Bicycling Australia has been talking to National Road Series riders to get an idea of how we might all be able to ride smarter, faster, better. This edition we catch up with Jade Colligan from the Bicycle Superstore team, who has gone from club C grader on a chain store bike to the NRS in just over a year!
Bicycling Australia (on the phone): Where are you now, Jade?
Jade Colligan: In Canberra, where I am studying at the Australian National University. I am in my first year of Bachelor of Visual Arts. It’s cold here today. In fact, it’s always cold, every day.
BA: So you come from somewhere warmer?
JC: Jervis Bay on the NSW South Coast. I was born there and live in St Georges Basin with my family. It’s a beautiful spot. A small coastal town, surrounded by beaches. There are some great places to ride, I love living there, it’s always been home. I live with Mum; Sally-ann, Dad; Ian and my 10 minutes older twin sister Danielle. She’s bossy like all big sisters!
BA: So three years ago you were riding 20km a day and now you are riding NRS?
JC: Yeah. Amazing eh. I went riding one afternoon and I saw a crit happening on a circuit and some people there said I should have a go. I started rolling around on my road bike and Dad said he would get me a road bike, so I got a women’s road bike, an Orbea, in late January 2012. Then Mum sort of said `there is actually a velo club in Nowra’ and I said, `there is no way I am joining a velo club, Mum’. But she talked me into doing my first race, a D grade scratch race over I think 30km and I actually won that one, so that was pretty good. I had no idea of tactics or anything like that. I had toe clips. I stayed with them on the first lap, then on the second lap I broke away on the hill and held it to the end for 2km. They almost caught me but didn’t.
BA: And from there?
JC: I was loving it, but I was so scared. I was riding in MTB cleats for a long time, because they were easy to get in and out of. The next race they put me up to C grade and I think I came seventh in that one. I was so determined. I kept racing each week as much as I could. I don’t think I missed a race unless I was sick. Every week I would try to beat the old guys. I didn’t have a coach so I just did kays all the time for my training, like 700 kays a week. I continued the club racing from the end of year 11 and through year 12. I got helped a lot by the club president Doug Holland. It was like my main goal to stay with Doug on the bike. He taught me how to corner, how not to hit the cones in a crit and tactics. I then started training properly under local coaches Damian Mason and Mark Fenner who started me on a program and it all happened really fast. One day I was racing C grade, then I was on the verge of A grade in our club.
BA: How did you make the step to open competition?
JC: I thought I would love to do nationals or something. I went into Damian’s shop The Watt Factory and got testing to see where I was at to start with, doing a MAP test where you work harder every 20 seconds until you die to work out your maximum aerobic capacity over a minute and your functional threshold (FTP) which is what you can sustain for 20 minutes and started building up from there. I wasn’t slash hot at the start. My FTP threshold for an hour was 190 watts. These days my FTP is 240-245.
BA: And so the training began?
JC: After about four weeks of training I did the NSW southern division championship. I got dropped by the under 17 girls which was disappointing but I thought I could be better than that and decided to keep on going. Damo gave me a solid 12 week training block for the under 19 nationals in Noosa. The first three weeks was solid endurance, then the next three weeks threshold efforts to help with the time trial, training regularly on a TT bike I borrowed from my coach. The last part I was doing three times a week double sessions, a 50 minute time trial effort on the TT bike in morning, then on the trainer or on a hill doing surges, harder efforts. Every Saturday I would go riding on a mountain as I hadn’t done climbing much before.
BA: A big learning experience then, Jade?
JC: I learnt a lot! To believe in myself, because sometimes the training gets really intense and you question whether it’s worth it, but then you get there and see it was. I learned to take small steps at a time. I just loved it. Motivation wasn’t an issue. I looked forward to it, every day.
BA: So from chain store bike to club A grade to nationals to the NRS in all less than a year? Apparently you also went to the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) and got to experience what life as a high level athlete is like?
JC: I applied for a selection camp at the AIS in Canberra November last year and didn’t think would get in, but Damo got call from Martin Barass, women’s AIS team coach, who asked if I would be able to handle it. They had never heard of me. I was only 18 and not old enough to select for the national team anyway. But they decided I could do four of the 10 days, due to my age and still being a junior. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. On the first day we had blood tests, bike skills, trying to knock each other off bikes, pick up drink bottles while moving, head on someone’s elbow, wheel rubbing, gym work, squats and push ups…I woke up the next day and couldn’t move; I didn’t know how I would ride a bike but somehow I did. We had to race up mountains. At the end they gave us our testing results. They said I had a lot of work to do, but they really liked my attitude, enthusiasm, good bike handling skills. They said I needed to get my FTP to 270 to race internationally, so that’s a benchmark for me and will get easier as got older. Every night was a debrief, they were really tough on some of the girls, it really intense, girls were crying. And no getting results till the end was really hard as you never knew how you were going.
BA: And the NRS was your next step?
JC: Yeah, I went to the NSW crit championships in under 19s and picked up a silver medal in mid-November, then applied for the Bicycle Superstore team for 2014 and was selected for the year as a new junior development rider.
BA: What does the contract mean for you?
JC: I got a new bike, a Giant Envy, its worth so much money I can’t believe I actually own it. Kit, glasses, helmet. Torque products. Bike maintenance, clean bikes after stages, race entries and travel. We have our own director sportif who advises us on races. All money earned in prizemoney goes back to the team. And of course, I get to ride the NRS women’s events. I don’t think they want to put a lot of pressure on me, a lot of the girls are older than me. I am not a climber, not sure if I’m a sprinter; so at the moment I am just doing what they tell me to do each race.
BA: How has the year gone so far?
JC: I did my second nationals and got 5th in the u/23 30km time trial. The left arm pad broke off on the tt bike, so I had nothing to reset arm on except the brake levers for 30km. I did the Canberra Junior and Women’s Tour in April 2014 and was third in the elite women’s time trial and had a bunch finish in the road race. At the Battle on the Border in Tweed Heads (NRS) I got 12th in the ime trial. Then I did the Tour of Murray River for the second time, but didn’t do as well as last time. Then I did the Tour of the King Valley, as a worker for the team, and got 24th in the time trial.
BA: Who are your cycling heroes?
JC: Definitely one of the girls from my team, Felicity Wardlaw, I idolise her a fair bit, coming into the sport late and completely dominating. I feel privileged to be in the same team as her. I look up to Doug Holland; he’s the reason I sort of got into cycling in the first place, because he kept pushing me to get better. My friend Mel Kilby from Nowra, a Masters time triallist, and Damian my coach, who has become a friend as well as a coach.
BA: What do you think about women’s cycling right now?
JC: When I started doing NRS there were only 30 girls in the bunch on a good day, but now there is almost 100 turning up at each NRS event, which makes it so much more exciting. It’s good to know it’s getting up there, really competitive and going places.
BA: You are studying as well as riding; how do you find the balance?
JC: It IS crazy at the moment, I am working till 11pm every night making pizzas at Dominoes, spending every spare moment at uni, trying to study, train, doesn’t give you a lot of time.
At a glance info
NRS Team – Bicycle Superstore
Gear sponsors – Liv Giant, Santini, BBB (sun)glasses, Morgan Blue, Lazer, Torque and Osteohealth
First bike – Really old fashioned MTB, a cheapie, like $100.
Bike now – Giant Envy
Best win – 12th stage two out of 80 at Battle On the Border 2014
3rd in Canberra Women’s Tour time trial
Vital statistics – 158cm tall, 19yrs old, 58kg
Coach – Damian Mason/Mark Fenner FTP Training