‘Show our best and learn from the best’.
That’s the motto of Team BridgLane’s new women’s cycling initiative that consists of six young and determined ladies, the ever-enthusiastic Pat Shaw, a skilled team of support staff … and more than 180 people who dipped into their pockets to help build the future of female cycling.
Yes, it’s a crowdfunded cycling team that, in its first year, has already completed a WorldTour race.
Team BridgeLane is a genuine and all-in team effort and every effort is given. This week the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under offered all members of the team – from riders through to support staff – the incredible opportunity of mixing with the world’s best, cement themselves as a team, and battle it our with their cycling icons.
And the riders? None other than Lillee Pollock, Gina Ricardo, Emily Watts, Mia Hayden, Jessica Pratt and Keely Bennet.
“To be on the start line is a huge compliment to our team, it demonstrates that our project is respected. For our riders this is a dream realised and an opportunity to show their best and learn from the best in the world”.Pat Shaw, Team Manager
Managing communications, photography and media for the team, talented Perth-based rider Anny Kidd compiled the following day-by-day tour diary.
Day 1: The Schwalbe Classic
A new peloton means new navigation. Up against the world’s best in the sport, Team BridgeLane had a hard race ahead of them but were keen to sink their teeth in a test the legs at the Schwalbe Classic. Guided by their DS, Martin Barrass, the ladies were full of spirit and determined to make themselves known. Emily Watts fronted the team and sat confidently at the start line, where she belongs.
The BridgeLane ladies quickly felt the sharp pace and tactics that only World Tour events bring, however, race smarts allowed Gina Ricardo to make it across to the move of the day. It just came down to the legs.
Staying and working with the bunch was today’s goal. That’s exactly what the ladies achieved.
“Today was about getting confidence in the bunch and I think we achieved that. This is the start of a few hard days to come, and we can’t wait to learn more and more each day as a team.”Emily Watts
Big nerves. But the good kind. The ladies remained smiling and collected, signing on, taking interviews and genuinely bringing a fresh level of laidback energy to the team. Each team member plays their part, and this is abundantly clear.
Coming up to the first QOM, Gina Ricardo showed her climbing legs narrowly missing the QOM jersey.
Descending, Keely Bennett was involved in a crash taking her out with an injured elbow. It sucked. It’s not hard to imagine the emotions felt. But the team pushed on.
With an attack from ARA Capital’s, Issy Carnes, Gina went for the move taking on a two-person breakaway for 15km of the race, only being caught with 10km to go. Jess Pratt showed her bunch intelligence and took to a position at the front up against rough crosswinds, ultimately being the best-placed rider from the team for the finish.
“It was a hard day on the bike in the wind I’m really stoked to have been able to get in the break of the day and represent the team!” – Gina Ricardo
With the initial nerves shaken off from yesterday’s success in the breakaway, the ladies in blue, although one rider down, were still ready to cement their place in Stage 2.
This Stage was for the climbers. With winding roads and over 1600m in elevation through the Adelaide Hills, this stage was sure to test the legs of the team. Gina and Mia were undoubtedly excited to show their climbing skills as they bubbled at the start line.
Gina brought her climbing legs and was looking completely at ease at the front of the peloton, where you’ll often find her. It was an incredibly hot and hilly day, and the team each rallied behind each other, especially Mia, who had to make a bike change, and Emily who had an unlucky crash.
Today was a perfect example that it’s not always about the result, but the efforts given.
“Today was super rough. I had a bike change 20km in and suffered with bike positioning. My team rallied behind me and got me through.” – Mia Hayden
It was the final dance, in extremely sticky conditions. The key message to the team? “Put everything in to help Mia.” Without a doubt, everything was indeed put in. Each rider playing their part. Gina, who is now a breakaway veteran at this stage, went after the intermediate sprint, and it stuck.
Working well with two other breakaway companions, it seemed the peloton were happy to let them go. Only caught with 15km to go, this was the ride of a lifetime for Gina and it ultimately won her the Most Combative Rider for the stage. Once the peloton caught the break, Mia showed what she does best and climbed her way up the infamous Corkscrew climb placing well with LilleePollock not far behind her with an impressive effort.
With Team BridgeLane’s first Santos Tour Down Under complete, all involved in the project can feel the energy, the relief, the excitement and the exhaustion. The hugs, the laughter and the comradery between staff and riders was plentiful and in abundance. This crowdfunded team is much more than just a team. They are family, and they are hungry for more.
Words and Images by Annabel Kidd @thecycopath
Bicycling Australia’s Tour Down Under Coverage Is Presented By Hammerhead Cycling Computers.