With the 2010 World Road Cycling Championships in Geelong and the 2010 Commonwealth Games held in New Delhi fast approaching, we are once again seeing numerous Canberran's fronting up to compete at the top level in cycling. From the likes of brothers Brian and Neil Stephens, Stephen Hodge and more recently the Michael Rogers and Matthew Haymans, it appears that Canberra has a knack of developing some of Australia's most talented and successful cyclists. So why is it that Canberra seems to be the perfect breeding ground for elite cyclists? Is it the terrain, the climate, the cycling community... or just something in the water?
Canberra has boasted a very prominent cycling community ever since the territory's first cycling clubs were established in the mid-1920s. Previous research indicates that the state had its inaugural organised bunch ride on the 21st November 1926, where members showed up at Hotel Canberra at 2:30pm to enjoy a spin with their fellow cyclists, and it appears that cycling in Canberra has never looked back since. Nowadays, cyclists can still meet at various points across the state everyday of the week to enjoy an easy spin (or a smash fest if that is more to your liking) with a bunch of other cycling fanatics.
So what makes Canberra so appealing to cyclists? One of the most important aspects is the terrain. Whether it is a flat ride or some long climbs you're after – Canberra has it pretty well covered. The infamous Cotter-Uriarra loop and Corin Dam hill climb are becoming Canberra's more 'iconic' rides with the running of the annual Canberra Tour (former Milk Race), the Canberra Women's and Junior Tour as well as the Australian Junior National Championships all being held on parts of these loops. With only a short 20min ride from the Centre of Canberra, you can be out in the quiet back roads and able to train without worries of motorists, left with only your thoughts and those bloody TT efforts and the odd magpie to worry about. ..
After the inaugural Canberra Amy's Ride earlier this year, the Amy Gillet Foundation's 'A Meter Matters' campaign in Canberra
Another favourable facet for cyclist in Canberra is the weather. When i'm home in the summer, nothing beats a recovery ride around the lake in the sun before finishing it off at a coffee shop nearby where there you would be forgiven if you spent hours in your knicks basking in the sun sipping on some of the best tasting brew out... after all, chamois time is training time yeah?? Otherwise the long summer days prove ideal for spending hours lost somewhere out the back of Tharwa or Corin with mates. Sure, you could say I'm guilty of not enduring a FULL Canberra winter for 3 years now and so am a bit naive on the extremes at which it gets to... But Canberra cyclists are fortunate that there are enough dedicated cycloholics (and yes, i've officially made it a term) out there that no matter which bunch ride you turn up to – you are guaranteed to find a training partner to bitch to about just how rough Canberra winter is and how hardcore you are for going out - and how soft everyone else is for sleeping in.
Which leads me to one of the most important key to success for whatever you choose to do, not just in cycling but in life in general, and that is the availability of support. In Canberra we are privileged enough to have a very supportive, encouraging and friendly cycling community. Members of the state's most prominent cycling clubs, Canberra Cycling Club (CCC), Tuggeranong Vikings Cycling Club and the ACT Masters are all very receptive of new riders as well as being very generous and supportive of your cycling goals, however ambitious they may seem! The Canberra Cycling Club boasts an expanding junior cycling program whilst the Tuggeranong Vikings are doing an incredible job at bringing more Women into the sport and the ACT Masters are catering to the Veteran cyclists, many of which are still young at heart and representing the State at an International level!
The Canberra cycling community is very close knit - a picture of the annual Cart's Xmas Ride in memory of Mark Carter, a great Canberra cycling identity
In addition, Canberra is home to many cyclists currently racing on the Domestic and International circuits which provide riders to train against the best in the business. During the off season, it is not uncommon to go out on a training ride and find yourself riding next to a World Champion, a Junior World Champion, a National Champion, Commonwealth medallist or a Tour de France representative ... and on a few occasions I've had the hard task of choosing who's wheel to sit on... Do I choose the National Champ or the Commonwealth medallist's wheel to sit on today?? Having the opportunity to train with the best can only motivate you in training and make you push yourself that much harder. I strongly believe you'd be hard pressed to find another place in Australia where there is such a large group of strong riders who all train together and are friends on and off the bike. Most of the local bunch rides generally prove harder than the majority of road races I compete in... What better way to train?? In addition, the bunches in Canberra are not only beneficial physically but also mentally. The Canberra cycling community is so friendly that everyday you're out on the bike with someone, it's an enjoyable experience and can only motivate you to train harder and to encourage you to fling your leg over the bike every day.
Tracey Gaudry helps out up and coming Canberra cyclist Adam Phelan at the local crits
On another note, when they are home, the most valuable asset the professional riders have to offer is their knowledge and experience to those aspiring and up and coming cyclists. By listening to their advice and 'picking their brains' you can save yourself precious time by learning from their mistakes (they are human too!) and they can open your eyes up to what it actually takes to be a professional cyclist. I believe this is what gives Canberra cyclists an edge over other most other riders who are aspiring to turn professional. I have been fortunate enough to have learnt from top Women's cyclists such as Tracey Gaudry and Vicki Whitelaw, both of whom are champion athletes in their own right. The tools they have provided me with invaluable and they have both individually help to shape me into the cyclist and that I am.
Canberra has also developed a very successful junior development and Talent Identification program which has seen riders such as Michael Matthews and Alex Carle gone on to represent Australia at the Junior World Championships with Michael recently being selected to ride the U23 World Road Cycling championships for the 2nd year and a row and Alex Carle currently competing for a professional Women's team over in the USA. Canberra's ability to identify junior talent and introduce them into the sport of cycling is no doubt envied by many other cycling associations but with the help of the staff at the ACT Academy of Sport, the National Talent Identification program and even the keen eyes of experienced coaches, it is evident that junior cyclists are continuing to come through the ranks and develop into the best in the sport.
Daniel Ellis at Beijing Olympics in his 2nd year as a senior rider
You would therefore be forgiven for thinking that the announcement that yet more Canberrans are representing Australia at the 2010 World Championships and the 2010 Commonwealth Games was foreseeable, it was just a matter of whom.
On a side note – this article has prompted me to take on the somewhat mammoth task of trying to track down all the Canberrans who have represented Australia at either the Junior or Senior World Championships, Olympic and Commonwealth Games. I have used to the best of my ability all available resources but have had trouble tracking earlier results! My sincere apologies if I have forgotten anyone or have got some information wrong – please contact me and I would love to set it straight!
Canberra Australian Representatives
Michael Aisbitt (World Track Championships)
Jane Armstrong (AWD) AWD Worlds and 2008 Paralympics
Gavin Bardsley (Junior World Championships – Perth)
Anthony Biddle (AWD) Blind Tandem (AWD and 2004 Paralympics)
David Bink (1990 Commonwealth Games)
Edward Bissaker (2010 Junior World Track Championships)
Alex Carle (2009 Junior Road World Championships)
Daniel Ellis (2010, 2009,2008 World Track Championships; 2008 Olympic Games; 2010 Commonwealth Games; 2006,2005 Junior World Track Championships)
Tracey Gaudry (2000, 1999, 1998, 1995 World Championships; 2000, 1996 Olympic Games; 1998 Commonwealth Games)
Matthew Hayman (2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 World Championships; 2010, 2006 Commonwealth Games; 1999, 1998 U/23 Road World Championships, 1996 Junior Road World Championships)
Margaret Hemsley ( 2001, 2000 World Championships; 2002 Commonwealth Games)
Stephen Hodge (1994, 1993, 1992, 1991, 1990, 1989, 1988, 1987, 1986, 1985 World Championships; 1996 Olympic Games, 1986 Commonwealth Games)
Chloe Hosking begin_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting (2010 Commonwealth Games, 2008 Junior World Championships)
Kerry Knowler (Pilot Tandem) Para-Cycling World Championships
Alistair Loutit (2008 Junior World Championships)
Jennifer Loutit (2004 Junior World Track Cycling Championships)
Mitchell Lovelock-Fay (2010 Junior World Track Championships)
Jessie Maclean (2003 Junior World Track Championships)
Michael Matthews (2010, 2009 U/23 Road World Championships; 2008 Junior World Championships)
Robert McLACHLAN: (1992 Olympic Games)
James Meadley (2006, 2005 Junior Road World Championships)
Michael Milton (2008 Paralympics + other World Championships)
Sian Mulholland (World Track Championships – first woman to represent Australia in the World Track Championships)
Adrian Nolan (World Championships)
Brandie O'Connor (Blind Tandem) 2010 Para-Cycling World Championships
Tom Palmer (2008, 2007 Junior World Track Championships)
Michael Phelan (2009 Junior Road World Championships)
Deane Rogers: (1995 World Championships, 1994 Junior World Championships)
Michael Rogers (2010,2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 U/23 2000, 1999, 1998 Road World Championships; 2008,2004, 2000 Olympic Games, 1998 Commonwealth Games, 1997 Junior Road and Track World Championships)
Pete Rogers: (1999 World Championships ; 1998 Commonwealth Games)
Scarlett Snow: World Championship TimeTrial (x2 early 90's)
Neil Stephens (1996, 1992, 1991, 1988, 1987 World Championships; 1996 Olympic Games; 1998 Commonwealth Games,)
Kial Stewart (Junior World Track Cycling Championships 2001) + Pilot Tandem with Anthony Biddle 2004 Paralympics
Lucy Stewart (2002 Junior World Track Cycling Championships)
Rory Sutherland (2005 Road World Championships, 2002 U/23 World Road, 2000 Junior World Championships)
Vicki Whitelaw begin_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting (2010,2009,2008,2007 World Championships; 2010 Commonwealth Games)
Oenone Wood (2008, 2007,2006, 2005, 2004, 2003 World Championships; 2008, 2004 Olympic Games; 2006 Commonwealth Games)
Alison Wright (2004, 2003, 2002, 2000, 1999 World Championships, 1998 Junior World Track Championships; 2002 Commonwealth Games; )