Australian Cyclist


Does my bum look big in this

I was talent spotted about three years ago. I had quit my day-job in communications to become store manager at The Runners Shop in Canberra. A customer suggested I would never be an elite runner. Apparently it had something to do with the size of my backside. He tried to convince me to switch sports. He said I was wasting my time running and offered to make me a cyclist. I politely declined. He gave me his card in case I changed my mind.

My boss who writes and performs a song at our staff Christmas Party dedicated a few verses to the discovery:

“Now one of our customers got up her nose
She told him to take a hike
When he said she should stop running
She should be full time on the bike

What success have you had through running
With cycling you’d get many highs
You could be an absolute champion
With those powerful glutes and thighs

And while she said she was annoyed
His message she seemed to accept
I’ve noticed a change in her training
And triathlons are just the first step”

In the following three years I have had a crack at road running, dabbled in triathlon and played basketball in Europe. I had my first taste of road cycling at the Tour de Femme in Canberra in 2008 where I picked up 12th place overall. A year passed and I returned to the Tour de Femme to place 21st in a stacked field that included the national women’s cycling team who were in camp at the Australian Institute of Sport.

I purchased my ‘come and try’ cycling licence last summer and raced three criteriums in women’s B grade. I picked up a few top-three places but my coach soon put a stop to my cycling ambitions because the weekly races clashed with our key run session. In April this year I sat down with my coach and convinced him to let me race the Canberra Tour. We had made the difficult decision to sit out the World Triathlon Championships after having spent the summer chasing qualifying points in races around the country.

I was left with the prospect of training through the Canberra winter without any race goals. We decided to shift the focus to cycling to build some strength and work on my bike skills. My triathlon squad was on their annual ‘fat month’ so I began training in the Canberra bunch rides which are popular among our elite cycling community. After three weeks of increased time in the saddle I raced the Canberra Tour in women’s B grade. As a triathlete I had little experience racing in a bunch – I am far more comfortable on my time-trial bike, down on the aero bars, smashing out a non-drafting 40km. I surprised myself to win the Tour by 19 seconds picking up the Queen of the Mountain in the process.

It was decision time. I had spent two years in triathlon and felt like I was treading water. I had become one of the countries best age-group athletes but the jump up to the elite level would require more time in the pool, with the prospect of never quite bridging the gap to the fastest female swimmers. What next? First it was time for a break – my own fat month to indulge and sleep past 6am. I soon found a cycling squad to train with and we set out a racing program and began working on my bike skills.

We wasted no time testing out my talent, racing the Wagga Classic 84km handicap, after four days of training, in early June. Next was my first National Series Race, stepping up to A grade in the four-stage women’s Canberra Tour in early July. There have also been a couple of local club races thrown in there, each event teaching me some hard lessons including nutrition and navigation. I have also experienced the daily battle that is training in the debilitating Canberra winter. I keep reminding myself that riding in frosty sub-zero temperatures is character building.

Two weeks ago my squad traveled to Windsor for the NSW Road Championships and I was in a successful breakaway of six women, collecting fifth in the sprint. Last weekend I traveled to the Tour of Geelong, picking up a top-10 in the final stage that doubled as the Victorian Criterium Championships and a very rewarding 12th in the Victorian Time Trial Championships. Today I won the ACT Road Champs. So I guess it’s now official. I’m a roadie. As they say in retail – the customer is always right.

Rebecca Wiasak