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.
I arrived in Adelaide on Sunday to enjoy the annual Australian festival of cycling. The first thing I did was head for the tour village to join a women’s only ride led by Tina McCarthy from Melbourne. Tina runs her own business called Wheel Women and she’s one of the most enthusiastic advocates of women cycling I’ve ever met.
So when Tina decided to visit Adelaide she naturally thought of organising a ride. She used social media to promote it and within a couple of days of announcing it she had 50 women signed up. It was a 30 km ride from the tour village, down to Glenelg, along the coast to West Beach and then along the Torrens River bike path back to the CBD.
My friend Shiona and I went along to help out as ride leaders and to encourage and support other riders.
Wheel Women has recently signed a partnership deal with my favourite bike manufacturer Specialized so the ride started from the Specialized stand at the tour village, plus Laura & Emily from Specialized also came along as ride leaders/mentors.
At this time of year if you live in Australia you’ll notice that road cyclists are all talking about who’s going to the Tour Down Under. I’m going this year and I’ve lost count of how many other Sydney-siders are heading to South Australia for the annual festival of cycling. Most people have done it a few times so they’ve got the bike packing thing all sorted, but there’s always a few new people going along.
If you’re not really confident about packing your own bike then make a quick call to your local bike shop and ask them to assist. They’ll probably charge you a modest fee so check that when you make the call to them, and make sure you allow plenty of time before your trip. If you want to give it a go yourself then keep reading.
My partner and I have been travelling with our bikes for about six years and for the first four or so of those we carried our bikes in cardboard boxes. We have now moved up a step and bought ourselves some purpose-built bike bags but for many trips we were content with the humble box. Here’s some of what we learned in a step-by-step guide:
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.