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The men's peloton during the early part of Stage 2 at Battle on the Border
Battle on the Border edition
Today marks the start of the third race in the 2014 Subaru National Road Series. Both the the men and women will be racing the Battle on the Border which is the focus of this week's NRS shorts.
Cyclingnews caught up with race organiser Mike Crawley to talk about the both men's and women's NRS races.
"Planning for this Battle [on the Border] begun ten months ago and all our courses were refined, given that in 2013 they were brand new," said Mike. "That's been well advanced with the support of council and NSW police."
While the race attracts attention for being a NRS event, as Crawley explains, the "Battle" is also a cycling festival in the Tweed Valley on the edge of the iconic Gold Cost.
"The national road series presents an opportunity for us to market the profile of the Battle as a cycling festival. It brings with it a lot of prestige, a lot of privilege and really exceptional athletes."
For Crawley, the race will always be about giving women an equal place to compete and as the race numbers suggest, it is a popular event.
"The battle was founded on giving women equity in terms of race opportunities and we are committed to the women's agenda and the NRS has certainly helped grow the profile of the Battle."
"We have a really good number for the women's NRS field with around 60 riders’ registered."
You can find the race page for Battle on the Border by clicking here.
Lizzie Williams's success and short-term signing
Specialized Securitor's Lizzie Williams made her comeback to the sport after a 10-year hiatus as we covered last week and is impressing all the right people. The 30-year-old made such an impression at the Mersey Valley Tour that she has been handed a six-week contract to race in Europe.
Specialized Securitor team manager Liz Phillipou explained to Cyclingnews that it's all happening for her rider. "Lizzie has been offered a six-to-eight week international contract in the middle of the year when we have the NRS break," Phillipou said. "It's a good feather in our cap as she's only been back in the NRS less than six months and has been noticed by an international team."
Watch this space to find out which team Williams will be riding for overseas.
You can find a team feature on Specialized Securitor on Cyclingnews in the coming weeks.
Last year's overall winner of the NRS, Jack Haig, has been the talk of the Australian cycling world in the last few months with plenty of people curious as to when, not if, the Avanti Racing Team rider will make the step up to WorldTour level.
Cyclingnews recently caught up Avanti co-owner Steve Price and he explained that after two NRS races this month, Haig will compete in Asia then head off to Europe for a stint with the Jayco WorldTour Academy team.
Cyclingnews: A lot of people want to know what Jack Haig's racing calendar this year is?
"Jack has Battle on the Border and [Tour of] Toowoomba and then he'll go away and do the Tour of Korea with us and then he'll go off and join the WorldTour Academy team for probably the rest of the season," Price said. "Jack will join Alex [Clements] and Campbell [Flakemore] over there and gain that experience which is great for him and the team.
"While we don't want to lose him, we like to see guys go on to bigger and better things, so hopefully Jack gets picked up by one of the WorldTour teams. Jack leaving will open the door for other guys to come through and fill the void."
You can read the Avanti Racing Team feature here.
Good news for MacAnally
Ryan McAnnaly didn't make it through the first stage of the first 2014 NRS race. He was caught up in a final corner crash and suffered a serious spinal injury. The Queenslander spent seven days in a neck brace in Perth before flying home.
"I came down at 70km/hr and was taken to the spinal ward because I couldn't move my legs and I had really bad back pain," said MacAnally.
McAnnaly makes his return to racing this week at the Battle on the Border and is planning on joining his Bianchi DCM Arbitrage teammates in Belgium later this month.
"I was supposed to be going away to Europe with my team on that day, initially I planned to only ride half of the challenge but everyone was so encouraging that I ended up doing the whole 260 kilometres," said McAnnaly after his long ride to raise funds for the CareFlight rescue helicopter service.
The 21-year-old hasn't won a race in the NRS but will look to break his duck at his 'home race.'
"It would be great to get my first NRS win on home soil and hopefully I can do it this weekend," said MacAnally. "I've had about four weeks back on the bike, I'm slowly building and not on 100 percent form but I think if I can get through the hills, I should be able to make it to a bunch sprint."
Arbitrage's Belgium adventures
The Perth-based Arbitrage Racing is one of many NRS teams who will jet off for a period of racing overseas. Currently, several of the team's riders are over in Belgium and as Nick Squillari wrote on his blog, learning a new language isn't always easy.
"A typically long, but thankfully uneventful [race] (for me at least, one of the boys had his carry-on lost for most of the week) flight and train ride later and we arrived at our home for the next 11 weeks in Vorselaar, Belgium," Squillari wrote.
"Which, as it turns out, made for our first lesson in Flemish. Trying to get from Brussels to the nearest train station (in Herentals) had us all chatting to transport staff, in broken English, asking how we get to "hair rentals."
Proper Flemish actually see the "h" dropped (explaining why the locals wondered why we wanted to rent some hair?)."
Two more NRS teams trying their luck overseas are the Skoda St George team and Subaru Albion. St George's Jack McCulloch jetted off to Europe to race with the ILLI-Bikes Cycling Team and notched his first win in just his second race. With Phil Bates as his uncle, the 19-year-old McCulloch looks like he's going places
Subaru Albion have been invited back to the An Post Rás in Ireland and their young flyer Tirian McManus headed over to Europe to prepare for the race. McManus was part of the junior men's team that won gold at the world championships in 2012 and in January this year was part of the elite men's team pursuit world cup victory in Guadalajara, Mexico.