I know that some of you are probably not into learning about history, but it was my favourite subject at school so you’ll have to indulge me.
Recently my boss John (Ashfield Cycles) mentioned to me that the first ever women’s bike race in Australia actually took place in Ashfield (in Sydney’s inner west). I must admit that I was a bit dubious at the time so I decided to delve into it a bit more and headed to the Ashfield Library where I found a local publication with a whole chapter dedicated to it. So I won’t bore you with the whole tale, but here’s a few highlights.
In February 1888 (that’s 127 years ago) a women’s cycling race was organised at the now defunct Ashfield Recreation Grounds. Ads were placed in The Sydney Morning Herald which listed a two-mile champion race; one, two and three mile handicaps; a half-mile handicap race; and a half-hour tournament all for ‘ladies’, run over three 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.
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.
If you’ve ever been to watch a track cycling event you’ve probably watched a very unusual race called the Keirin. I’ve always enjoyed it and for a number of years I’ve been aware that it’s a big sport in Japan where it was developed. Men’s Keirin racing is very popular but women are also involved and it’s growing. Here’s a few insights based on some research I undertook:
Keirin is a track cycling race where between six to nine riders race over about 2 km around a velodrome. It is a relatively new Olympic event, first raced by the men in 2000 and the women in 2012. Keirin has been a big part of Japanese culture since it was introduced in 1948 as an initiative to rebuild after the war. The race starts with a pace setter (typically a motorised “derny”) who starts slowly but gradually increases the speed until peeling off with about 600 or 700 metres left to race. Usually the riders are travelling at about 50 km/hour by this point and have hopefully manoeuvered into their favoured position. Once the “derny” is gone the race is in full flight and the riders fight to take line honours.
The women follow international competition rules in Japan to keep things safer: while the men are renowned for shoulder barging and head butting through their racing, Girl’s Keirin is a bit more ladylike. The women use colourful disc wheels and tri-spokes provided by the JKA –the same colour wheels as the lane colour they draw.
I first heard about the Adelaide-based women only cycling club, The Skinny Lattes a couple of years ago but it wasn’t until now that I made contact. I previously profiled a women’s only club based in Austin, Texas in the US, a country where I’m sure there are plenty of women’s only clubs. However, The Skinny Lattes is the only one I’m aware of in Australia (please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about that). I recently caught up with Belinda Bramley who is the Club Secretary and one of the founding members.
When was the Skinny Lattes formed?
The Skinny Lattes Cycling Club was formed in 2002 by three girlfriends Felicity Laing, Lynette Collins and Belinda Bramley who recognised a need for a women’s specific cycling group.
How many members do you have? How do you join?
Currently we have 90 members. We don’t search for members – they find us. You contact the club via the website, and then we chat with potential new members and if we sound like the right club you join via the Cycling Australia Website.
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.
Eight year old, Ava Giramondo is a member of the youth development squad of my cycling club Lidcombe-Auburn Cycle Club (LACC) and she recently presented to her Year 2 class at PLC Sydney, her reasons for selecting cycling as the best sport. When I read it, it seemed to me that Ava’s reasons were not dissimilar to many female cyclists. I particuarly like the bit about how she and her friends don’t have to hang out with the boys! Enjoy….
Here’s Ava’s presentation:
Good morning/afternoon 2c.
In my opinion cycling is the best sport. The type of cycling I’m going to talk to you about is bike racing. It can be enjoyed by both young and old. There are two types of racing you can participate in; road racing and track racing at a velodrome.
Here are three reasons why in my view cycling is the best sport.
Elsa von Blumen on her high wheel bicycle
As well as being a keen cyclist, I am also a lover of social history and when I get to combine two things of interest I’m pretty content.
I have a great book called Wheels of Change by Sue Macy in my home library and thought I would share a story I enjoyed.
If you think that female cyclists in the past 20 or so years have been real trailblazers then think again, because the true trailblazers where the women that were racer bicycles way back in the late 1800s.
An early American racer Elsa von Blumen of Rochester New York saw herself as a role model for good health, particularly for women. She was quoted as saying in an article for The Bicycling World in 1881:
“In presenting myself to the public in my bicycle exercises, I feel I am not only offering the most novel and fascinating entertainment now before the people, but am demonstrating the great need of American young ladies, especially, of physical culture and bodily exercise.
Late last year I was at an event staged by Australian Cycling Executives (ACE) and Annette (Nettie) Edmondson was a special guest. I was fortunate enough to have a chat with Nettie and asked her if I could interview her for Women Who Cycle. Here’s the result:
Q: How old were you when you started riding? What got you started?
I was 13 years old when I was selected for cycling by the Talent Identification Program at the South Australian Institute of Sport after they tested a range of students for their physical attributes and capabilities. I had never considered cycling as a ‘sport’. I saw it more as a hobby and didn’t actually know there was a whole ‘racing’ world out there. I gave the Talent Search’s year-long track and road program a crack, really enjoyed it and here I still am today!