Summer Racing Recap
The Australian summer racing calendar is famous. Partially for the fantastic spectacle it provides, but mainly because meanwhile in lands far, far away, where the mercury often struggles to hit zero, our European compatriots are shaking their heads and thinking; ‘These crazy Aussies.’
For many Euros their season doesn’t really get underway until the first big spring classic, Het Nieuwsblad (being held in early March this year) so the idea of racing intense criteriums which send your lactic acid levels soaring and threaten to trigger one’s gag reflexes in January is nauseating.
I sat out the many races which litter the calendar such as the NSW GP, the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic, and the Santos Women’s Cup last summer for just this reason. Maybe I had spent too much time in Spain and had been ‘euro-ised’, or maybe I just needed a break after racing every summer since I was 12.
This year however, I was keen to join ‘these crazy Aussies’ once again.
An off-the-cuff conversation I had with Kelvin Rundle at the national championships in Ballarat in January 2013, blossomed into the (self declared incredibly successful) Roxsolt Sydney Uni Velo women’s summer racing team.
After our half-humorous/half-serious conversation in January, Kelvin contacted me in August with a proposal to put together a summer racing team. Events like the NSW GP, a two day criteirum series held in December in Sydney and Wollongong, and the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic (Bay Crits), the premier summer criterium series held every year in January in and around Geelong, were highlighted as key races.
From the beginning it was important to both of us that team was both competitive and offered riders from the Sydney Uni Velo club and other domestic Australian cyclists the opportunity to race with women who had international experience.
I can’t take much credit for anything that happen from that point onwards.
Kelvin and his wife Tegan are two people who just love women’s cycling and are passionate about helping it grow. You would be hard pressed to find an Australian female cyclist who hasn’t benefited from their kindness and generosity in some way.
Kelvin organised team clothing, team sponsors (insert huge shout out and thank you to Free Bird Velo, Rapha, Nespresso, Scratch Labs sports drinks), a team mechanic (thanks Andrew!), race entry, transport, accommodation… Anything we could think of Kelvin had it covered. He created an environment that was not only fun and enjoyable, but one where we all wanted to succeed and grow together as a team.
What Kelvin left up to me was rider selection; a daunting but at the same time exciting task.
I remember being asked by one of — in my opinion — Australia’s best female road cyclists Oenone Wood, to race in her Bay Crits team in 2005 (I was too young) and then again in 2006. I was flabbergasted and could barely splutter out “yes”. It was an incredible experience and while I only finished one of the criteriums the experience left an impression.
While I openly admit I’m no Oenone Wood, I have been around the traps and the opportunity to give other women the chance to race in a professional environment with experienced racers and have a role in the team was something that really resonated with me and something I was excited to be a part of.
Over the summer we had experienced riders like British Olympian Lucy Martin, current Australian criterium champion Sarah Roy, and Australian 2013 world championship representative Lauren Kitchen all race in the Roxsolt colours. We also had women like Gina Ricardo, Brittany Lindores and Marissa Madden race with us; women who race regularly on the Australian domestic scene and were keen to learn and grow as bike riders.
The team kicked off the summer with the NSW GP and while we struggled to find our legs on the first day in Cronulla, Roy made an impact in Wollongong the next day driving the break. While we didn’t crack the podium the improvement from Saturday to Sunday was noticeable in the way we communicated and rode together.
Two weeks later the team flew to Melbourne for the St Kilda Super Crit, the richest bike race in Australia, and we won! While I was obviously ecstatic to take the victory I was more excited to see how well the team rode together and the improvement from two weeks earlier. Gina and Brittany attacked in the beginning to keep the pace high and then just kept going while Roy gave me a dream lead-out.
Racing for three years with Ina-Yoko Teutenberg I learnt a lot; one of the most important things I learnt was that a win is more satisfying if the whole team contributes to it, and if that is the case it doesn’t matter who actually wins just as long as we cross the line first. In 2011 Ina lead me out at the Tour Of Chongming Island. I won and Ina came second but I don’t think I had ever seen her happier after a bike race.
A few weeks later the team met again for the Bay Crits. It was a great week and the team added a new flavour to the women’s racing which has been dominated by two teams for the past few years.
The race had an incredible international field including double world champion Giorgia Bronzini and a scattering of other top international riders riding for teams like Wiggle Honda, Orica-AIS and Vanderkitten.
Sure, we weren’t a Wiggle Honda who had a world class team that wouldn’t have looked out of place at the biggest women’s races in Europe but we definitely didn’t look out of place next to them.
After a baptism of fire in the first stage where our legs were reminded why most people don’t race in January we decided to take stage two into our own hands. With a more aggressive approach and great team work we took the win in the Eastern Gardens. The victory acted as the perfect culmination of all our hard work, and was made even more special as it came on Kelvin’s birthday.
It was a fantastic summer of racing. I’m sorry to be missing the last summer criterium series in Adelaide this weekend, the Santos Women’s Cup, but training camp and the European winter are calling.
When Marissa came to me on the last day of the Bay Crits and said, “Thank you, I’ve really learned so much,” before nervously asking if she could have a photo I had to feel just a little bit of pride about what Kelvin and I had organised. We wanted to be competitive but give domestic riders the chance to develop, learn and grow. And I think we did both!