It’s been two years now since Ruby Roseman-Gannon joined the professional ranks with the team now known as Jayco AlUla. In that time, she’s grown to become the team’s highest UCI points-earner, courtesy of a whole stack of strong finishes throughout the 2023 season. Among those strong results: fifth at Dwars door Vlaanderen, third on a stage at the Thüringen Ladies Tour, and fourth at the GP de Plouay.
Following the news that Roseman-Gannon has re-signed with Jayco AlUla for another two years, the 25-year-old caught up with Escape from her hometown of Melbourne where she’s spending the off-season ahead of the Aussie summer of racing.
Matt de Neef: You had 12, top-five finishers for the year, which is pretty incredible. But you weren’t quite able to get the win you were after. How do you look back on your season in that regard? Do you see it as a successful year for you?
Ruby Roseman-Gannon: I think I probably see it in two ways. The first way is probably more of a perfectionistic mindset where I guess you’re never really satisfied no matter how much you improve. So I’d say through that frame of mind I am disappointed that I got close, and sometimes I made mistakes, but a lot of the time, I just wasn’t quite strong enough to finish off what was otherwise pretty good racing.
But then I guess, through more of a growth mindset, I did improve a lot on the previous year and it’s my second year so I think when I look at it that way, just improving is good. It’s motivating and I’m getting closer to that top step. And I guess I’m understanding racing a lot better.
The challenge is you have all your energy that you can use at any point in the race and knowing when to expend energy and when to save energy is really quite a challenge. It’s something that I’m continually learning. And I think sometimes I probably err on the side of spending too much too early.
Overall the season was a step up from the year before, so that’s good.
All of your high finishes this year made you easily the highest points-scorer on your team. Is that something that’s important to you, or important to the team?
Ah, not particularly. It’s not always that relevant. But I guess the only thing was this year, it was an Olympic qualification year for the nations. And Australia was looking really good to get the maximum quota of four. And then in the last month or two, we ended up only getting three. So I was sort of aware the whole year that that was a consideration.
But I guess for me as an individual, all I can do is race a fair bit, which I did, and do the best I can in every race, which is what I try to do. So it was outside of my control. But yeah, I was watching the numbers.
Was there a race you’re particularly proud of this year?
I think probably Thüringen [on the six stages, which included a TTT, Roseman-Gannon’s worst result was sixth on a stage. She finished fourth overall.] The team really wanted to race for me the previous year. I had a crash on the first stage and I just wasn’t feeling that good on the stage and I could just tell that Alex [Manly] was going really, really well. And I made the call that we raced for her.
It was the right decision because she went on to win nearly every stage but I think it was a hard decision and it was one that … I guess I questioned my confidence in myself, not backing myself in that moment. I guess there’s two parts of me in that way. I genuinely want the best result for the team, and I also really, like to race for myself. So it was balancing those two.
But then this year, I came in as a leader again and I was feeling really good. But also, [Lotte] Kopecky, [Lorena] Wiebes, and Mischa [Bredewold] were all feeling very good. *laughs* So it was frustrating and challenging racing, in some ways, because they’re so strong and there’s only so much everyone else can do in a way. But I really felt confident in my abilities so that was good I think.
What was it like racing against SD Worx more generally this year?
I guess it’s just really difficult because there’s only so many tactics you can use when a team is that strong and that dominant. So there’s only so much power you have and for a lot of other teams, coming second to SD Worx is a success. So when like half the peloton has that sort of mindset … or maybe people genuinely believe that they can win, even if Lorena Wiebes is there at the sprint – maybe that is also the case. But there’s so many times where we sort of play into their hands. And part of that is just the strength and part of that is also, like, settling for second place.
But I think one of the turning points in the season was at Simac where the whole bunch just refused to chase. It was really bizarre honestly. Usually what happens is everyone’s getting nervous; the break’s got enough time that they can win. And then everyone’s like “Will you work?”, trying to recruit different people. And then one DS sort of caves and is like “We’re just gonna put people on the front because this is stupid.” And then you never see SD Worx touch the front.
I can’t remember what stage it was [at Simac this year], but everyone bluffed. Everyone was like, “No.” I got asked if we would work and I was like, “If I had Lorena Wiebes on this team we’d be working for sure. But we don’t have Lorena so sorry, we’re not working.” And then eventually, they [SD Worx] had to work and they had to work really hard. So I think the bunch is learning.
It’s a tricky balance. If you’re coming in with a sprinter into a sprint stage, with a really good sprinter, you want to give them the best chance to go for the result. You don’t want to just throw the stage. So I can understand the urge to bring that break back but then it’s just hard because it really plays into their hands.
And they are really smart with how they do it. It’s not really a criticism of SD Worx. I think they’ve just nailed the physical but also the mental side of things, in how everyone operates around them.
When we spoke a couple years ago, just as you turned pro, you described yourself as a “resilient sprinter” – someone who could survive climbs to be there at the end. I’m curious if that’s still how you see yourself two years later. Do you feel like you’ve changed as a rider?
I think I’ve struggled a bit with my sprint. I feel like that’s what I really need to step up to move from the top-five, top 10 to a better result, because I’m sort of in these situations where if I just had a little bit more at the finish of races I could be a bit more competitive.
I don’t know what I am really. I’m in the middle of a lot of different things. I’m good at most things, but not good enough that I’m the best. So it’s a difficult position to be in, because it’s hard to know specifically what direction to go in. But it’s also good, because it means that I’m useful in lots of different situations.
So how do you tailor your training, then? Do you have to focus in one direction, or do you just try and stay as good as you can in as many different areas as you can?
Well, the past two years, we’ve looked at bridging the gap to then be at the finish. The major difference, I guess, between Australian racing and European racing is how long the intensity lasts and the repetitions, and that’s often expressed in kilojoules worked.
In some of the races that I’ve done, I never could have conceived that I could push myself that hard for so long. Whereas in Australia, it’s usually won on like one climb, or a couple of climbs that are full gas, really, really hard, but then it eases off, or there’s a selection, and then you sprint. Or it’s just like a moderately hard race with a sprint at the end.
So I guess, to bridge that gap, we worked really hard on building more resilience than I had but maybe a cost of that … I just haven’t focused as much on my sprint and I think that’s probably suffered a little bit. But also I think it’s never been at the level that would be required to win a WorldTour race yet. So I’m doing a big sprint block now.
So is that something you can try to hone in the next couple of years?
Yeah, at least for this offseason I’ve been doing a lot of gym and sprint training. I’m giving that a crack to really do some specific work on that.
What do you think you’ve learned about yourself over the last two years? How’s it been being away from loved ones for so long, for example?
I feel I have become a lot less intelligent, just because I was at university and now I’m not. *laughs* [Roseman-Gannon finished a science degree, majoring in neuroscience, right before turning pro – ed.] I want to go back to university eventually but I feel exhausted at the idea of actually doing formal education properly whilst trying to do this. And I’ve become a lot smarter, I guess, in terms of what’s required to be a professional cyclist.
And being away from home – I think every non-European cyclist, if you want to do this job, you just have to do it. You can’t really lament [being away from home] because as soon as you choose … I don’t have to choose to do this. I could stop professional cycling at any point, and come back to Melbourne and have a really good life.
I feel like it’s a real privilege to be able to have that choice. Because it’s kind of a lot of people’s dreams. A lot of the time when I come back to Melbourne, everyone’s sort of in awe of how lucky I am. And I feel like I always want to add the caveat that it’s like, a really incredible life but it’s sort of punctuated with these moments of extreme terror and horrific injuries. Which I think is relevant just because otherwise you’d romanticise it too much.
Have you had any particularly challenging moments in the past two years, whether it be injury or other moments that have been really tough?
I think I’ve had a pretty good run to be honest. Last year I lost my four front teeth and I got a really deep wound just above my lip which has scarred. So that was a particularly … I wouldn’t necessarily say traumatic, but it was full on, with the teeth and stuff. I guess it’s more just like, there’s not many other jobs where you put yourself in such risky positions. But it’s also the most exhilarating and enjoyable thing. So it’s just the two sides of the coin.
You mentioned the Olympics briefly before. What are your goals in that regard? Are you still doing track racing? Is that something you still want to do? Are you targeting Paris on the track?
No, I’m not doing track for the time being. But I’m gonna do everything I can to try and qualify to be at the Olympics [on the road]. Qualification period is still till May 1. So it’s still a long time to go but I really like the look of the course. It’s sort of like a Classics-y course – some cobbled climbs and a technical circuit, so I think it suits me and after missing Worlds this year with COVID I really want to try and make this.
What’s pushed you away from track? Last time we spoke you said you kind of went in waves with it, that there were times you were really into track racing and other times you’ve drifted more towards the road. Is is something similar to that? Or is it just that the road is all-encompassing at the moment?
I think the reality is, on the track I’ve got a gap to bridge to be at an Olympic-medalling level. And it’s really difficult to bridge that gap when I’m living overseas and I don’t have access to a track or really much time throughout the year.
This is sort of the only time of the year where I do have the opportunity to work on track and I’d like to spend it with my family and also just resetting and preparing. Because once I get to Europe, it’s very full gas all the time; a lot of racing. Last year, I came off a pretty heavy race block and then came back to Adelaide for two weeks to do track, and then went back to Europe for two weeks to race [Track] Worlds. And I really struggled to be at the level that I needed to be at. And I was pretty fatigued from the whole season.
Because there’s an Olympic qualification period for the road, and I want to give that a crack, I just want to put all my focus into that, do the best job I can, and really try and bridge the gap on the road. Also, my primary employer is my road team. So it just makes sense. And to be honest, it was a bit of a relief to be able to just have that single focus.
You’ve just signed a contract for two more years. How do you feel about that? I assume you’re happy, but how does it feel beyond that? Is it kind of like, ‘OK, this is a chance to try some new things, to start again?’ Does it take the pressure off? Or is it just a continuation of what you’ve been doing?
Staying with the same team means I can continue working in the relationships I’ve developed and really keep some momentum going with our racing and pushing to be better. I think a new team offers new learnings and a ‘fresh start’ but with the merger with Liv, we do get a lot of fresh ideas and faces – so it’s the best of both worlds. [Jayco AlUla is merging with Liv Racing TeqFind next year to become Liv AlUla Jayco – ed.]
It’s obviously very important that you have a team that you really enjoy because your workplace, for any person … the people you work with, and the environment you work in is critical to enjoying life. But for me, I’m more focused on, I guess, being the best that I can be. And the contract’s just, I guess, what happens when that does happen. Also I’ve been lucky with injuries and stuff so I also have the privilege of that.
You talked a bit about wanting to hone your sprint. Are there other things you would like to work on over these next two years?
I would like to improve everything, all at once, right now. *laughs* That’s when my coach would say “Yeah, but we have to just choose one thing.” I guess that’s a really tricky thing. You have to choose. I mean, you can do everything but just not all at once. And you have to choose when you work on certain things.
And yeah, everything needs to improve in some ways, but I guess the sprint is something that, right now, seems like the most obvious limiting factor. But I’d like to keep developing my tactics and understanding of races and skills. I wouldn’t say my skills are my greatest limiting factor but I think all Australians struggle to a degree with racing Europeans who’ve been racing in a massive bunch since like, age 10.
I think also just understanding how to manage yourself for a full season. That’s what, seven or eight months of the year, and there’s times where you can be really, really, really focused and do everything right, and go all in, but you probably can’t do that for a 10-year career, seven months a year. When do you turn it off? When do you turn it on? How much do you turn it on and off? All those sorts of things – I think I’m still working out the balance.
That’s all the questions I had. Was there anything else you wanted to add? Anything that’s on your mind that you wanted to share? Or that you think people would be interested in?
I guess one thing that I didn’t really think about much before I was professional was the dynamics of the bunch. Compared to Australia, where in the NRS, for example, you know everyone, and you can’t really be super dodgy or super dangerous. But in the pro peloton ..
My first races when I came in, I honestly didn’t know who was who, who was really good, who wasn’t very good. I just kind of raced. In that race in Valencia, I was just fighting. I knew Elisa Balsamo was the world champion, and I was just fighting for her wheel because I knew she was a good sprinter. And then I was sprinting. I look back at that race, and I’m kind of just like, “Oh, I don’t know how many people I pissed off just racing like that.” [Roseman-Gannon finished second on the opening stage of the 2022 Setmana Valenciana-Volta Comunitat Valenciana Fémines behind Balsamo. It was her first race in Europe as a pro. – ed.]
You get to know everyone, you race each other so much, particularly the WorldTour teams. And now I’d be able to, just off their riding style, name most riders and know their abilities and what they do, which is super handy for tactics. But then … “You don’t have to be nice, but you have to be predictable.” I like that. And then “You can think about crashing, or you can think about winning, but you can’t think about them at the same time.”
There’s moments in the race where I’m just like, “This is so dangerous. This is just ridiculous. We’re going down so fast, everyone’s fighting so much. This is crazy.” And then you sort of have to just turn that off and then start racing. And then you get to know people and the more people know you and understand you and respect you, the easier it is to ride the bunch.
But then when you’re new, no one knows you and you’re always fighting. And once you earn respect from people … I don’t know, there’s also just a really nice camaraderie that you have with people because we’ve just been through this crazy, crazy race. We survived. We didn’t crash.
All those sorts of things I just never really understood or appreciated. I don’t know if from an outside perspective you really get to see that.
Do you reckon you would have done so well in Valenciana if you’d been more aware of the hierarchy and the dynamics of the bunch?
No. I think I was just full-gas in race mode not thinking about anyone. I don’t think I was crazy-dangerous, but I wouldn’t say I was respectful to riders who were better than me. And I think sometimes you have to be like that.
It’s a difficult balance, because you don’t want to be an entitled, selfish rider who’s just constantly putting other people in danger to achieve what you want to achieve. That conflicts with my values – I don’t think that’s the right way to be. At the same time. If you’re not cut-throat at times, especially in sprints, you won’t win races. So it’s a really tricky balance.
There’s a side of me off the bike, which is like … just not the same person that sometimes comes out on a bike. I wouldn’t say I’m an aggressive person but then on the bike sometimes, I’m not thinking, I’m just in this other sort of sphere of myself that does things that I reflect on, and I’m just like, “Wow, I don’t even know why or how I did that.”
What did you think of this story?