The 2020 season got off to an early start for me, kicking off the season in Australia! My winter normally consists of escaping to warm places, so Australia sounded like an ideal January getaway when the team added the block of racing to the calendar. My motivation was high coming into the season. I ended 2019 with an injury, partially tearing my MCL at a crash in the Boels Ladies Tour in September. Six weeks off the bike, and a four-month break from racing meant I was filled with a desire to get back on the start line.
Of course there is one topic that cannot be ignored when Australia is mentioned these days. Massive bushfires are devastating the country. I did feel conflicted at first about racing while the country faces a national emergency.
The organizers did a good job first prioritizing the health and safety of everyone involved, ensuring the area and planned routes were completely safe. We raced through parts of the Adelaide hills that were hit by the fires earlier in the month, and it was sad to see the devastation. The organizers also emphasized the role the race could play in bringing business back to the affected communities, and promoting tourism in Australia.
It was inspiring to see teams stepping up to support bushfire relief, and using their platforms to bring attention to the issues. Sponsors stepped up with donations and riders came up with lots of creative fundraising ideas. We donated a few signed jerseys from the race, which will be auctioned by the Country Fire Service (CFS) foundation if anyone reading is interested in growing their collection while supporting a good cause.
I enjoyed starting the season with a stage race instead of jumping straight into the chaos of the classics. The racing gave us a chance to work on team tactics and dynamics. We went in fighting every day, and ended the week in a successful way, claiming 2nd & 6th in GC with Liane and myself, the sprint jersey, young rider competition, mountains competition and overall team classification. A highlight for everyone was receiving stuffed podium koalas!
The Towards Zero Race Torquay and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race this week made the long trip to Australia even more worth it for teams who traveled the distance. We tackled temperatures over 40C yesterday in Torquay, with the heat taking a toll on the peloton. A swim in the ocean saved us all, and it was entertaining to be joined by Cadel Evans himself, claiming this was his regular post ride training routine in Australia.
Tomorrow we will tackle the first World Tour race of the season, and a big storm heading this way could make it quite unpredictable. My experience with the organisation shows this race is definitely worthy of it’s new World Tour status and they are setting the bar for others to follow with things like equal prize money, live coverage, rider safety, and excellent food and accommodations.
Coffee Culture & Koalas
Since the team also had some time to train in between races, we entertained ourselves by exploring the Adelaide hills and the Great Ocean Road by bike. Koala sightings and excellent coffee stops made these rides memorable. The coffee culture in Australia is truly a dream for cyclists, with cafes on every corner.
I enjoyed my time in Australia and would recommend planning a trip here sometime if you are a cyclist looking for an adventure in a beautiful place. The best time to visit would be during the women’s racing block next January :-). In the meantime, any kind of support for fire relief would come as a huge benefit to the country.
I will be back with my next blog as we kick of classics in the spring in a couple months. It is hard to think it is only January, as there is still lots of racing to come this season. Until then, follow me online @leahkirchmann on Instagram or @L_Kirch on Twitter.