Chair of Cycling Australia Athletes Commission targets improvements in rider welfare
Lisa Jacobs made history at the Australian Cyclo-Cross Championships on Saturday, winning the inaugural women's title. Although the title came as a confirmation of her talent, Jacobs told Cyclingnews that she has other pursuits at the forefront of her mind and she only wants to continue racing for 'fun'.
Jacobs came to the sport in 2007 through the National Talent ID and Development program run by the Australian Institute of sport (AIS). She was quickly whisked away from her weekend hobbies of duathlon and multisport and into the career of a full-time cyclist.
Jacobs quickly progressed to a full European season with the Australian National Team in 2010 where she raced the women's Giro d'Italia and in her own words, "in women's racing it doesn't get any bigger."
The recent story of Jo Hogan is a reminder of the difficulties of being a female cyclist, and for Jacobs she was happy to return to Australia and live a regular life. The time spent racing and training at a full-time level, though, has given Jacobs a new found confidence that is the key to her recent success.
"I think it's probably more that having the experience of racing overseas has given me a bit of confidence," said Jacobs. "I mean the experience you get with the racing [in Europe] means that you can handle racing a bit better. But I've always responded better to lower volumes than higher volumes and I think probably I've just found a happy balance between working and training and racing which is probably the difference. That mental difference, I think I'm not someone who races a lot I guess. I need to be able to work and do other things as well."
And Jacobs certainly does a lot of 'other things' with free time being a thing of the past for this time-crunched cyclist.
"My boyfriend, I haven't seen for probably two weeks! He's very understanding, it's pretty hectic I suppose," laughed Jacobs. "I've been doing a lot of ergo sessions in the morning. So a typical week would be, well, I work full-time, I'll do ergo in the mornings before work, after I'll either collapse or have a date night or some pilates. Then on weekends I do a couple of big rides with my road bunch ... yeah it's all about quality I guess because I don't have the time to do the quantity that I used to."
And it's this quality that Jacobs and her coach, Donna Rae-Szalinski, have emphasised to great success.
The Athletes Commission
Using her law background, Jacobs has recently taken on the role of Chair of the newly formed Cycling Australia Athletes Commission. Jacobs describes the formation of this new body as pivotal in providing support for Australian athletes.
"The role of the Athletes Commission is to be the representative body for athletes at a high performance level within the sport," said Jacobs. "So we act on issues that have either been brought to our attention by athletes or initiatives of our own. So there are several members of the commission including myself. Everyone comes from a diverse background, everyone's very passionate and motivated about bringing about some positive change. We've achieved some great things already but we've also got some chances to make some more positive changes towards the end of the year."
Other members of the commission include former track world champion Katherine Bates, former junior national representative Alexandra Carle, Paralympic gold medalist Carol Cooke, former Giro rider Tom Leaper, newly-crowned NSW State Road Race Champion Stuart Shaw and Olympic mountain biker Sid Taberlay.
2013 has so far been a turbulent year for Australian cycling with drug scandals being de rigueur. It is these sorts of dilemmas that Jacobs is hoping the Commission can help to avoid for future generations.
"Our major target or project at the moment is to work with Cycling Australia to introduce a holistic athlete welfare program," stated Jacobs. "Which introduces a proper mentoring framework for athletes as they transition through the high performance framework. And also provides support to athletes who are going through the anti-doping process, provides anti-doping education, works in conjunction with existing programs like ACE for career education and the result we hope is that athletes are better supported as they transition through the high performance program."
But it's not all doom, gloom and regulations for Jacobs. On the contrary, the self-proclaimed 'happy cyclist' is planning on riding happy whilst she breaks new ground for Australian cyclists. Although for Jacobs, time is of the essence as she attempts to keep her own cycling career afloat.
"Road racing requires a huge volume of training and at the moment it's kind of hard to get those hours in," Jacobs explained. "So racing like this [CX racing] only requires a limited schedule for training. I'm enjoying the cyclo-cross but I'd like to do a bit more mountain biking as well. But I guess mixing it up is what keeps me interested so that's the plan, just to keep it fun!"