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Down Under Digest: Contracts and crustaceans

Keep up to date on all things Aussie and Kiwi cycling with our weekly round-up.

Matt de Neef
by Matt de Neef 25.10.2023 Photography by
Michael Hardy
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G’day everyone, and welcome back to the Down Under Digest, your weekly round-up of all things Aussie and Kiwi cycling!

Every time I’ve opened ProCyclingStats in the past week or so I’ve gotten a little flutter of excitement. Why? Because in that little box that reads “Next WorldTour races”, I can now see the Santos Tour Down Under and Cadel’s Race up top. Yes, they’re still months away, and yes they’re not the biggest races of the year, but I for one can’t wait for the Aussie Summer to roll around. Nationals, TDU, Cadel’s – big fan.

Another man who loves a good January bike race is James Whelan, the subject of our lead story today. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first, a reminder that if you’re enjoying the DUD, please do subscribe. It means you get the newsletter direct to your inbox each week, and, honestly, it helps show The Powers that Be that I’m not wasting my time here. You can subscribe with that big ol’ button below.

As always, if you’ve got a story I should know about, or a Bike Against a Big Thing photo you’d like to share, please reach out!

Alright, let’s do this.

? Jimmy is back ?

You’re not supposed to have favourites as a sports journo – the importance of being objective and all that – but ask almost anyone in the trade and they’ll tell you who their favourite riders are. Jimmy Whelan’s definitely on the list for me. I’m a big fan of his racing style, his fight, and his wry sense of humour.

So I was delighted to see he’s signed a contract with Q36.5 after two years in the pro cycling wilderness (in this case, Andorra). I was even more delighted to speak with Jimmy about his new contract, how he managed it, and what might come next. You can read the full interview on Escape now, but you can find a cheeky excerpt below.

Matt de Neef: Now that you’re back in the pro ranks, is there something you want to do differently compared to last time?

Jimmy Whelan: From a technical perspective, I just know how to race a bike and I understand bike racing a lot better than before. Probably one of the biggest things is nutrition and how to fuel on a bike. So purely from that perspective that’s one thing I’m going to be changing a lot compared to when I was on EF.

At EF they wanted me as an all-rounder but Q36.5 it’s pretty obvious that they want me as a climber so that requires different training. And also just different pressure and expectation on results. This contract is a ‘you need to perform’ not ‘you need to experience how to race’ so it’s a completely different ballpark for me now.

Got a story tip? I’d love to hear from you! Please reach out via email.

☀️ BridgeLane bosses Cycle Sunshine Coast ☀️

The penultimate round of Australia’s National Road Series – Cycle Sunshine Coast – was held this past week and as you might expect, it was a bit of a BridgeLane masterclass. They won the women’s race overall with Emily Watts (who also won a stage), and they won the men’s race overall with Alistair Christie-Johnston, plus three of the five stages. A great performance, but certainly not unexpected from the best team in the country.

Here’s how it all broke down:

Stage 1 (road race)

Stage 2 (6.5 km ITT)

Stage 3 (Night-time crit)

Stage 4 (road race)

Stage 5 (road race)

You can find all the results from the 2023 Cycle Sunshine Coast at the link. The final round of the NRS is the Tour of Tasmania, held November 8-12, with three stages for the women’s field and five for the men.

✍? Another two years for RRG ✍?

I wrote last week about the list of riders who are yet to have a confirmed contract for 2024. That list is now one rider shorter with Ruby Roseman-Gannon continuing with Jayco-AlUla through 2025.

The 24-year-old has had an impressive season with no fewer than 12 top-five finishes, but a big win has eluded her. Team management believes it’s just a matter of time.

“Ruby is a rider that we believed in from the beginning, and we immediately saw the mindset that she has and the seriousness that she has – she is a true professional,” said general manager Brent Copeland. “She knows what she wants, and she is going to become a winner.”

Roseman-Gannon herself said: “Personally, I feel like I’ve been consistently good, but I really want to make that next step up to some bigger results. I’m motivated to work really hard and also help to create an environment where the whole team can be at their best.”

On ya, Ruby.

? Hard times at Black Spoke ?

Last week I also wrote that there’s a bunch of Kiwi riders on Bolton Equities Black Spoke that are unsure of their future now that the team is dropping back to Continental level in 2024. One of those riders is Ryan Christensen, who posted an impassioned plea for a job late last week.

Christensen told Escape that he still has a contract with Black Spoke for 2024, assuming the team goes ahead at Conti level. But he’s looking for more.

“At this very moment, they still don’t have a sponsor to support a Conti program and I would like to secure a future for myself,” he said. “I want to stay at ProConti level but I am aware that 99% of teams are full this late in the season.”

Best of luck to Christensen and all the other riders from Black Spoke (and indeed beyond) who are still looking for gigs this late in the year.

? Crowdsourcing rider safety ?

If you ride a bike in Australia, and if you like the idea of feeling safer while doing so, the BikeSpot 2023 project might be of interest. Billed as “Australia’s largest ever crowdsourcing bike safety project”, BikeSpot 2023 is a collab between the Amy Gillett Foundation and CrowdSpot, and it’s funded by the federal government’s Safe Roads for Safe Cycling program.

So what actually is it? Great question. In the words of the project’s media release:

“BikeSpot is a map that allows every Australian to say where they feel safe or unsafe while riding their bike. By making a mark on the interactive map, everyone can contribute to making cycling safe. The information collected by BikeSpot will be made freely and publicly available to local governments, researchers and anyone else involved in road design.”

There’s been plenty of reports about cycling in Melbourne.

If BikeSpot sounds familiar, that’s because it’s not exactly new – it existed previously as a Victoria-only project. It’s now gone national.

Submissions to the map are open until January 2024 at which point they’ll be analysed, collated, and released as a national report. Follow the link to check out the map and make any submissions you feel like adding.

? Results of note ?

✂️ Snippets ✂️

? Big Things Down Under ?

Let’s just say that my interest was piqued when I received an email from reader Michael Hardy last week with the subject line “Sorry Exmouth, that’s not a Big Prawn”. Michael is of course referencing last week’s Bike Against a Big Thing photo.

“Been spending some time down in Ballina, NSW,” Michael wrote. “Their Big Prawn really is Big. ??”

Alright, let’s compare crustacea. Where Exmouth’s Big Prawn is 7 metres tall, Ballina’s is nine. Case closed. Ballina wins.

Yes, that’s Bunnings signage beneath the Big Prawn. Amid talks of demolishing the prawn in the 2000s, Bunnings stepped up and gave the sculpture a $400,000 makeover. The hardware outlet is next door.

Thanks to Michael for his email and for snapping the pics of the Ballina Big Prawn that appear in this week’s newsletter. If you’ve got a Big Thing in your neighbourhood, or you’re heading past one, I’d love to see a photo of your bike and the Big Thing in the same photo!

? And finally … ?

Here’s a contentious one to finish up with: mandatory helmet laws for Australian cyclists, specifically for those in Melbourne. A new research paper has looked at the ways the controversial helmet laws affect people’s decisions when it comes to riding and their perception of risk when riding.

It’s only a small study – just 21 riders were interviewed – but the results are worth a squiz. A couple of findings, as summarised by ScienceDirect:

If this sort of gear floats your boat, you can check out the full research paper via the link.

? Until next time … ?

Thanks for reading! This and every Down Under Digest was made possible by our wonderful members here at Escape Collective. If you’ve already signed up to become an Escape member, thank you. If you haven’t yet, but you’d like to, please do so! Just click the link in the top right of the page to get started.

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