The first women's outfit to feature in the National Road Series (NRS) team features on Cyclingnews is Boss Racing Team. The team formed in 2013 with the aim of proving greater opportunities for women to contest the NRS. They also created a development team last year and several of those riders have stepped up to the top tier in 2014 and this year, the team has continued to expand with eight riders on its roster.
Cyclingnews spoke to team manager Siân Mulholland about the team, racing the full NRS calendar the challenges of women's cycling.
Cyclingnews: How was your preparation for the start of the 2014 NRS series and how are finding the season?
We did pretty well despite a couple of minor hiccups with the team roster which we didn't finalise until fairly late in the process but it wasn't too bad. We had a very successful team camp in March where everybody got the opportunity to know each other because we went from five or six riders to eight this year.
We only have three returning riders from last year but, of the five riders who are coming in new this year, two of them came out of the development squad and one of them had a guest spot last year.
So they weren't unknown to the team but the camp was a good opportunity to get to know each other, they did some solid training and had a bit of fun so that’s set us up pretty well.
We were really pleased with Adelaide [Tour], we ended up with some pretty decent result there. Last year was our first year and we were just starting out so we were doing well if we got top 15 sort of thing, but we're moving up to be aiming for something much better this year and that came together pretty well in Adelaide, finishing tenth on GC and seventh on a stage.
CN: How do you decide on your team rosters? What processes do you go through in recruiting riders?
After last year, we had a look at the results that our riders came up with and where they fit within the team, which is a pretty standard process that most teams would go through. We looked at how well they combined as a team, whether they lived up to expectations we had last year and developed over the course of the season.
Then we had a look at whether people wanted to ride again with us and with expanding the rooster, that gave us a possibility to look at new faces and out of that process, two people who rode with the team last year weren't in a position to commit to the extent we wanted them to. A third was going to be in the team, but she moved on because another team apparently made her an offer she couldn't refuse and women's cycling is a pretty hard world so you have to go were the opportunities are best for you.
We ran a development squad last year with the focus to develop race skills and tactic, at the end of the year, we had a look at the team and the riders and we assessed that two of them were ready to move up into the team so we offered them a spot and they were quite happy to take that up.
We had a reasonably close association with the SuVelo squad last year and several of the SuVelo girls did NRS races for us as club riders and we identified that they had what we were looking for so we offered them contracts.
As it happened, a kiwi rider Ruby Livingston was looking for a team and we managed to come together, so she was our last minute addition to the year and finished 10th in Adelaide and should have figured in the youth classification but I don't know what happened there.
CN: What is different about the team this year, compared to last?
The team was finalised much earlier which allowed us to have that pre-season camp which has meant that we probably have a more cohesive unit this year. Also, we decentralised this year and I think that is really important as a lot teams are based out of one city or one state but we [have riders] in New South Wales, Western Australia, Victoria and the ACT, so we need the team to be able to come in and just click immediately.
I would suggest that overall, we probably have a strong team and we have more riders to choose from. Because we couldn't afford to put too many on last year, we got to the end of the season and at the Canberra Tour, and we ended up with three guest riders [in the team]. Which just doesn't work and this year the team is run as a more professional unit, the riders don't get paid because there is no money in women's cycling, but it is professional in that we will decide who will ride which event on the basis of current form, injury, suitability to the terrain that's being raced over and a whole range of factors like that which means that some riders will get more rides than others but no one will be complaining that "I got three rides and she got five rides" or anything like that.
CN: What is your racing calendar?
We will be doing all the races [seven] but we didn't start out with that plan but some of the mad buggers decided to. The other thing is, I think it's really important to support the series.
CN: What are the expectations of the team for the 2014 season?
One of our main goals is to be significant in the teams classifications and by the end of the season, I'd like us to be top five overall which would be a significant step up from last season. It's difficult against Ruth Corset and co because they're ready to race over in Europe so I would be dreaming if I said we could win the NRS but I think that this season, we'll be consolidated in the top ten gc positions and making people take notice of Boss when those selections are made in the bigger stages.
CN: Is there a particular race the team is targeting this year?
Tour of the Murray River or Tour of the Goldfields would be our best chances to do some damage due to the nature of the courses, assuming they don't change too much, but we have a couple of riders really suited to the style of racing at Murray. Goldfields, apart from that being the final event of the season, I think of couple of our riders who have the physical potential but still need a little refinement in the racing brain side of things and I think we take advantage of that at Goldfields.
CN: Do you expect there to be a stand-out rider this season?
We have enormous depth in the domestic racing scene and I'm not exactly sure which of the riders are going to be racing in Europe. Obviously if Katrin Garfoot and Ruth Corset are here, immediately you have that rivalry at the top end but there are just so many riders who can do damage on any given day. If those two aren't racing here, then you are looking at a pretty open slate.
CN: Financially, what are the major challenges in racing the NRS?
It's a huge commitment for the riders and we support them as much as we can in terms of entry fees and subsidising accommodation and so on, but it is difficult because of the size of Australia. The biggest challenge is travel and the time that it takes. Assuming that most of our riders are working full time, there are seven events for the women and each event requires as least two days of work. So you're looking 16 to 17 days a year that the riders have to take off and they are losing financially or just losing holiday time and that doesn't take into account nationals and all the other events that aren't NRS.
It's a huge drain on personal finances just in the time commitment and loss of earnings but another challenge facing the NRS, is that there just isn't enough money out there. In terms of actual cash availability, one of the biggest challenges is just finding support personal because the riders are out there doing the racing but you have to have a band of dedicated voluntary personal who are also prepared to take that time off work and give up holiday time.
You have to be a cycling tragic to be involved and fortunately there are a lot of them out there. Look at the cost of the bare basics of putting in a NRS team, and for the women for entry and kit, even with subsidisation and even with our generous sponsors, there is always going to be addition costs in getting riders to events. For example, the girls spend upwards of $10, 000 annually to get to events.
CN: Who are your main financial and equipment sponsors?
We have a couple of major sponsors. Our major cash sponsor is a group called Boss Construction and we have support from Roxsolt consultancy. Lennock Skoda, local manufacturing company and a local coffee shop, Double Shot who are all our main financial sponsors.
We also get a lot of support from a local bike shop Ride 365 who look after us really well with equipment, ED. are developing a website for us, Rider Cover provides support, Seight support us by providing the kit, Aussie Butt Cream, Skratch Labs and Schwalbe Tyres are also generous sponsors. We are really fortunate that we have several supportive sponsors.
2014 Boss Racing Team: Lisa Antill, Tegan Elferkh, Ruby Livingstone, Gina Ricardo, Davina Summers, Bethany Thompson, Alice Wallett, and Rachel Ward.