Loren Rowney’s Interview Part II – 2016, changes, goals and Cycling Australia

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Loren posing with her former teammate Karol-Ann in Girona.

After four remarkable years at Kristy Scrymgeour’s VelocioSports teams, you have switch teams, signing with Orica-AIS for 2016. How do you like it so far? Tell us any differences you may have spotted during your first training camp and the first training sessions as well as at the Cadel Evan’s Great Ocean Road with Orica-AIS. How is Gene Bates as a manager and SD? 

It feels like coming home. I’ve raced with most of my new teammates on Australian teams, Tayler was my closest teammate on Velocio, so it just feels right. The main difference is I feel more at ease and comfortable within the team. I came myself around the girls and the staff. We really are one big happy, slightly dysfunctional family haha. Gene is fantastic. I love his style and approach to racing. I feel calm and confident going into races because my team believes in me, and I believe in them. The German approach on Velocio was different…I always felt like I was walking around on egg shells. Don’t get me wrong, I learnt a lot in my years on Velocio, but I think the environment in Orica is just better suited to my up bringing and personality type.

Your new squad Orica-AIS quotes you as a “valuable contributor in the Spring Classics”.  How would you define yourself as a cyclist?

I started off well in the few classics I got to race last year. It’s more my type of racing. You have to be confident, aggressive and switched on, ready for anything to happen in the classics. I have a decent kick on me, and I can handle the punchy climbs you see in the classics. Plus I don’t mind the wind, and rubbing elbows in the  bunch, so the classics suit me.

Loren a la izquierda de la imagen posa con sus compañeras de equipo en la presentación de la @Cadel Evans' Road Ocean Race
Loren in the left of the picture posing with her teammates before the @Cadel Evans’ Road Ocean Race

With Rio Olympics on the horizon, it has been a different start of the season for you. Neither participating at Cycling Australia nationals nor at Santos Women’s Tour. Could you tell us how different it is going to be your race schedule in pursuit of an olympic appearance? Moreover, just after your first training&team building camp with Orica-AIS you did a bike-road trip with your former teammate Bec Werner. Would you like to share any experiences and learnings you got in return/as a result of that trip? 

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I was sad to miss the early season racing with my team. I needed to take time to myself in December. I was really struggling mentally, and it got to the point I just wasn’t coping anymore and had a breakdown. So I wracked the road bike, called my best friend Bec and said “hey, remember how we dreamed of doing this ride together, but my professional cycling career couldn’t allow for it? Well I think I want to quit cycling, can I come meet you in Sydney?”. Three days and I was in Sydney embarking on this ridiculous journey with no planning. I mean, I was on an old man bike that didn’t even fit me properly. I had no clue what I had gotten myself into…and I just suffered for one week. It was during this week of riding with no speed, no distance, no power, no HR, nothing, I started to just think about everything. I mulled over what I wanted to do…did I still love the bike? What really was the problem? How had I gotten to this point that I was so lost, I was willing to throw away my dream? Along the way I met people from all walks of life. Each one had a story to tell, and I realised my story wasn’t over yet, at least this chapter of my life. I wasn’t done just yet. And so the day after I got back from my adventure with Bec, and I saw the psychologist and so the next chapter started. The chapter to self discovery and learning to love myself.

Do you have any firm plans for your race schedule this year? What races are you looking forward to? Will you your participate at Emmakumen Bira? 

No, unfortunately no Bira for me. Which is sad because I consider Spain my home away from home. I love living in Girona, I love everything about the Spanish way of life. I’m really excited about the Womens Tour of Britain, it’s such a great event! I’m also looking forward to Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta, it’s a race I wanted to compete in last year, however my team didn’t have it on the schedule.

After the splendour the Hour Record (HR) had in the 90s, last year we witnessed several male attempts to break the UCI HR but only two female ones. “Hour Record Rush” seems to have hit women’s cycling as well, with a successful attempt by Bridie O’Donnell a few weeks ago, another successful attempt in five weeks time by Evie Stevens and the possibility of several cyclists attempting it after the Rio Olympics, such as Ellen van Dijk who stated her interest in the HR on the eve of 2014 Ponferrada Worlds. Is it a middle or long term goal attempting the UCI Hour Record for you? What are your expectations of your former teammate’s attempt? Have you ever trained or practiced such a long-lasting and mentally demanding effort as the HR? 

The hour record is not one for me. I simply do not have that kind of engine. I can suffer, and I’m sure I could have a crack, but it wouldn’t be an impressive attempt. And that’s honesty, not negativity. I’ve never done anything like it, so it would be one hell of a test.

I was so pumped for Bridie when she got the record. Honestly, I didn’t think she would get the record, I’m happy she proved me wrong. It was a very cool feat, and she should be damn proud about it. When Evie announced she was doing the hr, I knew she would have it in the bag. She is not the sort of person who goes in to something without a plan of attack to win. She’s one of my favourite bike riders, so I was over the moon to see her take the record. And can I just say, how impressive are these women! Honestly, when you look at the distance they are covering, it’s not too far off the men. I can’t wait to see who has a crack next…obviously, I want Evie to keep the record though 😉 the publicity it’s stirring around women’s cycling is fantastic. So I say, let’s keep this momentum going.

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It is being a very good start of year for Australian riders and thus for Cycling Australia. Lauretta Hanson revealing herself as one of the most promising young road cyclists in Australia, delivering great performances at UCI ranked races such as Santos Women’s Tour and Ladies Tour of Qatar. Your teammate Katrin Garfoot reminding us not to label her as just a time trial specialist, becoming time trial national champion, winning stages at Ladies Tour of Qatar, Santos Women’s Tour and overall classification at the latter. Just after the first edition of Santos Women’s Tour as UCI ranked race, Bridie O’Donnell broke the UCI Hour Record, setting a new mark of 46.882km at Adelaide’s Superdrome. Nettie Edmondson, Chloe Hosking, Lizzie Williams, Kimberley Wells and Amanda Spratt winning as well stages at UCI ranked races, adding very valuable points for Cycling Australia. Any comments you would like to make about it. 

It’s really, really exciting! Every year the Aussies just keep stepping it up. We are becoming a force to be reckoned with. And you know, we are all completive with one another, but at the same time, we’re all happy when another aussie does really well. I’m excited about what we can do this year, particularly at the Olympics and World Champs. You have Kat who is on track to an amazing performance in both events. Then you have Chloe who is a real potential to win the Worlds in Qatar. I really hope to be a part of the Worlds team, I have a good feeling about this year.

A video posted by Carlee Taylor (@carleetaylor1) on 

However the grass is not always greener on the other side. Earlier in 2015, it was revealed to the media that Cycling Australia (CA) was under financial difficulties. In 2013/14 CA forgave $1.2 million of bad and doubtful debts, leading to a negative, a $1.8 million 2013/14 loss result, leaving CA in a difficult situation. Some light was brought into the darkness, as revenues were increased and expenses reduced so that 2014/15 result improved to a $180k profit. However, the key news is that the High Performance Program (HPP) expenditure had to be reduced by first time, cutting an increasing trend, during 2014/2015, just on the eve of Rio Olympics. 

Australia is a leading nation, a reference in Women’s Cycling not only as professional competition but also on management and Women’s Cycling advocacy. Kristy Scrymgeour, Gene Bates, Rochelle Gilmore are a few examples of Australians who have been managing top UCI ranked teams throughout the past years. Moreover, former pro cyclists such as Kristy Scrymgeour and Tracey Gaudry along with national coach Martin Barras play an important role as members of UCI Women’s Commission, where Tracey Guadry sits as President of the Commission and UCI Vice-President. Any comments you would like to make about it, and do you see yourself playing a similar supportive and enhancing role after retiring from professional cycling?

We have amazing support behind us here in Australia. Kristy is definitely one of those always in the background plugging away, creating change, but never really getting the recognition she deserves. And Tracey is making leaps and bounds for the sport. With people like this behind womens cycling, the future is bright. For me, I would like to play a role in this change so the younger generations can benefit. “Be the change you wish to see in the world” is one of my mantras. So little by little I try to do my part. I just became a StrongHer ambassador, and I’m planning to run my own cycling event here in Australia at the end of the year.

Stay tuned for the final part of Loren Rowney’s interview.

Loren Rowney

Diego Martín

If you missed the first part of the interview you can read it by clicking here. For reading the final part click here.

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