Having only made its debut in the women's National Road Series (NRS) this year, Melbourne-based team BikeBug-NextGen Racing are already looking ahead to improve and build on its performances. With a philosophy emphasising the importance of the team, BikeBug-NextGen's recruitment for 2015 was based around ensuring the five new additions would complement an already existing dynamic and culture.
Cyclingnews spoke to Co-team Manager Claire Homsey about the team's debut NRS campaign and what's in store for the upcoming season.
CN: Looking back, how would judge your 2014 NRS season?
It was our first season as a team at all so we were completely new. 2014 was a good learning curve. Overall, I think that while we didn't win an NRS stage or tour, our season as a team, as a collective, was actually really really good and we've got a really good foundation now for next year. We want to note the Tour of South West win and a second place at NRS, as well as first and second at Vic Metro Road champs as team highlights race wise
CN: What processes do you go through in recruiting riders?
We had planned on putting out an expression of interest but, I think testament to how well our team rode collectively and how well the girls gelled, we actually had quite a lot of riders come to us and ask us for a ride.
So we didn't actually have to put out an expression of interest for next year. I think what we offer financially is lot more than what the other teams can offer. That, and we have a good vibe.
Stu McKenzie and myself run the team together and when we have conversations about riders it involves, of course, whether or not they have bike skills and the ability to add to the already good team dynamic, they need to have the personality we think will work well for a whole year in the team. We certainly take note that some people have sprinting abilities and some people have climbing abilities but aside from the talent on the bike, the personality of the riders is very important.
CN: What were the expectations of the team for the 2014 season and were they met?
Our expectation was that we would develop a completely new team and give some of the established teams a bit of a run for their money. I think that we did that in terms of the support that we offered the riders, more than another teams, and being extremely organised and professional.
As a group we are all performance orientated and it is always disappointing if we don’t make the target we set from logistics through to race results and maintaining sponsor obligations. We always look at ways to improve and keep working hard.
CN: What is your team philosophy?
This year we started a hashtag '#raceasone' and the team philosophy is that no one is going to win a stage on their own and be a hero so it's all about racing as one. Racing as a collective and understanding that a team is the sum of its parts.
CN: Did you target any particular races this year in the NRS?
Tour of South West was a team goal in VRS and we executed very well, we won the overall with Justyna Lubkowski and as a team all the girls contributed. At Tour of Murray we wanted a stage win and almost pulled it off with second in the final stage, again with Justyna. We don't have a team of super stars so it is important that all the riders do their job, keep presenting and look for opportunities.
CN: What is the most challenging race on the NRS calendar?
Without a doubt Mersey Valley Tour. It's always blowing a gale, it's always close to somewhere near zero degrees and its hard riding, hard terrain.
CN: Who did see as the stand-out rider this season?
Elizabeth Doueal in her first NRS season got some really good results. She had a knee injury in the middle of the year but she had some great results which we're really happy with. We are also very happy with the way Prudence Rothwell rode the NRS crits overall. She's a great crit rider and she has really developed right through to the end of the season. Georgina Beech is an absolute mountain goat and those three riders were quite exceptional for us, but the most successful podium rider for us was Justyna Lubkowski.
We we're pretty impressed by Flick Wardlaw (Bicycle Superstore), being national time trial champion is pretty special, so she was always good to watch. This year Ruth Corset (Holden Women's Cycling Team) has just been in a league of her own really. It was also really good to see Ellen Skerrit (Holden Women's Cycling Team), a young and upcoming rider and she has a brilliant future ahead of her.
CN: What are your thoughts on the NRS calendar in terms of length and location?
If I look at it from a management and logistics point of view, there is good coverage and the length of the tours I think are good as well. It would be good if there was a tour in each state for national reach and that sort of thing but logistically, and let's face it, there's no money in women's cycling, so it's hard to make comment on whether things should done differently.
Obviously there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to have tours up and running between council permits, police permits and whatever else. I think Cycling Australia is doing an excellent job and I think that if you want to develop over a NRS season, there is enough racing to do that
CN: Financially, what are the major challenges in racing the NRS?
Obviously it's just the logistics of getting five girls and ten bikes along to races and financially, it's usually the transport and accommodation that costs the most.
CN: Are there any major changes to the team in 2015?
We have five new riders for 2015, we already have them in our kit, and they seem to be gelling really well from the get go and are really keen.
I think we have a good feel now and we know how the team operates and having the same Director Sportif two years in a row will really help as we'll have continuity there in racing and races, and the way in which we understand each other while racing.
I don't want to jump the gun, but I am confident that we'll have a great 2015.
CN: Who are your main financial and equipment sponsors?
BikeBug is our equipment sponsor and they also give us monetary sponsorship and they are fantastic. Our clothing sponsor is Clothing Project Australia and they have been second to none. Bikebug and Project have been so generous and amazing in supplying everything we need and we have developed close personal connections also. We would also like to thank CartGis for their very generous support during the 2014 campaign.
Obviously, we also can't do it without the support of Brunetti Café in Melbourne that holds all of our events and Carroll & O'Dea Lawyers who also provide us with financial backing and Pro4formance Nutrition.
Our thanks goes to all of our great sponsors for their support of women's cycling.
2014 BikeBug-NextGen Racing roster: Penny Brown, Chloe Baggs, Justyna Lubkowski, Claire Homsey, Prudence Rothwell, Georgina Beech and Elizabeth Doueal.