NRS team feature: Building Champions Squad

Victorian regional team aims to develop and foster female cyclists

Building Champions Squad is the only regional women's team racing the National Road Series (NRS). The team is focused firmly on developing and supporting female cyclists from regional Victoria. Based in the cycling hot bed of Bendigo, the team is well supported by local business owners who have ensured that the team has continued to grow in its second season.

Cyclingnews caught up team manager Nik Mcnamara to find out more about the team and its 2014 season.

CN: How was your preparation for the start of the 2014 NRS series and how are you finding the season?
We had a good preparation leading into Adelaide Tour as a lot of the girls came off good track form, having finished third at the Bendigo International Madison. One of our riders – Lauretta Hanson – has signed for an American college scholarship as she was flying.

We didn't do Tour of Mersey Valley in Tasmania, as we don't have any hill climbers in our team. We have more 'flatlanders' you could say, so we choose not to do that race.

We've been enjoying the season and doing a lot of Victorian races as well.

CN: How do you decide on your team rosters? What processes do you go through in recruiting riders?
We're not a big budget team. We've not all metropolitan riders, we all decided to be based in a similar area in regional Victoria. We sit down and have a discussion to see who's in form and good enough to take away to certain races and we still utilise the guest card role a fair bit, if say, one of our riders isn't travelling to well, or something like that.

CN: What is different about the team this year, compared to last?
I was very fortunate last year to have Kate Finnegan on board and we co-managed the team. We really went about looking at local women from the area that we'd see racing and try to keep that regional feel about the team, but that seems to be harder the bigger we're getting -- that is, to stay in the one area.

CN: What are the expectations of the team for the 2014 season?
I think we've stepped up and know what to expect. Last year was our first year doing the NRS so we had no idea what was going on, so this year has a really different feel to it. We've had a couple more sponsors come on board which has been amazing and they are all local, so that's good. We've got a great support network so we know what to expect much more now. Last year, we were all first year NRS riders, and this year we've only got two riders who are first year riders

CN: What are the expectations of the team for the 2014 season?
We set up the team on the basis to develop women in regional areas so they could race at an elite level. I think that results wise, stages is what we'd be going for, more so than GC as we don't have climbers. So some top ten's would be fantastic.

CN: What are your thoughts on the NRS calendar in terms of length and location?
I think being in Victoria we're pretty lucky as Battle on the Border and Tour of the Mersey Valley in Tasmania are the only two races that become logistically challenging because there is so much travel involved. Other teams from other states could be frustrated though that there is so much racing in Victoria.

I think that women's racing is not quite ready for five-day races like Tour of the Murray was last year. I think three-day races is where women's cycling is at currently as all of us girls work, so to take five days off in annual leave every tour would be too much. A three-day tour is more manageable which looks like Cycling Australia have done this year.

CN: Do you expect there to be a stand-out rider this season?
I think it will be interesting to watch Bicycle Superstore this year as they've got such a good mix and developed themselves nicely. They seem to have grown at a nice steady pace and it's good to look at a team like that.

CN: Financially, what are the major challenges in racing the NRS?
I think the logistics and convincing support staff to have days of work is challenging. We don't cover travel expenses so the girls have to take holidays or lose shifts if they are casual workers while studying at University for example. The financial stress of the travel would be the most challenging aspect.

CN: Who are your main financial and equipment sponsors?
Bendigo cycles provides our Specialized bikes, Skoda, Symes Motors, Hot Designs cycle clothing, Feelgood Fitness and BendBal Financial Services.

Bendigo is such a passionate cycling community and all the sponsors are local business owners who have put money into supporting us. The Specialized deal for example comes through Paul at Bendigo cycles not through Specialized Australia and same with Skoda which comes though Symes Motors.

It's local girls supported by local businesses.

2014 Building Champions Squad team: Lauretta Hanson, Nicole McNamara, Tayla Evans, Minda Muarry and Emma Pane.

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