Behind the scenes at Santos Women's Tour Down Under
Specialized Women’s Racing is a domestic National Road Series Cycling Team. In January 2017 we were invited as a wild card entry to the UCI Santos Women’s Tour in Adelaide, South Australia. We were to be racing amongst 5 other domestic teams and 12 professional UCI cycling teams. What an invitation; we would be racing alongside the best cyclists in the world, including many of our idols!
Our journey started months ago, when the majority of our team started training for the Australian Summer of Cycling, which was kicked off by the Bay Criterium Series and the National Road Championships. A lot of sacrifices, blood, sweat and tears have been jammed into our hectic work, family and social lives over the Christmas and New Year period. While most people use this time at the end of the year to relax and unwind, we were spending long days on the saddle and keeping disciplined at our end of year functions. Knowing that in the new year you are going to be on the start line against the world’s best cyclists is a pretty good motivation for us to keep focused on our training.
The journey to Adelaide is quite the trek. We have 6 riders, their bikes and equipment to coordinate from interstate and overseas. In addition to our riders, we travel with three staff members including our Directeur Sportif (DS) Bec, Chris (soigneur, sponsor, logistics and general team legend), our mechanic Zeke and for this Tour we also had Liz, our Team Manager.
As you can imagine, the logistics of getting a team and staff to this kind of race is nothing short of impressive and even more impressive - the majority of the logistical planning and execution is done by Bec.
So let me introduce our DS, Bec. Whilst we, the riders, are all very self sufficient on tour, Bec is the one that makes sure that we are ready to do our job, which is to race our bikes. Her job involves pretty much everything and anything.
A team Director Sportif (DS) has the role of managing a cycling team during a race: They work out and communicate the race day tactics, drive the team car during the race in the convoy, they plan the team strategies and make all the decisions throughout the race in order to execute the team plan. This is stressful enough, but in our case, Bec does more than just direct the team, she does pretty much does everything for us. Bec is one of the most important members of our team, as without her we are just a bunch of lost individual cyclists.
The life of a DS is truly hectic. There is a lot of planning and coordination that goes into getting riders, staff and equipment to a race, she streamlines it all. When we are on tour, I don’t think she ever stops. She is always doing something.
Bec is the team, in many ways she makes us. She plans our tour schedule to the minute. She goes to the managers meetings and relays us all the details. She picks us up off the ground after a hard race, sometimes literally. She high fives us after success. She waits at the laundromat until late at night, so that we can have clean kit in the morning. She always has a pen when we need one. She lugs kilograms of ice around to race starts so that we can have cold drinks. She packs the car, then unpacks it, then packs it again. She tells us what to do and what not to do. She picks us up and drops us off and then rides her bike back to the start in 45 degree heat. She makes sure that we are on time. While we are relaxing, she is studying race routes, organising logistics, planning the next stage. She waits at the hospital with us when we crash. She gives us words of wisdom, a shoulder to cry on and gives us confidence. She goes to the supermarket when we forget things that were on the list.
She does all this so all we have to do is ride our bikes, I think her job is much harder! The DS is definitely a unsung hero of bike racing.
I want to say that racing Santos Women’s Tour was easy, but it wasn’t. The racing was fast, tough and the temperatures were hot. The peloton was not only physically, but mentally tough and we got through. The spectators cheered the loudest we’ve heard, and we were exposed to some of the most challenging races. With the support of our team staff, and our DS we stepped up to the challenge and embraced the opportunity to race with the world's best.
For spectators watching us race, it is easy to think that we have the toughest job, but it’s our wonderful support staff who get us to the start line and give us the best opportunity to achieve our best.
Thank-you for giving us the opportunity to race our bikes and achieve our dreams.
Interesting stats for you:
101 riders in total
10 UCI international teams
7 domestic NRS teams
6 team riders
3 team staff
2 team vehicles
2 hire cars
1 tub chamois cream
24 bidons to wash every night
50kg of ice
12 loads of washing
16 cans of coke
$400 worth of food
72 at least coffees
2 jars of peanut butter
270km of racing kilometers
40.5 km/hr average speed of racing