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If you’ve been following any of the women’s racing so far this Australian summer, you would have heard of the Roxsolt Racing Team. The royal-blue-clad squad features many of Australia’s best female riders and has enjoyed great success in its two summers so far. So what’s the team all about and how did it get started? CyclingTips editor Matt de Neef caught up with the team to find out.
It was one of those races where just about everything went to plan. They went into the race with ambitions of overall victory and of claiming as many intermediate sprints as possible. They would leave the Shimano Supercrit having taken first and third, plus three of the five intermediate sprints on offer.
And when you look at the riders they had on the startline last Sunday, it’s no surprise they were so dominant.
With three top sprinters in the line-up, Roxsolt was going to be hard to beat if the race came to a bunch kick. Joining world-class sprinter Chloe Hosking were Australia’s two most recent criterium champions: Sarah Roy (2014) and Kimberley Wells (2013). Throw Jo Hogan and Lauren Kitchen into the mix — both international riders with considerable experience — and Roxsolt had the strongest team in the race.
Wells started as the favourite, having come off an impressive victory in the Stan Siejka Launceston Cycling Classic a week earlier and having shown great form since winning the Noosa Criterium in November (while racing for Specialized-Securitor). Wells lived up to expectations last Sunday, taking a sprint victory ahead of British criterium champion Eileen Roe (Wiggle-Honda) with Wells’ Roxsolt teammate Chloe Hosking third.
In little more than a year on the Australian racing scene, Roxsolt has established itself as a force to be reckoned with. So how did the team come about, and why?
A brief history of Roxsolt Racing
“It was all Chloe’s fault,” Roxsolt owner and director Kelvin Rundle told me with a smile.
A few years back Chloe Hosking missed a year of racing the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic (commonly known as the Bay Crits) after struggling to find a team that would support her to race in Australia. She had a contract with an international team, but the team’s support didn’t extend to the Australian summer races.
And at that time, there was another team dominating local races.
“We were at Bay Crits and all you heard was ‘the Honda Dream Team, the Honda Dream Team’ over and over and over,” Hosking recalls. “It was so great what Rochelle [Gilmore] was doing — putting a really strong team together and really supporting the racing — but for me, as an individual rider essentially, it was really hard to come and compete against that team.”
In 2012 GreenEdge came on the scene and took local women’s racing to another level, but for riders like Hosking — Aussie pros on internationally based teams — it was still hard to find the necessary support to race at home.
“So I just got chatting to Kelvin [Rundle, of Roxsolt] and we joked about starting a team,” Hosking said. “And then in about August 2013 Kelvin emailed me and he said: ‘Do you want to do this?’ And I’m like: ‘Yes!’.
Roxsolt enters the fray
Roxsolt is a Sydney-based management consulting company that works mainly in the banking, finance and government sectors. The company’s founder (and Roxsolt Racing director sportif) Kelvin Rundle tells me he can’t say much about the sorts of projects Roxsolt does, but it’s no secret that Rundle, and in turn Roxsolt, has invested heavily in women’s cycling.
“When we met Chloe a couple of years ago we said ‘what is it you need?'”, Rundle told me at the Shimano Supercrit. “What she said to us was ‘I need a team that is competitive’. So that was an easy fix for us. It’s just a matter of working out what resources you need and underwriting the team.”
As Hosking explains, she also had another goal in mind when working with Rundle to create the Roxsolt Racing Team: supporting younger riders.
“When I was coming through as a junior I had Oenone Wood. At that time she was, in my opinion, probably the best Australian cyclist going around,” Hosking said.
“She actually came up to me one night in Canberra at an awards [night] and she was like: ‘Would you like to race the Bay Crits with me?’ I think I was 16 or something, and I was like: ‘Yes.'”
“For me it was really important. I’m definitely not on the same level as Oenone but I am racing in Europe,” Hosking added. “[In the same way] that I was offered that opportunity, it’s also really important to also offer other girls the same opportunity.”
The cost of success
Roxsolt Sydney Uni Velo, as it was then known, debuted at the NSW Grand Prix in late 2013, before going on to win the 2013 St. Kilda Supercrit and one of the 2014 Bay Crits, both courtesy of Chloe Hosking.
The 2014/15 summer has started off in even better fashion but for Rundle, there’s no expectation of victory.
“We don’t really ask for anything back — we just give the team the opportunity to race their bikes,” Rundle said. “As I like to say, I’m just the wallet.”
Rundle explained that funding the team for six domestic races this summer will cost Roxsolt well in excess of $20,000.
“We’ll spend anywhere between $2,500 and $4,000 on flights per race,” Rundle said. “Our accommodation bill for the Bay Crits is just mind-blowingly expensive — that will be in excess of $3,000.
“We might spend somewhere between $200 and $400 a day on food to feed the team. Even partnering with Seight [Custom Clothing Wear] we’ve still got $3,000-$3,500 in kit costs. Race entry for Bay Crits is $2,000 …”
While riders aren’t paid to race for Roxsolt, they do take home any prize money they earn. Usually this isn’t a significant amount, but in the case of the Shimano Supercrit — where the elite women were racing for the same prize money as the elite men — Roxsolt riders took home more than $6,000 ($3,000 for first, $1,000 for third and a total of $2,250 for the three intermediate sprints).
So what does Roxsolt get out of investing in the team, besides its name on the jersey? For Kelvin Rundle it’s about the lessons that can be learned through women’s cycling and then applied in the business world.
“Most teams in the corporate world … are assembled for a project but the project manager isn’t actually the people leader,” Rundle said. “So you’ve got 30 or 40 different people who all have different managers coming in together and they need to work together.
“There’s actually a lot of similarities [with Roxsolt Racing] because none of these riders actually race together throughout the year. Everyone is unique in what they need. So to be able to bring them in and work well together to get them to succeed and perform, that really translates for us back into the business world.”
Getting the big names
At the start of January the Roxsolt Racing Team will bid farewell to Chloe Hosking who begins her tenure with Wiggle-Honda. Last year that team dominated at Bay Crits, winning three of the four races and the series overall, thanks to two-time former world champion Giorgia Bronzini.
For Hosking the move represents an interesting progression. Just a few years ago she helped to establish Roxsolt as a way of combating an all-conquering, Rochelle Gilmore-led, Honda-sponsored squad at Bay Crits. Now she joins such a team.
While Roxsolt will undoubtedly miss the experience and power of Hosking (and of Sarah Roy, who joins Orica-AIS), the news certainly isn’t all bad. In January the team will welcome three more of Australia’s best international riders: Tiffany Cromwell and Loren Rowney (both Velocio-SRAM, previously known as Specialized-Lulelemon) and Carlee Taylor (Orica-AIS in 2014; Lotto-Soudal in 2015).
So why is it that Roxsolt attracts such strong riders? To Kelvin Rundle, it’s about the support and flexibility the team provides.
“When Kimberley [Wells] spoke to us and said ‘Look, I can only commit race-to-race, can I still be on the team? No-one else will let me do that’ we were like: ‘Well, it’s a no-brainer. We can work around that.’”
And for Wells, Roxsolt’s appeal wasn’t just about flexibility — it was also the fact the team was winning races.
“I approached Roxsolt looking for a summer team that I knew could rival those of Orica-GreenEdge and Wiggle [Honda],” Wells said. “We win and we also have fun.”
Chloe Hosking is quick to echo Wells’ sentiment.
“Really, in my opinion, if you’re not racing for Orica [AIS] or Wiggle [Honda], this is the team you want to be on,” Hosking said. “We’ve seen that in the girls that are approaching Kelvin and asking him if they can race for him.”
A long summer of Aussie racing
The Roxsolt Racing Team will reconvene in the first week of January for the 2015 Bay Crits (January 2-5), before heading to the Road Nationals in Buninyong (January 7-11) to race with their respective state institutes. From there the team reforms and heads to Adelaide to race in the inaugural Santos Women’s Tour (January 17-20), a four-stage National Road Series (NRS) event that sits alongside the first men’s WorldTour race of the season: the Santos Tour Down Under.
The team will end its second summer with the inaugural Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race (January 31), which will also be an NRS event in 2015.
Roxsolt might have dominated Sunday’s Shimano Supercrit but they’ll face stiffer competition when the new year rolls around. Wiggle-Honda will be looking to replicate the dominance it enjoyed at the 2014 Bay Crits and Orica-AIS will be desperate to start its year off in style, likely fielding two teams at the Bay Crits as they have in the past.
But with the calibre of riders Roxsolt has on its roster through January there’s no reason to suspect we won’t see royal blue on the podium again before summer is out.
Regardless, the team’s rise in the past two years is only a good thing for Australian women’s cycling. The team doesn’t just provide an opportunity for Aussie international pros to race competitively while back home; it means local racing is all the more competitive as a result.
Roll on January.