Ah, the Australians! I always have this stereotype of them as the types of cyclists who ride hard, push things to the limit, and then come back and entertain us by blogging about any mistakes they've made, describing all the traumas with a laugh. They're such a strong cycling nation, on the road and on the track - and huge credit to Cycling Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport for helping to discover and develop the talent - and for funding and supporting the Australian National Team through the European season. I don't know if they have Top Trumps in Australia, and I've featured a few of the Aussies elsewhere in my series, but here are some of the other riders I hope we'll be seeing in the green and gold going for the home win in the Worlds next month. I could have started anywhere but I'm doing this one in order of age. Let us all rejoice, they're young and free, of beauty rich and rare, toiling with their hearts and hands (and legs) - advance Australians fair!
After hanging out on Podium Café for, oooh, ten minutes, you realise there are certain riders who need to be adopted as Café favourites. If their favourite beer is Leffe, and their cycling hero is Jens Voigt, for example... So I hereby nominate Chloe Hosking to be added to the pantheon - read on and find out more.
Chloe's only 19, the youngest rider on HTC-Columbia. She started out on the track, first of all as a sprinter (as a potential junior Anna Meares) before moving up to the endurance events and onto the road. She was taught by her dad to sprint on the roads the Australian way
The track will always give you those skills and my dad is a road sprinter as well, so when I was little he would take me down to the lake and we'd have skills sessions and that type of thing. I've always been encouraged to throw some elbows and the odd headbutt.
before taking time off to focus on her final year of school. Her plan for 2009 was to have a year's cycling in the USA before going back home to university, but she couldn't find a team to take her on. Luckily for her, someone put her in touch with Dutch cyclist Martine Bras, who took Chloe under her wing and set her up with Moving Ladies, a Dutch club who get invites to some of the big day races. She raced and won the Tour of ChongMing Island in April with Australian team MB Cycles, winning 2 of the 4 stages, before starting at Moving Ladies with a 4th place in the GP Stad Roeselare and 6th at the Omloop Van Borsele in the same weekend, followed by podium places in Dutch sprinty day races (the most prestigious being her 2nd place at the Therme Kesseienomloop) and 3rd place on stage 2 at the RaboSter. The Australian National Team liked what they saw, and took her to the biggest race of the year, the Giro Donne, and to the Tour Féminin Limousin, where she came 2nd in stage 2. All this brought her to the attention of HTC, who offered her a role as a stagiaire for September, and then a year's contract.... You can read her take on her first Euro season here - and it's thanks to Martine, and those American teams that turned her down!
She rides on the sprint side of HTC, preferring her races flat, technical and aggressive, and combines her racing with studying for a degree in media/communication by correspondence. My only complaint is that this doesn't give her time to blog more - I especially liked her description of HTC training camp, and think we need more like this:
You’ve got the Germans (Ina, Judith, Luise, along with our Sports Director, Ronny) to set the schedule, the Dutchies (Ellen and Adrie) to break the schedule, and the neutral countries (Sweden, Emilia; New Zealand, Linda; Australia, Me) to do whatever we’re told. Then there are the Americans (Evelyn and Kim) to joke about the Germans setting the schedule, the Dutch breaking the schedule, and the neutrals following the schedule. Finally there’s the Italian (Noemi) who just wants to ride Randa (a climb in Mallorca).
All this at just 19... read on below for the Aussies she's followed onto the European scene - and knowing that most of you know a lot more about the Australian riders (and riders in general) than I do, add anything I've missed (or misinterpreted) into the comments - the more, the merrier!
Our next Australian is the newest rider in the pro peloton, although you'd never guess that from her results. It's always surprising to be reminded how young Tiffany Cromwell still is - and the fact she's only been in Europe as part of Team Australia.
She comes from a sporting background and was a super-sporty child, competing at basketball, athletics, triathlon & taekwondo and more, before she was spotted by AIS when they came to her school on a talent-scouting expedition when she was 14. In 2005 she was part of Team Australia at the Junior Worlds, and then in 2007 she signed to Colavita, riding the USA domestic circuit for two and a half years, winning the Sea Otter Classic in '08 and '09, with forays into Europe with Team Aus, where she came 4th in the Holland Hills Classic in 2008 and in 2009 winning both the ITT stage in the Route de France and the stage 3 bunch sprint at the Tour Féminin en Limousin. When she signed to Skyter for 2010, alongside stars Nicole Cooke, Amber Neben and Trixi Worrack, it looked like the only way was up.... but then, as we know, Skyter pulled out of the team at the last minute, leaving it too late for the non-German riders to find teams. Like Nicole and Amber, Tiffany was saved by her national team, and she's been doing well with them all year, with top 20 finishes in some tough races.
She rode the Australian season with the Honda Dream Team, which started in December 2009, headed up and managed by Lotto Ladies' Team Australian sprint star, Rochelle Gilmore, who also manages Lotto. Lotto has some excellent and innovative arrangements with Honda in Australia and Biogen Toyota in South Africa, giving riders like one-woman cycling media Ashleigh Moolman the chance to ride in Europe - and Tiffany is the latest Aussie to cross over, signing for Lotto in August. Her first race for the new team was the Sparkassen Giro, where she came second behind HTC sprinter Ellen Van Dijk.
She's as successful off the bike as on, combining riding the two summer seasons with her other job as a freelance fashion designer. She's designed the team kit for Lotto in 2009 and 2010, and for the Honda dream team, amongst other things, and she has two lines of cycling wear (available from her website and in real life from Australian cycling shops). She's qualified as a fashion designer and stylist, and one of her long-term aims is to have her own fashion line as well as the sportswear. Sadly her new team colours at Lotto don't give much scope for really exciting matching nail art, but I'm hoping she's selected for the national team, so she can give us some green and gold glory (Tiffany, if you ever read this, you'd have a website full of fans forever if you'd one day dedicate your nails to the Podium Café!)
What else? Her website says she speaks Catalan, French, Italian and German, and she seems like a fan of adrenaline, relaxing with rock-climbing and motor-sports.... She's definitely one to watch as a GC contender in the future - and although it was a little bit delayed, it's great to have her finally riding as a pro - long may it last!
Long may it also last for Carla Ryan, though for different reasons. I'm hoping all the Cervélo riders are safe and secure as the team transfers to Garmin-Cervélo, but we'll have to wait and see. Carla's been a real team player, supporting Claudia Häusler to her 2nd place in last year's Emakumeen Bira and to her win in the Giro Donne - and this despite crashing hard in the early-season Ronde van Gelderland, effectively delaying her season start until June. She's only been a pro for 2 years, but as well as playing super-domestique, she has some great results in her own right - coming 2nd in last year's Giro del Trentino behind World and Olympic Champion Nicole Cooke and 8th in the Giro Donne.
She's a key part of Cervélo's all-conquering Team Time Trial squad, and the ITT is a bit of a speciality - she was the Australian National ITT Champion for three years in a row, doubling it with Road Race Champion in 2009 (she missed the 2010 championships to go to the team training camp). I'm hoping she'll be picked to ride it in the Worlds, with the home advantage....
One more reason to like her is the fact she occasionally blogs on the Cervélo site (I hope the teams keeps that up when they go Garvélo - in fact I hope they increase it, and start twittering about the women's team too) where she makes the cycling life sound like a lot of fun. It seems like she's solar-powered, loving the fact she goes from summer to summer (maybe it's the freckles acting as solar batteries) and generally coming across as sunny-natured as well. Keep your fingers crossed that things turn out well for her.
Another Aussie who needs your good thoughts right now is Rachel Neylan, who's currently recovering from a fractured jaw after crashing earlier this month while out training with Team Australia. And this after she's just back from a bad crash in the Emakumeen Bira, where she had a very painful injury that involved lots of stitches in her backside.... so she goes from not being able to sit down to not being able to smile, which is just not fair at all! At least, as a trained sports physiotherapist, she'll know exactly what she needs to do to recover well...
It was when she was travelling in Europe in 2007 as the physio for the Australian national rowing team that she decided she wanted to be the one competing at the highest levels, rather than being support - so she self-nominated to the AIS talent ID programme and was accepted for cycling. She'd already competed at national level at athletics and rowed for a while - she just needed to find the right sport to match her ambition. In 2009 she went out to the USA to ride for Proman (which has since morphed into Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) learning to domestique for American track and road star Shelley Olds-Evans, initially for 7 weeks, but she ended up racing in the USA for 4 months. Reading between the lines, it looks like she then took a risk and flew to Europe to persuade the National Team to take her on for the Sparkassen Giro and the World Cup Nürnberger Altstadt, and found herself guest spots with small teams for the Holland Ladies Tour and the Giro Toscana.
She's a believer in "the harder you work, the luckier you get" - and she's proved that you can only be in the right place at the right time if you make sure you're putting yourself in the best possible place. Despite the disruptions from injuries - as well as those two big ones, she also crashed out of the Ronde van Gelderland, and the Ronde van Drenthe - her first European season, riding with Team System Data and Team Australia, has been strong - finishing 13th in the first round of the World Cup, the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, 10th in World Cup warm-up race Durango-Durango and 6th in the GP Mameranus, and coming 9th overall in the Tour Féminin en Limousin. As well as blogging on her website, Rachel can be found blogging and writing all over the place - and she's one of those riders we love, keeping us up-to-date with news and her adventures through her twitter - where you can send her get-well-soon messages. Here's to her being back smiling and riding very soon, and back on the roads in Europe for 2011.
Another link between Rachel and Carla is that they've both been supported by a sporting scholarship from the Amy Gillet Foundation - Carla in 2007 and Rachel this year. The Foundation was set up in memory of Australian cyclist and rower Amy Gillet, who was killed on a training ride in Germany 2005 when a driver lost control of her car and hit Amy and her 5 team-mates. The Foundation was set up to reduce deaths & injuries caused to cyclists by cars, with national campaigns (including A Metre Matters aimed a drivers and Ride Right aimed at cyclists) and support for research into road safety, and to support women with the same sporting and educational goals Amy had. It makes me shiver, thinking about the horrible Belgian crash that injured 5 Team GB riders - and of course, the horrific crash that's left Marina Romoli still unable to walk - being reminded how vulnerable the pro cyclists are out there, and the risks all cyclists run every day. Makes other problems pale in comparison.
There are ways to help the Foundation - through fundraising and buying merchandise - and if you're lucky enough to be in Australia, joining their awareness- and fund-raising rides throughout the Australian spring and summer, which 6,400 cyclists took part in last season (the first one of this season is in Adelaide on 7th November). Rachel recently wrote about how the national team remembered the anniversary of Amy's death and what the scholarship means to her. My thoughts go out to Amy's family and friends, and all those working for Amy's legacy.
The final rider in this Top Trumps hand is Rachel's team-mate at Team Systems Data and Team Australia, Kirsty Broun. Kirsty used to combine cycling with working as an Insolvency & Restructuring Lawyer (I'd add jokes about how useful that must be for the women's cycling world, but it's a bit too close to the bone!) but she recently gave it up to ride full time. She's juggled sporting and professional ambition for years - after starting racing at 16, she stopped a few years later for 6 years to focus on her studies, starting again in the 2007, when she won the first of her two Australian Crit Champion titles. By 2009 she was winning the overall and 3 stages of the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic & 2 stages of the Canberra Tour and was taken on board by the National Team for 2009, where she came 3rd overall at the Ladies Tour of Qatar and riding in the (now extinct) Tour du Grand Montréal, before heading down to the USA. She won a stage of the Nature Valley GP and guest-rode for Lipsmacker in June and July alongside Anne Samplonius and Amanda Millar. She then headed back to Europe with Team Aus where she was beaten to 4th in the World Cup Nürnberger Altstadt by Kirsten Wild, Rochelle Gilmore and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg - and there's no shame in that at all. She had signed a full-time contract with LipSmacker, but the team folded (see what I mean about the jokes?) so she's back in Europe for 2010, where she's graced the podium after sprint finishes in all kinds of tough races. She's a fierce competitor, and although she hasn't yet had a big European win, there's still time this season - and I'm sure she'll be back next year...
I could talk about the Australian riders forever, but if you want more, you'll have to add it yourself in the comments. Aside from these, and the riders mentioned elsewhere in the series, the other riders you might come across in the national colours before the season's out in Europe, and maybe even at Geelong for the Worlds, are former AGF scholarship holders, World Champion rower-turned cyclist Amber Halliday and Limousin stage winner Carlee Taylor, Miffy Galloway, who also blogs and tweets, Emma Mackie, who you'll be ale to spot at the next National Road Race Champs by the streamers attached to her bike, Shara Gillow and Amanda Spratt - good luck to all of them! Now, if only Fly V Australia would launch a women's team to ride in Europe alongside their proposed men's Pro-Tour team.... there'd be more than enough talent to fill it!