my bike a lot when I was younger around my suburb, to school and even to visit my horse who was kept nearby. I loved the MTB days that my high school had, and when my dad set up and old road bike for me when I was 12 I was hooked straight away. I went to a junior skills course and did lots of the local bunch rides and club races until I was ready to race interstate.
Q: In 2014 I watched you win the National road race in Victoria and stand proudly on the podium, how did it feel to win that race and the other national title in 2013?
A: Both my national title wins mean a lot to me. The first time I was just so shocked that I had done it! It wasn’t really the plan for me to win that year, even though it was possible. I was grinning for days after. The next year (2014) the win meant a lot more to me. It felt like I had really proven myself and shown that I am one of Australia’s best.
It was great to see some ABC coverage for a women’s cycling training/selection camp last week in Canberra. It’s interesting to note that after reading this story you would assume that Cycling Australia is behind this great initiative, but I believe it’s actually Rochelle Gilmore who made a commitment to take six female cyclists to Europe this year. Rochelle who owns and manages Wiggle Honda in the UK committed to this idea after Cycling Australia suspended its funding of the women’s elite program in Europe. Well done Rochelle.
Here’s the story as it ran on the ABC online:
A group of Australia’s most promising female cyclists have been put to the test in Canberra this week for the opportunity to join the Australian cycling team on tour in Europe.
The riders will remain under the close watch of selectors at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) where they are in the final days of the gruelling knock-out style selection camp, that will conclude on Sunday.
Eight hopeful cyclists have made it through to the final days of the camp, from an initial group of 18, with further cuts to be made in the coming days.
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.
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.