This season, for the first time, he is shifting his focus to the European circuit. He has skipped the road season entirely, changed his training techniques and altered his racing schedule, all in the hope that he will be able to translate his domestic success to the fields of cyclocross’s homeland. On the eve of his fourth season with Rapha, Powers spoke to us about what it’s like to put your life on hold for months at a time to go race bikes in Belgian mud.
Aside from racing you have your own development team, the J.A.M. Fund. How did it start?
‘JAM’ stands for Jeremy, Alec [Donahue] and Mukunda [Feldman] – they’re my partners on the project and my best friends. When I first moved to Northampton, they taught me how to cook and look after myself. As we got older and life started getting in the way of having a good time, we asked ourselves how we could hang out and do cool stuff. So, we started a development team.
I got a lot from the cyclocross community and I owed a lot back. There can be a lot of minor hardships when you’re trying to make it – not having knee warmers, bib shorts, or even bike frames – so we set about trying to change that for a few local riders. We called it the ‘Fund’ because we were broke and didn’t have enough money to be classified as a foundation. We couldn’t even register as a non-profit organisation, which is what we are now.
We don’t have corporate sponsorship but we partner with some brands from the industry, and with Northampton Cycling Club. We fund riders living within a one- or two-hour drive and we’ve seen some guys turn pro. We can’t conquer the world, so we do what we can.
There is a trend in British cyclocross for young riders to have a couple of strong years and then retire. Is this possibly because cross doesn’t get the support and recognition that road racing does?
We see that in the US, too, riders getting burned out really fast. If you don’t have a measure of fun, there’s no reason to continue. When these guys get burned out, it’s because it stopped being fun way too soon. How do you even teach young riders about being professional? Even if I told the J.A.M. riders everything I knew, it would still be incredibly hard for them. If I told them this is where I ride, this is what I eat, this is my coach, it wouldn’t work. These things take years to develop and we’re trying to create an environment where that can happen.
You won your second national championship last year, which was clearly a milestone. How do you think last season went?
Strong, but I would have liked to be better in the middle of it. I managed to find form for nationals. I guess when I say the middle part of the season didn’t go well, I’m talking about just two weekends that, in some ways, weren’t so bad but they were races I really wanted to win.
When you’re on top of your game there are very few guys in the States who can beat you. Does it feel different when you race in Europe?
So different. With the other US guys, we’re on the same page. We travel the same distances, the venues are the same etc. Europe is a world away for me yet home for everyone else. The Belgian guys are only ever a couple miles from their homes and have all their infrastructure around them. The races are in the papers every day. I’m not part of their crew, I don’t go to the end-of-year gala that’s live on TV.
What’s the gala?
They get all the riders together and make funny videos and give little awards – imagine a lighthearted cyclocross Oscars. For me, racing in Europe is like Major League Baseball. I get to go to the Majors and play with these guys but then I come back to the Minors. I’m not in the Majors yet but the changes I’m making will hopefully get me there. I don’t see a lot more that I can do in the States – my personal ambitions are in the World Cups and seeing what I can do there.
So what have you changed this year?
Everything. I’m not racing on the road and I used to be away 50 or 60 days a year, which was hard. Now I have the time to focus on my running, my core, being really specific about my training. Having more time has been really beneficial. I wake up and I have energy. I used to come home from road races after 10, 12, sometimes 20 days of travelling, and I’d wake up and realise how totally brutal it was for my body. Road racing doesn’t give you time to recover, you just get in a hole that gets deeper. And I wasn’t getting anything from the efforts. Everything is different now, I’ve had the chance to race mountain bikes and to ride my cross bike every day.
What’s the difference between the Jeremy Powers of a year ago and the JPow of today?
It’s hard to measure, but last year I’d just got married and Behind the Barriers, our online TV channel, was just getting going. Now, things feel more serious, more ready for the year ahead. I look at it with a different lens.
When you want to do well in Europe, you begin to sacrifice more. I used to go have a beer with my buddies after Wednesday night intervals but now those things have gone. You’re looking for that one or two per cent extra that will make a difference in the World Cups. One problem is resting and recovering. If I’m not busy, it’s hard for me to rest – lying down all day is good for being a bike racer, but it doesn’t come easily to me. I sacrifice running around like a Looney Tune to be better at racing.
Is that one per cent the difference between you and the top guys in Europe?
It’s a lot of things. Some of it comes down to technique, and that’s where I think I can make the biggest difference. It’s not a question of improving my power on a climb, it’s looking at my pedal stroke, or how I’m going round a corner, how I’m picking lines, because the courses are so different there.
It must be strange to be a national champion and yet tell yourself that you need to improve your technique. How do you change it?
In the States the tracks are faster, you can ride pin to pin, nailing the corners. I’m really good at that. In Europe you can’t do that, you have these long sweepers and you need to find the apex. Leg speed is another thing. I used to do a lot of motor-pacing and speed work, which would help me out in the Amercan races. In Europe it’s much more ‘diesel’, it’s about doing 10- to 15-minute efforts, putting out big power at low cadences. A lot of the races require low cadence, but my best power outputs are naturally in the 90-110 rpm range. When the European courses are muddy and guys are rolling around at 60-65 rpm it doesn’t suit how am I am – so I practice, and it’ll change.
Then there’s the technical nature of the European tracks. Last year I’d managed about three days on my mountain bike by this point in the season. This year I’ve done 40. It helps me improve for that ‘“Oh shit”-moment’ – will I jump this, will I make this turn, how will I not crash? It’s something that you get all the time in European cyclocross, so I had to go over to mountain bikes to get those risk-and-reward-type skills. If you go down a muddy chute in Namur at 25 miles an hour, and do it clean, you’ll get a reward for that. But if you’re braking, you’ll be at the back of the race.
At the big European races, the top racers get their own branded caravans with legions of support staff. What are you plans for support this year?
US cycling will help take care of the accommodation – they send a squad of riders out, and we may share housing. If not, I’ll be staying with people we know in West Flanders, and also staying in Girona, in Spain, for training.
Is it tough getting this stuff sorted?
Yeah, you could get mad. It’s not a ‘life experience’ for me anymore – it’s my job. I’ll be there to get my work done and get results. We’ll give ourselves everything we need to do well and see what comes of it. I won’t get to have my wife and my dog and my friends with me all the time but it will be as close to normal as possible.
What are your favourite races in Europe?
Diegem. It’s held at night, it’s near Christmas, and I’ve done well there. I like Roubaix, too. I did well there two years ago. Tabor is great when it’s dry. I like corners that require punchiness. Namur is the opposite – there’s a very steep climb, which is not my strongest suit. I’m not the leanest, lightest guy, so I struggle to hold position up there. Then there’s the crazy, technical off-camber descent, with a two-minute run. It’s a very challenging track for me but it’s the sort of place where I’ll see the most improvements this year. I haven’t yet raced in Rome but people always say I could do well there. It’s a fast track, less technical and with open corners.
You seem to have a great life here in Massachusetts. Will it be hard to leave?
When you spend weeks away from home it takes its toll. One of the things I have learned is that I am OK being away from home, so long as my wife, Emily, can be with me. This year we’re making arrangements for her to be with me as much as possible. It’s still hard to leave my friends and my training routes and my dog – all the things I build my life around. I’ve always been a nomad, that’s the pro cyclist lifestyle, especially in a big country like the US. Still, going to a stage race in California doesn’t feel weird to me but going to Europe feels significantly different. It’s far away and it feels far away.
That the barracks have become a rallying point for cyclocross fans is due, in part, to a pair of decommissioned warplanes on its lawn: a Hawker Hunter F4 fighter jet, posed on a concrete plinth with its nose angled towards the grass; and a Sikorsky HSS-1 Seabat helicopter, 60ft long, with a cartoonish red nose cone and the phrases ‘the last one’ and ‘bye bye’ painted along its fuselage. Up close, the jet and helicopter look vaguely comic, stripped of their menace by their ungainly angles and flaking paint – it’s only when looked at from the crest of the course’s sand dunes that their original purpose can be appreciated. They look like they’re coming for you. This perspective would be the riders’ view if they weren’t temporarily distracted by the force of their effort and the pandemonium of the crowd.
For anyone walking to the course along the N396 – which is most people, because the road is closed to cars on the day of big races, and fans are encouraged to park in the town for their morning coffees and lagers – the aircraft conveniently signal the final left-hand turn onto the dunes. The walk from Koksijde on those days is a procession past professional cyclocross’s marks of authenticity – the beer and frites vans, the tarpaulin-covered merchandise stands, the bright and clean team buses and caravans that feature 15ft-vinyl portraits of the most marketable riders, and, perhaps most intriguingly, the banks of saloon-type cars of the emerging talents and waning former stars, stacked full of kit and equipment, driven by a bored but busy friend or relative.
At any other time of year this journey is far less spectacular, if slightly less crowded. The centre of Koksijde is hard to discern due to the sprawl of inelegantly arranged houses – there’s no main square to speak of, just a minor crossroads where the road to De Panne intersects the road to the road to the beachfront neighbourhood of Koksijde-Bad. There are a couple of indistinct cafés that share a decorative palette of faded maroons, a recently built police station opposite a drive-through beer store (both of which are massive), a haberdashery, and a sports bar with faded window stickers from Koksijde’s hosting of the world championship races, in 1996 and 2012.
Police stand outside the station, starting or finishing a patrol, smoking or fixing their garrison caps. If the cafés are closed, and for ostensibly profit-motivated ventures they are closed a disproportionately large amount of the day, you can ask the police where to get a coffee. Well, they say while drumming their fingers on holsters, you can be arrested, and we’ll make you a coffee to drink in the cell, or you can go three kilometres that way. ‘That way’ is the road to De Panne, the next town along the coast. The oddity of not being able to purchase a coffee at 9.30am on a weekday morning doesn’t strike the officers.
This, in the bluntest possible way, is the peculiarity of Koksijde. For one weekend a year, it is the centre of the cyclocross universe, orbited by galaxies of fans, racers and media. The race finishes shortly before sundown on a winter’s Sunday, tens of thousands of drunk fans make their way home, and that’s it. A few hours after nightfall and the town goes back to being a sleepy and rarely thought-of suburb of De Panne.
As Koksijde faces out to the North Sea, it feels as much a part of Scandinavia as it does mainland Europe – a feeling made strange by the thought that the EU parliament is just 130km southeast of here. That Belgium is host to the apparatus of the EU is widely noted as being one the Continent’s greater ironies – the country’s recent history is a litany of obdurate arguing and discord.
Belgium’s political unity, or rather the lack of it, is evidenced by the composition of its cyclocross teams. Of the nine men and two women sent by Belgium to the most recent world championship, in Hoogerheide, not one hailed from Brussels or Wallonia. Flanders also provided the whole squad in Kentucky the year previously, and the year before that, when Koksijde last hosted the championships. The much-mooted separation of Flanders and Wallonia – occasionally referred to, half-jokingly, as ‘Le Divorce’ in the Flemish press – might mean that in future cyclocross championships a French-speaking Belgian gets a look-in.
Koksijde’s course rewards riders who attack it with finesse. The sand, when dry, pulls and grips at the tyres in unpredictable and seemingly sadistic ways, throwing riders from their saddles at the smallest errors in technique. The race’s frontrunners appear to float up the slopes of the dunes, at peace with the parcours, while the stragglers stamp on their pedals, hoping to bludgeon their way to the finish.
When wet, the same sand becomes a cloying and hefty foe, seemingly sucking the bike and its rider deeper into the ground with each lap. The leaders might be able to stay on their bikes through the toughest sections, but anyone more than five wheels back will, undoubtedly, have to sling their bike over their shoulder and briskly run while watching the front of the race slip away.
If you watch close enough you can almost see the riders’ lips moving in silent prayer: please let the rider in front of me make it through unscathed, let me follow their wheel safely, preserve my chance of winning by preserving theirs. The sand of Koksijde inspires a self-interested altruism.
‘Yeah, sure it was good the first time, now what have you got to show us?’
Plenty of things:
After grumblings that Australian cyclocross courses were too easy (by US/EU standards), this course sent a reply that won’t soon be forgotten. With a series of brutal pinch climbs and off-camber corners, it spat and snarled mercilessly at the riders who tried to tame it. The post-race clean up found shattered derailleurs, broken chains and pieces of cassette sprocket; proof of a mighty battle that was waged on Sydney Park Hill.
When we think of extreme conditions in cyclocross, it’s bitter cold and permafrost. But this is Australia – What we got was an oven; nudging 40°C, with nowhere to hide. In addition, we were treated to 45kph wind gusts, before fronting up for dessert – a wild thunderstorm and almost tropical deluge. We baked, chasing our race numbers through the village, we were soaked to the bone.
There is nothing quite like the feel of Super Cross: The cowbells ringing out, the H-Van cranking the caffeine, the Belgian waffles searing-hot from the press; beer flowing, the cameras snapping, competitors and spectators alike swarming around the course, egging their mates to have a go, comparing outrageous costumes and swapping tall tales.
Perhaps this is what makes Super Cross so special, it is as much about the atmosphere as it is about the racing.
And so, the scene was set. Gasping for air, the Elite men wore the worst of the heat. The lead swapped multiple times before Chris Aitken, from the Focus CX team, finally wrestled victory from Allan ‘Alby’ Iacuone, with Michael Crosbie rounding out the podium in third. Lisa Jacobs showed why she wears the national colours as she overcame a course malfunction to take out the women’s elite category ahead of Oenone Wood and Gemma Kernich.
The open men’s field was enormous, with 75 starters wreaking havoc on the timing team. The foam cannon sputtered to life, while self-styled cheer squads wound into full voice. As the wind and heat started to stretch the riders out, Alex Malone charged to victory in Over Yonder Racing colours, with Rod Commerford and Alan Miller following to podium glory. The crowd cheered home every finisher – first-timers and seasoned pros alike – baptising their scorched heads in beer, water and whatever else was handy as riders headed to the foam pit to cool down.
The timing of Super Cross over the Halloween/Día de los Muertos weekend wasn’t lost on savvy costumed Cross riders – with ghouls, ghosts and calaveras lining up alongside rubber ducks, Rubik’s cubes, zombie sailors, aging rock stars, fairies, iPods and even a wheelie-popping shark. Timing went out the window, the Tequila shortcut came into play and celebrations were in full swing.
And then the rain came.
The final twist to this tale sent us huddling under tents and trees as the wind and rain lashed the park. There would be no presentations, no post-race partying, no fond farewells.
As for theatre and drama, it was the perfect conclusion. Hundreds scattered by a merciless storm, without the fitting finish we all thought we deserved. Super Cross 2014 has left us wanting to see more. Like all good sequels it was bigger, more ambitious, more filled with drama. And it’ll be back.
“Bahamontes never had a strategy in the mountains. He just didn’t want anyone on his wheel.”
- Raoul Rémy
Known as The Eagle of Toledo, Bahamontes is one of the sport’s greatest climbers. The son of Cuban immigrants, this Spaniard with scrawny legs was famous for looking nervous on the bicycle, an anxious expression on his face and twitchy hands on the bars. If his victories in the mountains – in 1954, 58, 59, 1962, 63 and 64 – made him a hero at home, his fragile ego prevented him from being one of the great champions. Legend has it that he once stopped at the top of a climb to wait for the peloton so he could descend safely with the pack; while he waited, he ate an ice cream handed to him by a spectator.
“I owe a lot to Bahamontes. I didn’t try to win it again, I could’ve won it 10 times.”
- Lucien Van Impe
Regarded by many as the greatest climber of all time, Lucien Van Impe is, somewhat surprisingly, a Belgian. It was another illustrious climber, Federico Bahamontes, who, at the end of the 1960s, helped Van Impe turn professional by suggesting to Jean Stablinski that he sign the curly-haired youngster. In 1971, Van Impe won the first of six King of the Mountains titles, the others coming in 72, 75, 77, 1981 and 83. Unlike most ‘pure climbers’, Van Impe had the legs for sprinting, too, and could pull off devastating attacks on any kind of climb. The only other man to have achieved six kom titles was Bahamontes himself; when Van Impe was presented with the opportunity to surpass his idol’s record he declined, preferring to leave it at six jerseys each.]]>
When you take the bus or the tube after work it’s like leaving one job for another – I find myself still thinking about the same things I had been thinking about when sitting at my desk. If you’re still stuck thinking about work, you might as well not have left.
Commuting is about getting from A to B, and there’s no escaping this, but if you’re on the bike it’s like you’re using the time rather than just wasting it. Riding for 20 minutes after work is like punctuation for your day, an ‘in between’ time. I think this is because of the simplicity of riding a bike in town – what I mean is that you can’t really avoid thinking about the little things involved of riding a bike: following traffic, making turns, looking after yourself. You’re forced to have these things on your mind for a while, and they’re the opposite of the ‘big’ decisions about money or overheads or critical pathways, you spend the rest of the work day thinking about. Riding slows life down for a few minutes.
You have to remember to dress less warmly for riding, and to keep scarves and gloves in your bag because your neck and fingers can freeze even when the rest of you over heats. The indispensible things are the versatile outer layers, like a good quality rain jacket that doesn’t look like a florescent bin bag.
Get good mudguards and you’ll be in a far better position than the pedestrians, hiding under umbrellas and regretting their choice of shoes on slippery pavement. Sure, it can be a drag getting soaked or riding into a headwind, but at least you have something to fight against. Riding is always the best choice, whatever the weather.]]>
My routine is this: I get woken up by my housemate who comes looking for a good gossip, so we sit around and talk about the ins and outs of work, the goings-on of our friends, the art world, politics, what have you. Then I’ll quickly cook up some porridge and get my kit on, and all my housemates will say, “there goes the queen of lycra,” then I’ll head out to the park on my bike.
I’ve fallen into quite a nice pattern of riding. Wednesdays are normally spent with the Rapha Condor Club who go out for a long ride past North London. There’s the ‘Gents’ ride on Friday, which is full of Londoners trying to pretend they don’t live in London for a couple of hours by getting out into greener pastures. I also ride with a group of women who meet up at the Cycle Club, and we’ll head out once or twice a week.
If I can, I nip off to Regent’s Park before or after work. I went last night and rode around the park clockwise so no one would get on my wheel – sometimes it’s nice to be in your own company, riding for yourself and remembering why you do that. There’s not much natural light around at those times of day, so I’ll often wear something with high-visibility details and flashes of bright colours, like the Women’s Brevet Jersey and Gilet.
Last year I was all set up to race for the first ever time – I was with a team, we had sponsorship from a local shop, we’d made plans for the season – but then I had to have my appendix out, which took me off the bike for a while. It was more than a bit of a downer, but I reset myself for Rapha’s Manchester to London. I’m not sure what I’ll be up to next year, but I know I’ll be out for a ride tomorrow.]]>
The summer felt really long – which isn’t a complaint at all but you can’t keep riding hard indefinitely. I rode Rapha’s Manchester to London in September, then spent a couple of weeks staying with friends in the Peak District, enjoying the climbs and the views. Now I’m back to deadline and coursework and getting things done, which is as good a reason as any to take a couple of easier weeks.
Riding out into Warwickshire’s lanes and country roads is an absolute pleasure – I have the countryside to myself most of the time, and at this time of year it’s as if the world around you changes every day. The weather is unpredictable, so I layer up. Winter collars, hats and leg warmers can be rolled up and stuffed into a jersey pocket when it warms up, or you ride that little bit harder, and pairing the Souplesse Jacket with a merino base layer is about as comfortable combination as you can get. Cold winds can cut through a jersey, but the windproof front panelling of the Souplesse Jacket keeps the cold air out.
As much as I love exploring on my own, I’m looking forward to reconnecting with old riding buddies and trying to tear each other’s legs off. The best group ride around here is called The Bash – 25 riders meet up on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and go out full gas for a couple of hours. Most of the time I’m just holding onto the bike, muttering prayers about not getting dropped, but it’s pretty much the most amount of fun you can have.
I’ve got lots planned, all motivated by the thought of racing for fun for the first time in years. I look at my calendar and cross out the days of exams or big deadlines, then say to myself, I could try some cyclocross here, or do this time trial, or get back into crits. I want to qualify for the national time trial and the British university championships – but for the next couple of weeks you’ll just find me out in the lanes.]]>
The Elites were given a chance to stretch their legs in preparation for the following day’s National Trophy race in Southampton. Jody Crawford of Hargroves RT took his third win in as many attempts in this year’s series, but Hope Factory Racing managed to hold on to the team classification after their strong showing in the first two rounds. Dan Craven of Team Europcar made his cyclocross debut with a guest appearance for the Rapha Development team. Moments after the Elite race, Dan lined up next to fancy-dress pandas, tigers and frogs (amongst others) for a turn in the Fun race – he spent much of the next half hour in the tequila shortcut.
In the Women’s Elite category, Annie Simpson of Hope took her second win of the series, holding off a late charge from the young Yorkshire rider Amira Mellor. Ruby Miller of Hargroves RT rolled over the line less than a minute later, shortly followed by trainee doctor and Rapha rider Sarah Murray, who’s racing only her second season of cyclocross.
The Kids and Youth races saw unprecedented levels of participation, boding well for the future of cyclocross in the UK, while Vets racers demonstrated the virtues of experience as they battled up the muddy climb. In the Seniors, Hackney GT’s Benjamin Lewis bested the field over nine gruelling laps.
Highlights of the racing included Bruce Dalton of the Rouleur team choosing to bunny-hop the barriers rather than bothering to dismount, Dan Craven (almost) mastering cross without so much as a practice lap beforehand (will he run up the next Grand Tour hors catégorie climb?), and one of Rapha’s product developers, Miles Gibbons, gamely racing in a Team Sky skinsuit custom-made for one of their tiniest riders whilst understandably looking a little…constricted.
Rapha Super Cross will return next year, with dates to be announced in the first part of 2015. Stay tuned.
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This was the first time Lisa and I had really spoken. Yes, we’d exchanged pleasantries at cyclocross races across Australia. As she had won many of those elite women’s races, I had congratulated her on her victories, especially when she won both the 2013 and 2014 Elite Women’s category at the Australian Cyclocross National Championships. But we had never had a good chat. Having read the articles she had written, and having seen her interviewed on cycling-related television programmes in her guise as a Cycling Australia board member and Chair of Cycling Australia Athletes Commission I had a pretty good idea of her background, but I was intrigued as to what made her tick. What motivated Lisa? As a lawyer myself, I understand the pressures of work and how difficult it is to train for cycling around work but Lisa takes things to another level.
Lisa first appeared on the domestic women’s cycling scene in 2007 and has been in the top tier of domestic racing, both road and cyclocross, ever since. There have been highs and lows, victories and injuries, a rollercoaster of a ride. In that time, Lisa has represented Australia in road racing and cyclocross.
What got you into serious bike racing?
I was always sporty through school and uni and had a natural interest in cycling. I started my legal career in London. During that time I got into dualthon (bike/run/bike) and multi-sport events. I had a professional licence to race dualthon and competed in a world duathlon championship. In 2007, I came back to Australia and joined a national talent identification program for road cycling being run out of South Australia.
I found I had an aptitude for tour racing and multi-day stage racing. I’ve got pretty good recovery and I can climb pretty well. And I love the strategy of tour racing.
In 2010 you got selected for the Australian National Women’s Road Team.
Yes, that involved a season of racing in Europe with the Australian Institute of Sport including the women’s Giro D’Italia. When I went over there I went straight from a lifestyle where I mainly worked and fit in training around work, into a full time athlete’s schedule with three months of hard core European racing. It was a big adjustment for me and I went into it too hard too early. By the time I got to the Giro I was so over-raced that it was terrible, it was the hardest thing I have ever done.
You got injured around that time.
I’ve had a few long-term injuries over my career ranging from nine months to a year. I would have liked to have gone back over to Europe for another season but the injuries put paid to that. The first time you do anything like that European season it is pretty tough, the second time you have benefitted from the first.
You survived the Australian Institute of Sport selection ‘Survival’ Camp in 2011.
Yes. It was a pretty ground-breaking project for the AIS at the time. They designed the course in conjunction with the SAS and made it properly about survival of the toughest. By the final day I was literally curled up on the floor of a transit van vomiting. They threw everything they could at you over ten days. There was no feedback over the whole time. It was modified after our camp as it was a bit extreme.
I made it to the final five out of 16 starters, and it’s probably one of the things I’m proudest of. It was a good experience of me because I love that kind of stuff. It was the second hardest thing that I have ever done after the Giro. At least you know when at the AIS chances are you won’t die because it’s bad PR for them. It was a great thing to be part of, something quite amazing, and I came out of it with a renewed confidence in what I was capable of doing.
The 2012 Women’s National Road Series got you back into racing.
After an injury-plagued 2011 , in early 2012 I got a call from Donna Rae-Szalinski (my long-time coach) telling me that she didn’t care what form I was in but she needed me to start the Tour of Mersey Valley in Tasmania. If I didn’t start the team couldn’t compete as they needed three riders. So I started, thought I wouldn’t finish, but I won. That started me loving riding again. The Victorian Institute Sport crew is like my second family. We had a really good year. I ended up second in the National Road Series rankings that year to Ruth Corset.
Your first cyclocross race was in June 2012.
I was in the mood for something different as I was training for the mountain bike Tour de Timor at the time and needed to improve my dirt skills. I picked up my cross bike the night before the first national series race, an alloy Apollo that retailed for $1500. Practised a few dismounts and then raced. I won that race and the overall 2012 National Cyclo Cross Series.
Your victory in the 2013 Elite Women’s Cyclocross Nationals was somewhat of a surprise.
In early 2013 I got pretty run down. Tour de Timor the previous year ended for me in the back of an ambulance and my body didn’t really recover over Summer, then in May I went overseas for a family holiday. I came back, tried to race a National Road Seres tour a day later and got taught an absolute lesson. I am very goal focussed so I decided I needed a goal. And I get enjoyment dreaming about the future. I was in terrible form but it usually doesn’t take me too long to find it and my goal was just to have a good race, so that whoever wanted to win that National Championship race would have to earn the victory. I wasn’t going in thinking I could win it, I just wanted to make sure that it would be a hard race. With Donna’s help I put a lot of work into preparation. Coming from being quite unfit in June to being in good form in August takes quite a lot of effort.
What about the infamous bike build?
I got the bike on the Thursday night before the Saturday race, and I had two great mechanics over at my place helping me, Ryan Moody and John Groves. It’s wasn’t a straightforward build as the bike was a prototype and quite unique in design. It took ages. At 11pm we had tubeless wheels exploding with sealant everywhere! On the Friday morning, the day before the race, I rode it for the first time and the seat post kept slipping. A friend who owned a bike shop raided all his bikes for seat post clamps, but because of the sloping top tube design it was difficult to find a clamp that gripped properly. We eventually found one, put on a lot of carbon paste and then duct taped the seat post for good measure. On the day of the race I only had dry tyres and the course was quite muddy. Doing the course inspection I bumped into Paul Larkin who loaned me a set of wheels with great FMB muds on them. Paul also gave the bike the once over. The way I see it, I had four different guys who rescued me before that race and if it hadn’t been for them I’d have been running out the back.
And the victory was your first Australian National Championship.
There was so much stress attached to the days before the race that to come out and win was such a surprise. And I hadn’t really won anything all year. It was a beautiful moment. You did look pretty happy at the end I comment. I went nuts, I’ve never gone that nuts after a race. Usually I’m quite reserved. Although I started realising now that there may be fewer and fewer victories ahead of me so I’ve started celebrating more.
You have an interest in how cycling is governed.
Yes, there have been some good opportunities to get involved in sports governance. When you get to the end of the sports institute process you think about transitioning and you want to stay in the sport as its been part of your life and you want to contribute. A lot of people go into coaching but with my background as a lawyer I have skills in governance. I become Chair of the Cycling Australia Athletes Commission which for the past year came with a seat on the Board of Cycling Australia. I like that I can use my skills as a lawyer for a positive effect for the sport.
What are your racing plans for the next couple of months?
All currently cyclocross. Next week I am going to China for the Qiansen Trophy. This is the second running of China’s only cyclocross race and the second time that I have raced. Last year I had a bad crash and broke my wrist early in the race, but finished (in 14th) because Grover was yelling at me that there was prize money down to 15th! I only found out afterwards that it was broken. I will be racing against some of the top American and European women.
Then I am off to the USA. First to a race in Sacramento then to CrossVegas. It is a race that I am very much looking forward to. It is a course that suits my skills unlike the extremely technical European courses, so I looking forward to having a great battle with some of world’s top female cyclocross racers including multiple US-National Champion Katie Compton and British Champion Helen Wyman. These girls are amazing riders and it’s a big ask just to stay in the bunch at that level but hopefully given that the dry courses in the US are a bit more like Australian courses, I’ll be able to have a crack.
Before all the travel starts I will have to make sure my new bike is completed and working. I suggest to Lisa that she thrives on having bike build deadlines, for example the 2013 Nationals and now this trip. She laughs. It will be finished. Another LJ goal accomplished.
(A couple of weeks after the interview, Lisa came second in the Qiansen Trophy, a Category 2 UCI cross race held near Beijing. She then travelled to the US to compete in CrossVegas, finishing an excellent 17th from a field of 60, including some of the world’s best female cyclocross racers. Lisa was only two minutes off the pace in the forty-minute race in the Las Vegas heat, despite a slipped pedal at the start and feeling under the weather. When I say the world’s best I mean seven of the top-20 ranked UCI riders, including Katie Compton and Helen Wyman).
“Your brain can’t remember pain. Of that I am glad. I don’t miss the pain. I’ll tell you what I miss though, I miss the weather… sweat would drip from my nose on to the white road, snow tingling as it melted on my exposed skin. The world was frozen but I was roaring in flames, as if I was driving an open-top car with the heater on full blast. I was my own nature. I was defiance.”
– From The Weather by Rigo Zimmerman
Whether it’s a freezing mountain descent or rain-soaked city streets, Rapha outerwear keeps you riding through all kinds of conditions. But judging the correct piece of outerwear to cover yourself in or pack into your pocket or luggage on a ride can be tricky. Do you know your Softshell from your Hardshell? Your Transfer Gilet from your Hi-Vis Gilet? Here’s our guide.
Definition: Weatherproof outer shell cut from Rapha’s answer to Gore-Tex.
Conditions: When the conditions get tough – i.e. wet, windy and cold – the tough needn’t be a problem.
Rider: Road riders who know the difference between bad weather and bad clothing.
Wear with: Thermal Bib Shorts or Winter Tights/ Winter Base Layer or Long Sleeve Jersey (In the city: Merino Jersey or Polo/ Rapha Trousers or Jeans).
See the Hardshell Jacket »
Definition: The most versatile cycling jacket in the world.
Conditions: From autumn through to early spring, this jacket keeps core temperature stable. A thoroughbred amongst jackets.
Rider: Road riders, commuters and even mountain bikers.
Wear with: Base layer on mild days, or over a long sleeve jersey when colder. Also looks just at home with jeans as it does with ¾ bibs.
See the Classic Softshell »
See the Women’s Classic Softshell »
Definition: Updated this season with taped seams. This is a great lightweight waterproof or emergency layer for rides when you don’t know where the weather will take you.
Conditions: Sudden showers, rides into the mountains, Norwegian weather (it’s also windproof).
Rider: The intrepid road cyclist who needs to ride come rain or shine. Racers, sportivists and cyclo-tourists. But also city commuters.
Wear with: Any kind of Rapha Training & Racing gear or City apparel.
See the Rain Jacket »
See the Women’s Rain Jacket »
Definition: Almost on a par with the Classic Softshell in terms of iconic status, this lightweight jacket is another very versatile garment.
Conditions: Wet and windy spring days, when the descent calls for an emergency layer, early morning starts.
Rider: Every road rider should own one of these.
Wear with: Anything from a winter jersey in the colder months to a base layer on warmer days.
See the Classic Wind Jacket »
See the Women’s Wind Jacket »
Definition: A softshell/ brushed back outer layer with the comfort of a jersey and protection of a jacket.
Conditions: Cool to cold.
Rider: Riders who don’t want excess bulk, who ride high tempo and who want the very best money can buy.
Wear with: Pro Team Thermal Bib Shorts, Leg Warmers and Merino Base Layer.
See the Pro Team Jacket »
Definition: Originally designed for Team Sky, streamlined protection from precipitation.
Conditions: Wet and windy, sudden showers, deluges and so forth.
Rider: Pro or amateur racers, high tempo riders and weight weenies.
Wear with: Pro Team Jersey (short or long sleeve) Pro Team Bib Shorts (or Thermal).
See the Pro Team Race Cape »
Definition: The Souplesse Jacket uses two distinct fabrics to allow for temperature regulation and protection from the elements. With contrast colourways, offset zip and reflective detailing.
Conditions: Cold, dry and blustery days.
Wear with: Women’s Winter Hat, Women’s Padded Tights.
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Definition: Exceptional protection from the elements in a jacket styled for the everyday. The hood is shaped for clear peripheral vision while riding, and can be rolled away when not in use.
Conditions: Wet, gritty, city weather. This jacket is extremely water resistant, insulating, windproof and is cut to look good wherever you find yourself.
Rider: From the city riding dandy to the hardcore commuter.
Wear with: Rapha Trousers or Jeans/ any kind of merino mid-layer.
See the Hooded Rain Jacket »
Definition: With a clean-lined style applied to advanced fabrics, the Rain Bomber is a perfect day-to-day outer layer.
Conditions: For riding, working and travelling in cool or wet conditions.
Rider: This is an essential jacket for any rider.
Wear with: Women’s Jeans, Women’s Printed Bomber.
See the Women’s Rain Bomber »
Definition: A technical sports jacket that functions admirably on a bike with a deconstructed, minimal aesthetic.
Conditions: Cool to mild to warm. Depending on what you wear with it.
Rider: For the dapper gent who likes his clothes functional as well as stylish.
Wear with: Merino V Neck Base layer, Rapha Shirts, Polos, or T’s.
See the Lapelled Jacket »