Our Elite Women’s Cycling Team has scorched the nation’s roads to show they belong. Laura Hanlon provides a wrap of their first summer of racing. 

With women’s sport going from strength to strength, Sydney University’s female cycling team made their mark in the 2018 Aussie Summer of Cycling.

The newly-assembled elite women’s cycling team, Sydney Uni-Staminade, contested four major cycling events during January, including the Cycling Australia Road National Championships at Ballarat, the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Race, and the Deakin Elite Women’s Road Race.

Launched in December 2017, the Sydney Uni-Staminade team is supported by the University of Sydney, Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness, Sydney Uni Velo Club and naming rights sponsor, Staminade, along with loyal sponsors Trek Bicycles and Park Bikes.

The team was assembled to provide a development pathway, including academic support, for female cyclists from club to the elite level. Sydney University is committed to creating a sustainable NSW-based race team for some of the most promising riders in the state.

When you are invited to compete at Union Cyclisite Internationale (UCI) rated events you need to turn up making a statement. To that end, the team wished to make a splash and they did. While most of the events they competed in have six-member teams, it is vital to have depth to cover injury and unavailability so Sydney Uni-Staminade boasts a dynamic 10-rider roster which includes Abby Sneddon, Amy Vesty, Angela Smith, Chloe Heffernan, Emma Roberts, Emily Watts, Georgia Whitehouse, Gina Ricardo, Jade Colligan and Megan Scott.

The team saw non-stop action throughout January starting with the Cycling Australia Road National Championships at Ballarat. Just days later they took on the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under. They were one of six Australian teams in a 17-strong international field.

The team of Scott, Smith, Heffernan, Colligan, Ricardo and Whitehouse rode with distinction. Following the Santos events it was announced that equal prize money would be offered for both men and women, including the 2018 races, confirming the global juggernaut that is women’s cycling and female sport in general.

The next assignment for team Sydney Uni-Staminade was the 63.6km Cadel Evans Great Ocean Race which kicked off with the Towards Zero Melbourne criterium on a fast and flat Albert Park course. Whitehouse and Sneddon rode well to finish in the top 30 in an 86-strong international field.

Two days later the Sydney University team lined up for the signature event, the Deakin Elite Women’s Road Race, UCI1.1 over 113km. Whitehouse was on fire, going off the front to lead only to suffer a rear puncture at the 41km mark.

After running repairs she rejoined the race and, riding alongside Italian Lisa Morzenti, they were finally caught by the chasers.

Whitehouse picked up a swag of points in winning the hill climb and intermediate sprints. She also finished second in the Mapei sprint classification and third in the Subaru Queen of the Mountain. The Queen of the Mountain placing gave her some serious bragging rights as it was the first time the women’s course included the Challambra Climb, a notoriously steep and winding ascent.

All six Sydney Uni-Staminade riders finished the challenging race, a testimony to their preparation and strong team culture.

Fellow Sydney Uni Velo Club rider, Rio Olympian Rachel Neylan, finished 21st in the leading pack as part of the Mitchelton-Scott team. Neylan was the inaugural winner of the Cadel Evan’s Women’s Ocean Race in 2015.

Sydney Uni-Staminade finished off a busy January by entering the 2018 Jayco Women’s Herald Sun Tour, the first time women’s teams have been included.

The team has big plans for 2018, including Cycling Australia’s revamped National Road Series beginning in August, which will feature a series of tours, criteriums and classics, plus targeting some races in the US in June and July. Look for them flashing by.