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Australian invasion hits the US

With the women's National Racing Calendar (NRC) recently won by New Zealander Cath Cheatley, it's a good time to reflect on the impact riders from that country and Australia have on American's premier road racing series.

It's the dream for many young riders - becoming a professional cyclist and living in another country. Conventional practice has taken youngsters to European shores, although for an increasing number of Australian women, the US is the place to race a bike and be paid for the privilege.

It's what I am doing, along with many other Australian cyclists, who ply their trade in the NRC and it was only the other morning I was riding in the San Francisco Bay area of Northern California when I found myself next to the current Australian national road race champion, a couple of other professional road riders and another Australian who is here for the exact reason I am - aspiring to become a professional cyclist.

You might ask, 'Why America, when Europe is renowned for being the ultimate place to race your bike?' It's because America offers world-class competition, no longer seen as a stepping stone to reach the 'big league'.

Some of the best cyclists in the world spend nearly the whole of their season in America; World Cup winner, Tour de l'Aude stage winner and American national road race champion Katherine Curi Mattis and American national road race champions Mara Abbott, Meredith Millar and Amber Neben are just a few of the high-profile women who compete Stateside.

So the natives are here, but what about the international riders who choose to spend their season in America?

Previous Austrian national road race champion Andrea Graus, Lithuanian national road race champion Modesta Vzesniauskaite and Canadian national road race champion Alison Testroete train and race here as well.

The calibre of rider cannot be undersold. As Kirsty Broun (AIS road cyclist and Australian criterium national champion in 2008 and 2009) says: "US racing is growing and getting stronger each year, and this is evident by the amount of European riders coming over to the US for the entire season."

Broun, a trained legal professional who has raced in America and Europe, also believes "US racing is equally as challenging and diverse as it is in Europe," so hence the current flood of women cyclists to the States.

Australians who have ridden for the world's biggest and most successful women's team, HTC-Columbia, now compete solely in the States, with Alexis Rhodes and Kate Bates calling the US home during the racing season.

Another motive for Australians flocking to America to live their cycling dream is the fact it offers cyclists of all levels the opportunity to race in a fun, friendly and exciting environment. There are a vast range of teams, events, organisations and riders with one common goal in mind, that is, to race your bike hard and have fun while doing it.

Current Australian national champion Ruth Corset (pictured above), this season racing for the US-registered Team TIBCO, explained that she "began racing in the US in the Jazz Apple Team two years ago before racing in Europe." Corset says the US racing scene offers "a lot of fun racing as we get huge crowds, especially for the crits, and great prize money."

The "fun" aspect of racing in the US has a monopoly effect, as it makes riders want to race more, the teams become bigger, feeder and development teams are created for the professional teams, sponsors come in, more races are held, crowds grow and more people are willing to offer their house to accommodate you for the season. The whole cycling scene grows. It's the circle of life in bike racing.

People such as Fly V Australia's technical assistant Jonathon Coulter want the Australian presence in the American racing scene to spread like wildfire. Having previously worked with European and North American women's professional teams, Coulter believes that "the US provides a solid platform for younger riders to learn race tactics on a weekly basis and the intricacies of scheduling training, travel and preparation."

Without Coulter's passion and encouragement I might still have found myself going about my daily life in Australia, showing up to a club race every Sunday with only three girls lining up next to me on the start line.

Now I've just finished a season racing for the Webcor's development cycling team - Webcor Alto Velo Bridge - having competed in Silvery City (New Mexico), Fayetteville (Arkansas), Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), Bend (Oregon) and Canada. I have also experienced being part of the professional Webcor Women's Cycling Team (the longest running and one of the top female professional squads) as a guest rider.

For those of you reading this and wondering how to you take the leap of faith and start racing in America? Well, the best part of this is it is so easy to get involved. Send your resumé to US teams and take the plunge.

American cycling scene offers world-class competition, with a fun and exciting environment. So step outside your comfort zone and don't play it safe. Enjoy what I have been enjoying for the last six months and come race your bike in America with some fellow Aussies.

About the author...

Angela McClure grew up in Ballarat, Australia, taking up cycling whilst undertaking her 10th grade studies and has been riding for four years.

She moved to the South Australian capital of Adelaide one year ago to commence studies in Psychology at Adelaide University whilst pursuing her racing.

In 2010 she made the move to California to further pursue the sport and recently returned to Australia, with a continuation of her degree and the requisite job in local café chain Cibo for the summer while racing for local team Bundaberg Sugar.

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