'Summer of Cycling' Kicks off the Road Season Down Under for TWENTY20 Pro Cycling
Laying foundation in Australia
(Boise, Idaho) February 13, 2018 - Back to home soil this week for TWENTY20 Pro Cycling after a strong opening 2018 road campaign in Australia. With five of six roster athletes new to the team, the squad was focused on developing team synergy, working on the sprint train dynamics and gaining international racing exposure. On the heels of the recent announcements on equal prize pools for the women cycling events as the men's events, one of the USA's longest standing women's cycling program TWENTY20 Pro Cycling is focusing on using its fundamental values to create another season of amazing athletic performances.
"The goal of the trip was to have the athletes come together and bond as a team. We had 5 women new to the program and none had ever been to Australia. It was a development trip in every sense of the word, and we used the time to build a foundation for the year," said Sports Director Mari Holden.
The squad raced the UCI 2.1 Santos Tour Down Under, UCI Towards Zero Race Melbourne, UCI 1.1 Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, and closed out the month with the UCI 2.2 Jayco Herald Sun Tour. Starting the season in January in the hot Australia sun is always a big challenge for Northern Hemisphere teams, as it's a guaranteed test of fitness with the strength of the Australian women's teams who just finished up their National Championships the week before.
"Racing bikes 'down under' was a big step up for me, as I am relatively new to the pro level. It was also my first race with TWENTY20 and all the riders, management and staff were extremely welcoming and open to my many questions. I initially felt nervous about my lack of experience, but it didn't take long for me to feel comfortable riding around in a pack of over 100 skilled and accomplished female athletes," said Danielle Morshead, who heads back to Brown University where she is concluding her degree in history.
One of the longest standing teams in women's cycling today, TWENTY20 has a core mission of establishing life balance in their athletes and Morshead is an example of this team philosophy. Life balance, where it be as a student, mother, entrepreneur, the team's management has long built the program on values that create quality athletic performances, empower women to achieve their personal goals on and off the race courses, and create life skills to use years after the bike racing is finished.
"The racing in Australia was fantastic but more so it was an important time to be competing in Australia with the Government of South Australia equalizing the prize money for the Santos Tour Down Under from $15,000 to $100,000, South Australia is taking the lead. The move continues the State Government's commitment to being a global leader in promoting equality in all sports and follows the decision to replace the traditional podium girls with junior cyclists," said Nicola Cranmer, General Manager, TWENTY20 Pro Cycling. "The Cadel Great Ocean Road Race has been equal prize money since its inception 2 years ago, this was insisted upon by race patron Cadel Evans. The Jayco Herald Sun Tour was in its inaugural year and we were very happy to be a part of this incredible progress in Australia. Kudos to the race directors, Kimberley Conti, Scott Sunderland and John Trevorrow for supporting some excellent women's racing."
Youngster Marlies Mejías scored 10th in stage 3 and stage 4 in Santos Tour Down Under, and 4th in stage 2 (ITT) at the Sun Tour. The 25-year old Cuban rider is a powerful addition to the team and will be a vital component to the team's road racing program this season.
"The synergy was great. This was by far the youngest group I have ever been with on an International trip. We threw them in the deep end and they really adapted quickly. In retrospect I think it was good that they were all learning together. There were no egos and they pulled together to get through it. From a team-building standpoint, I could not have asked for a better situation," added Holden.
Scotti Lechuga, a seasoned pro in her first year with TWENTY20 saw the month of hard racing as a starting block to drive up her level of fitness and assess early season form.
"My main goal for the Australia block was to race hard and let the fitness come with time. The Tour Down Under, Cadel's Road Race, and Herald Sun Tour were right up there with some of the harder races I've done. The race courses were beautiful!" said Lechuga. "This was also my introduction to Team TWENTY20, and what impresses me most about the organization as a whole is the commitment of the staff to keep things as organized and as professional as possible for the athletes, really allowing us the chance to give 100% to training, eating, resting, and relaxing. The women on the team connected well, too. There's always an interesting mix of personalities within a professional team, but this group meshed easily and felt like a group of friends who've known each other much longer than a few weeks," Lechuga added. "This should bode well for us in the race season ahead."
Lechuga, with her years of professional racing, is a mentor to the younger riders as the team works to gather international racing experience in 2018 for its younger riders.
"There were improvements in all areas. We not only gained race experience, but we also gained fitness. The other area we improved was communication as got to know each other. All of these things will pay off as the US season starts next month. As a program, we had so many good things come out of this trip that I believe the results will come soon. There were moments for each of the riders that showed a lot of promise for the future. Now, we just need to keep focused and keep working," commented Holden.
With the team's well-known track riders, newly crowned World Champion Dygert-Owen, Valente, Duehring, Roorda and Arreola, focused on training for the UCI Track World Championships at the end of the month, the road squad is preparing for the opening races in the US.
"I gained great knowledge on race logistics, teamwork, and strategy throughout the races. I felt that it all came together when I gave a lead-out to our sprinter in one of our last races. I launched a sprint at the front with Marlies on my wheel while two world tour level teams did the same on either side of us. In that moment I felt confidence, trust, and power come together, and I remember thinking, "We're in this." That memory will stick with me throughout my cycling career. I cannot wait to get back on the bike with my teammates and am looking forward to the racing in North America," said Morshead. "We are motivated, very motivated."
A big thank you to all of our Australian support staff, you added so much to our great experience.