NSWIS-Sydney Uni is our Women’s NRS team run in partnership with the NSW Insitute of Sport. This is the first year of the partnership and we had an official team launch while down in Adelaide for the TDU. Three of our ladies are on the squad of 10; Gina Ricardo, Emma Coral Roberts and Holly Hawtin. We’ll hear from each of them throughout the season with looks inside the life of a racer at the top level in Australia. Gina is first up with her experiences riding the Tour Down Under. Over to you Gina! (DR)
Hey there, it’s Gina from the women’s race team recapping my experience at TDU. It was a bit of a whirlwind to get there, but we eventually did, on a new bike 3 days before racing – there’s no better way to test new wheels than in a world-class field!
TDU is always a highlight of the year for me, whether it’s racing or being a spectator/fan girl! It’s always amazing to see so many cyclists together for one big week of cycling and racing. I love how you can walk down the street and bump into someone that you know. There’s that real sense of community.
The women’s race has gotten bigger year-on-year. The first year I raced it in 2015 it was part of the NRS, with Wiggle and Orica the only international representing teams. Last year was the first year it was a UCI race with a good number of international teams, but this year the field was an even bigger step up with 10 international women’s teams lining up on the start line, and a few lucky domestic teams including our very own NSWIS-Sydney Uni.
Part of the reason we were able to get a start was because we had the likes of experienced pro and all-round legend Lauren Kitchen (WM3 Cycling – Marianna Vos’ team this year) and Ash Ankudinoff (Olympian & Team Pursuit world champ) riding with us. Lauren finished a definitive 4th overall on GC, so let’s just say we were very fortunate to have her and her experience for the race! It was unreal to have her around and hear her take on the race and tactics before/after stages. One of the great things about Aussie cycling is that our season is out of whack to the Euros – so we are fortunate that we get to have all the pros come back over summer and ride, train and race with us.
As for the race… In terms of the atmosphere, the amount of people cheering, the level of talent in the field, the organisation – there’s no better race throughout the year. In terms of the race course – for the punter like myself who’s trying to work & train – the shorter distances suit me – but for the international teams that fly out all the way to Australia – the stages are quite short with two, one hour criteriums counting as full stages… What it means is plenty of time for a coffee roll to the beach and relaxed day before those stages (my favourite part)… and some fast and hard racing! Our average speed for stage 2 was 44km/h and for stage 4, 42km/h. It felt as hectic as Tuesday night Heffron does when A/B/C all come together at once. Hectic! Packed in, shoulder to shoulder (or in my case as a short person head to shoulder) with the pros, just hanging on to maintain position… All we could really tell ourselves was that the rest of the year should be a breeze compared to the TDU criteriums! As for the two road races – it’s a shame that we don’t get to share some of the more iconic roads of Adelaide with our international visitors – like Gorge Rd, Norton Summit, Greenhill Rd. The course this year was more like a rolling West Head course with a few flat bits in between interspersed with a couple of longer drags. But no Willungas or Norton Summits. It was enough to weedle out the best and it was definitely hard racing (especially in 38 degrees!), but the course this year didn’t really meet up to 2015 where we raced up Corkscrew then down Gorge Rd. As horrible as ‘race’ and ‘corkscrew’ sound in the one sentence, it was an experience I’ll remember – whereas this year’s course won’t really have as many memorable moments, apart from almost being knocked off my bike by Kirsten Wild’s hips (they were level with my forearms) as she was making her way through the bunch. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, I just want to be realistic. I’m hoping (like we all are) that as the race develops it’ll grow bigger and better – hopefully not too big that our local teams won’t be able to have the opportunity to ride – but bigger to better mirror the men’s race. But just to have it is a massive win for women’s racing in Australia.
It was the first time our team had ridden together & for some of us, met each other. We had a great time and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. Being on the team is unreal. We had an amazing support crew that made us feel like we were pros – I guess for four days we were. Thanks to the team at NSWIS for making it happen and to SUVelo. I’m not sure what’s next yet. A few of us are racing Oceanias in Canberra in a week or so, and we then have a team camp hosted at Brad McGee’s Estate in the Kangaroo Valley late March – so looking forward to those two adventures for the near future! All the best, and looking forward to a ride or coffee soon.