Limo waiting at the front door, Louis Vuitton suitcase packed with the latest trends off the fashion runway. Chanel handbag at the ready, passport in hand with first class tickets inside and a 5 star hotel waiting on arrival. If only the life on the road as a female professional cyclist was as glamorous as this.
It’s an amazing adventure that opens your eyes to multiple cultures and a world of new destinations, as you become a nomad or a travelling gypsy. I spend more nights in different hotel beds than in my own, ranging from the luxurious Ritz Carlton at the Tour of Qatar to a bunk bed and a communal shower in a camping ground or school in France.
Your team becomes your second family, an intriguing mix of nationalities from all different backgrounds and cultures. You spend so much time together on the road, sharing and celebrating together your greatest triumphs and there’s always somebody around to pick you up when you’ve fallen down.
It takes many sacrifices to chase your dream as a professional female cyclist. I’ve had to leave my family and friends in Australia and pack my bags to base myself overseas and make a new life in Europe to call home.
Moving to a foreign country can be very daunting, especially when they don’t speak your language. I had never lived away from my family home until I moved overseas to pursue my cycling career at the highest level. So not only was I moving out of home and finding my own apartment or house to live in, but I was doing so in another country on the other side of the world.
It’s taught me to grow up very quickly but it has been an amazing experience and I’ve learnt many life skills. The friend’s that I have made around the globe will stay with me forever. I have lived in 6 different countries on 3 different continents so far and every place has been special for one reason or another.
I’m lucky that I’ve had amazing support all the way along my journey so far, with good teams and teammates, amazing sponsors, and people always willing to help out and share their experiences. The cycling world is like one big family as everyone has been there or done that during their career. Sure, at times it has been tough but I’ve pushed through those moments and they’ve made me even stronger and into the person I am today.
When it comes to the racing side of things, travel is one of the biggest parts of it. I take multiple flights every year to all corners of the globe, from Australia to America, Middle East and Asia. Although the bulk of the travelling is done throughout Europe as this is where the majority of our races take place.
The team tries to keep our travel stress to a minimum so we can just focus on racing our bikes to the best of abilities and can arrive at a race relaxed and ready to go. In order to achieve this, our fabulous staff at Specialized-Lululemon takes care of all of the logistics.
Piecing together the complex puzzle of arranging flights for all of the riders from their training bases to the location of the race. Along with organising the staff and their travel driving the team vehicles and equipment from the service course in Germany to the race hotel, either directly there or via an airport for a rider pick up. The staff covers many thousands of kilometers on the road every year travelling to and from all of the races.
Lucky for me as a rider, my only responsibility on a race weekend is getting myself to the airport and onto that flight. From a taxi to a bus, my Vespa or a friend and even a helicopter, there are numerous ways I have used to get to my ‘local’ airport of Nice Cote d’Azur from my current training base of Monaco.
When it comes to packing for a race trip, it has become second nature for me. My bag is filled with Specialized-Lululemon cycling gear, a selection of causal apparel, a colourful array of eyewear, socks and racing shoes, some underwear, casual shoes, toiletries and pajamas. And of course I always have a selection of nail polish as one of my trademarks when I race are my nail designs.
As much as I’d love to have dresses and heels packed in my bag too, life on the road at the races doesn’t really see a need for it. We spend our time either in Lycra on our bikes or in our team casual gear lounging around the hotel with feet up. The key is to pack light, especially when on tour and you are changing hotels every night, as the more you have, the more you need to lug around.
Majority of the time we won’t have to travel with a bike, which makes life so much easier. It’s common now within teams that the rider will have a home training bike and then the race, spare and time trial bikes that stay with the team.
On the rare occasion that I do need to travel with a bike, I do so with my Scicon AeroComfort bag- the Rolls Royce of cycling bags. So simple to pack with little disassembly, the bike is secured into a specially designed frame inside the bag to avoid damaged derailers or chain rings. With plenty of built-in padding, you can also feel confident your bike will be well protected. The best thing I personally like is that there’s no awkward carrying of the oversized bag, with 4 wheels attached to the base that glide smoothly as you tow along the bag. Since using the Scicon AeroComfort bag, my life so much less stressful when having to travel with a bike.
When we’re at races, I must admit we’re pretty spoilt. Life is easy; the days consist of eating, cycling, recovering with a massage or putting the legs up and sleeping. You will room with a fellow team mate, spend a lot of time surfing the internet, talking with family of friends via Skype or watching endless television series to pass the time whilst waiting to race or for the next meal time to come along.
Life as a professional female cyclist is a crazy world; it is anything but normal and not for everyone. For me though it is my passion, my love and my life. It is a pretty special thing to be able to get paid to do something that you love to do, and the journey that I have had so far has been an incredible ride and adventure.
There is no better feeling in the world when you stand on top of that podium, victorious, knowing that all of the sacrifices, the hard work and determination has paid off.
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