November 15, 2011

Tassie Girls Dominate

Tasmania happens to be one of those places that is just the right size. Tasmanian’s can be found all over the world but it is still a special place to them all.  I happen to be one of them, as is Pure Tasmania-Deloitte TIS Cycling founder Nigel Baker. For those of you who didn’t know, Pure Tasmania-Deloitte TIS Cycling sponsors and supports men, women and juniors on their team.

My conversation with Nigel Baker CEO and Team Manager of Pure Tasmania-Deloitte TIS Cycling started with the same words that every conversation with a Tasmanian starts with, “are you from the north or the south?”

Luckily, both Nigel and I are from the North of Tasmania and got down to business. Women’s cycling, accounting firm Deloitte’s, accommodation group Pure Tasmania, riders Belinda Goss, Grace Sulzberger and Georgia Baker were at the top of my list for discussion.

Pure Tasmania-Deloitte TIS Cycling Team
Pure Tasmania-Deloitte TIS Cycling Team

I had been interested in hearing about how Georgia Baker was doing and where her mind was. Yes, she had won Silver and Gold at the 2011 Junior World Track Championships, but, about 10 weeks out from the World Championships Georgia had crashed in a criterium and knocked five of her teeth out.
Nigel, and all those who surround her and support her thought it would be an end to the World Championships. Georgia was adamant that she was going to the World Championships, which I think is a brave and motivated decision. Nigel told me that Georgia’s character held strong. Georgia was back doing ergo’s three days later, was back on the bike on day four, followed by riding around with no teeth for another five.

Georgia Baker - Junior World Champion (LEFT)
Georgia Baker - Junior World Champion (LEFT)

Pure Tasmania-Deloitte TIS Cycling Team is clearly a development squad, that’s not to say they don’t win, they do and they win well. You only have to look at cyclist Grace Sulzberger to see that they win. The 2011 Women’s National Road Champion is heading to the top and with brothers like Wesley and Bernard Sulzberger, Nigel thinks it’s possible that this Tasmanian could lead a team like GreenEdge. Grace has the mind space to take on the challenge, she was born to race.

Grace was affected by an eating disorder early on in her cycling career and took two years off. Grace has been back on the bike for about twelve months, in that 12 months she has stayed on top and Nigel is confident that she will make the Australian Institute of Sport selection for 2012.

Graze Sulzberger - National Road Champion
Graze Sulzberger - National Road Champion

Pure Tasmania-Deloitte TIS Cycling has modest aims over the next five years. Winning is great and sponsor Pure Tasmania understand the development side of things, they realise that winning takes time and are happy to be a part of the process. Deloitte coming on board is a local story and Christopher Bishop was the encouragement required to put in a proposal to Deloitte’s for sponsorship, they said yes. Nigel is very aware that talent is important but he’s also looking for juniors who have the right mind set to follow through and be able to realise their goals.

Tasmanian cyclist Matt Goss is supporting the foundation that Pure Tasmania-Deloitte TIS Cycling is creating. Matt started when there was no team structure and it was much harder to get support. Pure Tasmania-Deloitte TIS Cycling is hoping to make the process easier, not just financially but with proper support and an professional team structure.

The support for women’s cycling takes two steps forward and three steps back, Nigel is hoping that we can make a change in the way racing is being run in Australia, more communications between organisations and more discussion. To stagger racing over different weekends or weeks, instead of putting the biggest events all on the one weekend; women’s cycling won’t gain anything from our inability to communicate and ask.

Two years ago in Tasmania on a weekend bunch ride, Nigel says he would have seen about five women in bunches, these days he sees a lot more, around fifty. Nigel is in agreement that there are more women riding but they’re not competing; there aren’t enough women at the same standard to have women’s only grades. The only bonus to having no women’s grades in Tasmania is that girls like Grace, Georgia and Amy Cure are racing against the guys, which makes them stronger.

Tasmanian Cyclist Belinda Goss is on her way, she spent some time with the Pure Tasmania-Deloitte TIS Cycling and was based mostly in Europe this year, after a three month stint at the AIS training base. Belinda a former track cyclist and World Champion has signed a pro contract with German Professional UCI team Abus NUTRIXXION for the 2012 season.

It’s clear that women’s cycling is certainly on the up in Tasmania and all over Australia, there is more racing than there was two years ago and there are more women cycling, even I’ve seen the increase in female participation since I started riding three years ago.

It’s clear that there is a place for women’s cycling and there is support, communication between the most vital organisations is what will form the foundation that these women crave so much. We have the riders and Tasmania without doubt has the talent, women’s cycling across Australia is beaming with talent, the lack of clarity amongst organisations is what causes women’s cycling to take two steps forward and three steps back.

Pure Tasmania-Deloitte TIS Cycling is one organisation that is looking forward to the future, it is a unique organisation that has many of the same great characteristics, we wish them the best, from one Tasmanian to another.
___
In Launceston this weekend, the Junior National Track Series continues at the Launceston Silverdome, 19th November at 2:00pm, if you’ve never seen track racing before then this is a great opportunity to check it out.

*Pictures from Pure Tasmania-Deloitte TIS Cycling

November 9, 2011

Women's Grand Prix - Victoria, Australia

Women's Grand PrixI had the opportunity to meet with Rob Carson, General Manager of events group Cykel, one beautiful Melbourne morning, I was on the hunt for more information about the Women's Grand Prix and an understanding of Rob's passion for creating this event for female cyclists.

Rob realised pretty quickly about the lack of women's racing outside of the club structure in Victoria and all over Australia. Rob has done what nobody else had managed to do; a series of races that will be action packed!

Rob included me in on an email recently from Bec Domange, a local A grade racer who recently put together a  seminar about understanding bike racing, Rob asked Bec to give her thoughts towards the series, Bec made the following comments.

Riders such as Kathy Watt, Anna Wilson of the late 90s to Emma Rickards and Olivia Gollan racing well into the New Millennium and the riders currently taking the world by storm Rochelle Gilmore, Chloe Hosking and Shara Gillow have set the bar for what can be achieved by Australian Women.

Cykle Events is providing an opportunity like never before right here in Metropolitan and Regional Victoria. A criterium series solely for women. Providing women of ALL abilities the opportunity to race on some of the best circuits in Victoria, with the added bonus of substantial prize money and all run in the most professional environment possible. It is sure to rival the atmosphere of Speed Week in the USA and the Kermesses in Belgium.

The racing will be fast, tactical and team oriented. It is sure to not only increase the already rapidly growing nature of Women’s cycling but give the women in the peloton the exposure and support they deserve. Jump on board to experience the biggest event in Women’s cycling Victoria has ever seen!
Here is some of what you need to know.

A four-round series of cycling races to be held throughout Victoria (Australia), the Women’s Grand Prix will allow women to battle it out for over $5,000 in cash and prizes in this teams-based event.

The Women’s Grand Prix has been designed to address the shortfalls in many club-level cycling races in Victoria, with a lack of women’s-only event and minimal team-based events.

The Women’s Grand Prix will also incorporate a three-round series for under 17-aged girls.

Rob Carson, General Manager of events group, Cykel, declared “This series is expected to be hotly contested by women from around Victoria and interstate, with new teams being established and a rivalry setting into women’s cycling that hasn’t been seen in Victoria before.”

Not sure? Here’s some of the finer print about teams.

The Women's Grand Prix is a team’s event.  Collusion is allowed and encouraged.  It is preferred that all riders within a team wear similar jerseys for identification.  Note that teams do not need to be Cycling Victoria or Cycling Australia registered teams to participate as a team in the Women's Grand Prix.

Not a racer? These races will be an exciting day out for anyone interested in bikes, it will be fast racing and lots of action. This is a great opportunity to find out a bit more about racing and perhaps even spark a new interest; everyone is welcome.

When and where?

Round 1
Saturday December 17th, 2011
Macpherson’s Park
Coburns Rd, Melton
Host: Melton Cycling Club

Round 2
Saturday January 28, 2012
Casey Fields
Berwick-Cranbourne Rd, Cranbourne Host: Carnegie Caulfield Cycling Club

Round 3
Sunday February 12, 2012
Mayfair Park, Bendigo
Bendigo
Host: Bendigo Cycling Club

Round 4
Saturday March 3, 2012
National Boulevard, Campbellfield
Host: Coburg Cycling Club

This is a great opportunity for women to race with friends and create that foundation for women's cycling in Australia, for entries and more information go to http://www.cykelevents.com.au/page/womensgp we look forward to seeing you racing.

November 3, 2011

Interview with Cycling Presenter, Matt Keenan

Cycling commentator Matt Keenan is looking for a team, whoever wants him he said, he’s shaved his legs and believes that his performance has increased by 5%. Matt is an ambassador for the Hanover ConnectEast Ride for Home, a charity ride catering for all types of riders to support homeless people in Victoria. Without wanting to give too many of his training secrets away, his preparation has been limited, but like any good cyclist he’s driven the course, studied the winds and hoping for a tailwind home.

Matt was happy to answer our questions as well as commenting on the changes  necessary in women’s cycling to create a stronger foundation and create a more positive future. He is also confident that Cadel Evans will wear the maillot jaune in the 2012 Tour de France with more time trialling than we’ve ever seen in the past 20 years.

Rowena Scott of Bicycles Network Australia (BNA) speaks with Matt Keenen and taps into a fountain of cycle knowledge.


BNA: How did you become an ambassador for the Hanover Connect East Ride for Home?

Keenan: The people who are involved on the organising committee contacted me and asked me if I wanted to be involved. I was very humbled by it, to get an opportunity to be an ambassador for such a good cause is a great thing to be apart of, it has a feel good factor about it and you feel like you’re actually contributing something to the community.

The job that I do really, is a pretty selfish job, I sit in front of a television and talk about bike racing. Cycling is my hobby and I’ve managed to make a job out of it. To get a chance to do something that is really positive and constructive through a sport that I love is a great thing to be involved in.


BNA: Do you know what you’re up for with the 75km ride; are there any hills on East Link?

Keenan: I drove East Link recently on the way back from one of the stages of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour and as I was driving back up I was assessing the road and to have a look at it to see which way the wind would be most likely to blow, hoping I can get a tailwind home. Perfect road surface, it’s as good as it gets. I did the Mt Macedon Challenge last year in the same sort of physical condition and that was 136km, it was hilly the whole way and I was exhausted by the end of that; I should be okay with the 75km.


BNA: When commentating professionally, how much work is there behind the scenes in building knowledge and information to be ready for a broadcast or is it all spontaneous?

Keenan: You’ve got to do a lot of research in order to be spontaneous and there is a lot of research that you do, that you don’t end up using, but it comes into play if the scenario presents itself you can use that information. For example, the Tour De France, there are 198 riders and you need to know the story about all 198 riders, because in the period particularly where I commentate, it fills in the race when there’s not much happening and there’s a long breakaway, normally it’s the guys in the breakaway that are in their first Tour de France or their second Tour de France so you need to have something to say about everybody. You have got to do the same amount of research for everyone of the riders to get plenty of background on them. Then there are some guys who go through the race who are completely anonymous and you never mentioned their name, yet you’ve done a lot of research on them, it’s a fair bit of work that goes into being prepared for any situation in a race so you’ve got something to say.


BNA: Since Cadel Evans’s win at the Tour de France have you noticed any significant change amongst the media in relation to the way cycling is reported?

Keenan: The benchmark now to get a cycling story in the paper is actually higher than it was in the past because Cadel Evans has raised the bar. In the past if we had a guy like Jack Bobridge riding a bike race in Australia who this year won two world titles on the track, he’s broken a world record and he’s a favourite to win a gold medal at the Olympics. In the past that would have instantaneously created media coverage, but now it doesn’t. Now it virtually doesn’t rate a mention, the bar has been raised so high by Cadel Evans. It’s a catch-22, he’s put cycling on the map but now cycling has got to live up to the standards that have been set by Cadel and they’re pretty lofty standards that he’s set. He has achieved things that no other Australian cyclists has ever achieved, brilliant result for the sport, best thing to happen to cycling in Australia, now the next generation has some really big shoes to fill.


BNA: Can Cadel Evans win the Tour de France again?

Keenan: Yes, because the course that was designed for 2011 had everything against Cadel, it had the least amount of time trialling that we’ve seen in the last 50 years. There where lots of mountain top finishes that favoured his rivals, next year there’s more time trialling than we’ve seen in the last 20 years, there is almost 100km against the clock and there’ only three real mountain top finishes. The course for 2012 suits him a lot better than the course for 2011 and he’s got a better team around him for next year on the tricky transitional changes, I think he’ll start next year as a favourite; he is the man to beat.


BNA: GreenEdge made mention early on in its launch about a women’s team, I understand that the women’s pro-tour licences are easier to come by and the dates are different to the men’s. Have you heard any further developments on the matter?

Keenan: They will have a women’s team and it will be announced later November I think and there will be a couple of international riders in the team with plenty of experience to really guide a bunch of young Australian women. In the last couple of years we have had quite a few of our experienced Australian women retire and there is a generation of women in there early twenties that are just starting to make their mark internationally, so they’re going to have a couple of internationals that can hopefully guide them and go on to do some of the great things we’ve seen female cyclist do in the past.

On the road for example at the Olympic Games, there has only been one Australian who has won a medal of any colour in the men’s side of the event. In the women’s we’ve had two gold medallists, we’ve had a lot of success in women’s cycling and I think that there’s a group around that twenty to twenty-two mark that are going to have that success in the future.


BNA: Where do you think women’s cycling is heading? Is it heading in a positive direction?

Keenan: It is there’s been a lot of discussion about it recently about whether there is enough support for women’s cycling. One of the challenges for women’s cycling and women’s sport in general is getting media coverage, because its media coverage that attracts the sponsors and in cycling that is even more so than club based sports, whether it be soccer or national sports based. In cycling you only sponsor a team because you’re getting exposure for your money that you’re investing in the squad. Women’s cycling needs to make a push to get more media coverage and it’s really difficult to do, it’s not something that happens over night. How they go about doing that I’m not exactly sure. It might mean a slight change in some of the formats of the racing that allows tours to run in conjunction with men’s tours that have slightly shorter stages near that end with higher impact style racing. Perhaps they need to tinker with the format of the races to make it more appealing to media coverage.


BNA: As a sport loving nation what can we do as members of the cycling community to firmly cement women’s cycling as a sport that should be celebrated in Australia?

Keenan: Watch it on television for starters and when you read newspapers articles about women’s cycling, particularly if it’s online, make comments and show that people are actually reading those articles. It’s a demand driven thing, if you look at the Herald Sun website, for example, they’ve always got the top five articles rolling over and the ones that are read the most are football, AFL football and that’s why they cover AFL football because that’s what the readers are demanding. It comes down to the people that are in cycling actually demonstrating that they’re supporting it and demonstrating that they’re watching it and its not something that will change over night, it will take a while to build that up.


BNA: Do you think the era of doping has ended in professional cycling?

Keenan: It will never end in any sport, there will always be someone out there trying to cheat in any walk of life, beyond sport as well. But that doesn’t mean that you give up the fight; it’s like law enforcement, there’s always going to be people out there that break the law, it doesn’t mean that you just say lets get rid of the police force and not bother with it. The one thing that cycling can be really proud of is how hard it has fought to try and catch people. A guy like Fabian Cancellara, for example, was tested fifty-five times last year, which is more than once a week. We hear some athletes from other sports complaining that they’re test six times within a year. I think that cycling has improved a lot, it’s made significant progress and it’s doing a lot to try and get the cheats. It’s the right path to be on and we’ve got to stay on that path.


BNA: In Alberto Contador’s case, its been going on for sometime, do you think its fair for the UCI to be dragging it out for so long? Has the recent discovery of the five Michigan Football team members having clenbuterol in their system going to make a difference to the outcome?

Keenan: I think that will help with Contador’s case but as far as how long it’s taken to get to this point; it’s embarrassing. We’re still waiting to see who won the 2010 Tour de France and we’re almost at the end of 2011, it should have been solved within six months at the very worst. If it continues to drag on, it continues to drag the sport through the mud so to speak, its one that I wish was solved before the end of last year and certainly before this year Tour de France. But we’re still waiting for a result; it’s a bad look for the sport if this continues to drag on.


Bicycles Network Australia would like to thank Matt Keenan for his time, we wish him all the best with his role as ambassador for the Hanover ConnectEast Ride for Home and the 75km ride that he will embark on this November 13.

For more information on how to donate to the Hanover ConnectEast Ride for Home or to join Matt on this ride, head to: www.rideforhome.com.au