This week's NRS shorts turns its attention to new signings and gets to know a rising start in the women's peloton.
Former crit champ Kimberley Wells writes off 2014 season
Former Australian women's criterium champion Kimberley Wells is living proof of the old adage that 'doctors make the worst patients.' The Canberra-based medical doctor, who turns 29 on July 18, has been off the bike for more than 7 months after a string of bad luck that has her itching to get back into the sport and reclaim a jersey now worn by fellow Poitou-Charentes Futuroscope-86 teammate Sarah Roy.
"Maybe the universe is trying to teach me empathy by giving me all these ailments," Wells told Cyclingnews. "I feel like someone has cursed me. And, yes, doctors do make the worst patients."
According to Wells, who tore her left piriformis muscle at the GP Dottignies in just her first week upon joining her new team in Europe after spending the entire Australian summer sidelined with a serious bout of pneumonia that caused her to miss defending her crit title in January.
"It has been challenging no doubt," said Wells, who had high hopes after finding form in the US with Fearless Femme in late-2013. "This year has been a massive crash and burn and really difficult mentally as well.
"It has been a tough year actually as I have done a lot less time riding in the past seven months than I have since I began riding [ed. Wells started racing full time in 2012]. Pneumonia is awful for anyone and as an athlete, being in that situation you can't really do your job at all let alone defending national titles, or racing for your team or country."
While still under contract with Futuroscope, Wells is arduously rehabbing her injured gluteus muscle up to three days per week in hour-long sessions which says a lot for someone that cannot sit on the bike or even attempt a light jog.
"No riding and essentially no cardio," said Wells. "I'm the least fit that I have ever been. I can't even go for a jog or anything. I have gone from pro athlete to couch potato in the blink of an eye."
For Wells, the idea of returning before the season's end is quickly becoming an aberration, but she is encouraged for 2015 and the possibilities of returning stronger than ever.
"The European season finishes in September and even if I was to start training full gas tomorrow, I would only catch the last one or two races," said Wells, who also races for Specialized Securitor on the domestic racing calendar. "So for me the season is done. Realistically I need to look toward the Aussie summer season and pray for a bit of good luck.
"Lisa Jacobs told me after she hurt herself a few years back she actually came back stronger and better after having done so much rehab, and that she was able to fix up a few niggling things that you don't necessarily have the time to fix during the season.
"No one is putting any pressure on me to suddenly be at a race which is nice because I am having trouble with how conservative I need to be to let this injury heal."
With the remainder of the season now in doubt, Wells is turning her focus toward the Australian summer series as well a return to track, which she dabbled in for the first time at the UCI Festival of Speed showcase at the Oceania Championships in New Zealand last year.
"I am keen to look at options on the velodrome as I feel like I have a lot of crossover to track racing," said Wells, who won the Omnium scratch race in her track debut. "Depending on how things go for me this summer, I would like to see where that could take me.
"That being said, I would love to go and get my Aussie crit title back."
Specialized Securitor sign Verita Stewart
26-year-old Verita Stewart may have only recently started racing at NRS level but several top-10 overall places has seen her land her a deal with Specialized Securitor. Working full time in local government on waste, Stewart is "taken" and loves cats. She is also "not a professional cyclist, but maybe one day."
Also joining the team for the second half of the year are two guest riders, Ash Ankudinoff and Jenny Fay, while Lizzie Williams will return after a successful guest stint of racing in North America with Vanderkitten.
New signings for CharterMason Giant
CharterMason Giant have also announced a few new faces at their team with two new additions to its backroom and management staff. Damian 'Damo' Harris a long time directeur, mechanic, and jack-of-all trades at the Avanti Racing Team, comes across to assist current DS Andrew Cooper for the remainder of the NRS season while former Cyclingnews scribe Jono Lovelock joins team owner Leigh Parsons in working behind the scenes to ensure the team thrives.
Having worked hard attracting the right riders and staff to the team, Parsons believes both Harris and Lovelock will fit right in. "There's no doubt a team can only perform well on the road if they are well supported off it. With this in mind, I've tried to get the best staff so the team can function seamlessly," he said.
"Damo and Jono both have years of experience and wisdom between them and we can't wait to utilise that. Damo will be a great directeur and an asset in the team car. He's a great mechanic but we want to put his tactical brain to use above anything else.
Harris' first race in the car as a DS will be the Tour of the Murray River later this month and is excited by the role. "The team has had a good start to the season, especially Shannon Johnson's emotional stage win in Perth. But I think they are really about to come into their own at Murray," he said.
"Johnson, Josh Taylor, Raphael Freiensteen, Morgan Smith; I've been watching these guys develop recently, they are all built for speed, and I know they'll be serious contenders."
Lovelock, having been a part of NRS racing since 2007, is looking forward to his post-racing career, which was cut short due to injury, and seeing the team win the overall NRS Team Aggregate. "Every team wants to be able to say it is the best team in Australia. And for CharterMason Giant, I think it's within reach.
"In 2012, the team was twenty-first on the Team Aggregate. In 2013, it was sixth. Now halfway through the season, CharterMason Giant sits just a whisker off the podium in fourth. The pathway for this team is onwards and upwards and we're chasing sponsor who want to be a part of that."
Get to know… Jenelle Crooks
20-year-old Jenelle Crooks (Holden Women's Cycling Team) started her season with the U23 national time trial title back in January and her third place overall at the Mersey Valley Tour confirmed her name as one to watch. Studying nursing part-time while also holding down a job, Crook explained how she got into the sport.
"I gave triathlon away in 2012 because I had had a few bad crashes and injuries that were affecting my running," she said, "At the time, I had just started training with my coach and I was enjoying cycling more than swimming and running so I decided to focus just on cycling. And I'm so glad I did."
With her triathlon background, Crooks is strong against the clock but she says that her "climbing is pretty close" to being an equal strong asset.
And what is Crook's most memorable race?
"The national's road race in 2014 by far," she said, "My whole training group, coach and my dad came to watch. They even made-up matching t-shirts to wear saying, "go peanut" and scattered themselves around the course. Hearing them cheer made the pain more bearable.
"I came second in the U23 classification and finished with the front group of elite woman in eighth place, which was my best race result. Having my training group there watching and to share the excitement after with them was just absolutely wonderful."
Read the full interview on Cycling Australia's website here