An American in Aus: “Australian racing is very HOT, very fast and very well caffeinated”

by Anne-Marije Rook


Temperatures are heating up in Australia and so is the racing, with the national road championships ongoing and the Santos Women’s Tour and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race coming right up.

And so, while much of Northern Hemisphere is bundling up against wet and frosty conditions, the American-based Hagens Berman – Supermint Pro Cycling team decided to follow their Australian Director Sportif, Jono Coulter, to Victoria to kick off the 2017 season in the sun.

They joined forces with one of their two new Australian signings, former road national champ Peta Mullens, at the Michelton Bay Cycling Classic. At the Bay Crits, the team showed that they are not here to just warm up their legs and get a headstart on their tan lines. Instead, they did what they do best: attack, attack, attack. As a reward, Liza Rachetto took home the Most Aggressive Rider jersey on day one, and Mullens placed herself in the top three overall after stage two before withdrawing from the series in preparation for the national crit championships.

The team will compete in Australia till the end of January.

For American rider Beth Ann Orton –who’s usually deep into the cross season this time of year– this is her first time in Australia, and she’s finding that in addition to being “allergic to everything in Australia except bike racing, coffee and beer,” there are some differences in American and Australian racing.

Previously, racers Sophie Mackay and Verita Stewart told us what it was like for Australians to race in America, and now, in her own words, here’s Orton’s take on racing in Australia:

Beth Ann Orton (Hagens Berman - Supermint) during the 2017 Bay Crits.
Beth Ann Orton (Hagens Berman – Supermint) during the 2017 Bay Crits.

Heat

Oh hey, it’s summer here! I was literally in ski boots one week ago and now I’m riding at 6:30 a.m. to avoid the heat (there are so many problems with this sentiment, least of all I actually hate mornings). There’s no 10 a.m. pro roll in Geelong. Lather on that SPF 70, the U.V. index is high here and God forbid we get a tan! Temperatures for TDU in Adelaide are looking fierce. Hoping for a sea breeze!

The Aussies are flying

The Australian peloton is at the height of its season. Bay Crits are positioned one day prior to Australian criterium nationals and just three days prior to road nationals, so when we say, “the Aussies are flying” we are not joking. The local girls are at the height of their racing season, whilst we’ve left our legs in July and are suffering to find them. Lucky for us, teammate Peta Mullens is a straight up boss, which lends us extra motivation to find early-season fire.

Short and fast

These girls go from the gun, and you’d better be ready, least you enjoy an early victory lap off the back. We all know the credo “it’s easier at the front”, but I challenge you to stay the course with six Orica riders drilling it at the sharp end of a race while you’re still thinking about your Christmas turkey. Although I’ve not felt ready for high intensity efforts, I love the aggressive, full gas style of criterium racing in Australia. Bay Crits are shorter than traditional American crit courses, with lap times spanning between 50 and 90 seconds, so you’re out of the saddle more often, with no time for fussing about: Efficiency is key. There are no lulls or regrouping, and you’d better hold that wheel through a corner or you’re screwed (which, I was).

Peta Mulles (Hagens Berman - Supermint) at the 2017 Bay Crits.
Peta Mulles (Hagens Berman – Supermint) at the 2017 Bay Crits.

Everyone is wonderful

I’ve just been here a week, but drawing from a sample size of approximately 12 people, everyone in the Australian bike racing culture is tops! There is a focused, but not disturbingly serious attitude surrounding Aussie criterium racing, and it’s just the thing I needed set the season off well: That and a serious ass kicking to fuel ambition. Our hosts, staffing and photographers have all been an absolute joy and we can’t wait for TDU.

So that’s it, different, but not. Australian racing is sure to be three things: Very HOT, very fast, and thankfully, very well caffeinated.

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