Guest Blog: Chloe Hosking's take on the Launceston Cycling Festival

If you ever speak to Kelvin Rundle (the managing director of Roxsolt) about the Roxsolt cycling team you’ll undoubtedly be told that I am to be blamed for the team’s inception. That’s partly true I suppose but it was definitely Kelvin’s infectious enthusiasm for women’s cycling and his unbelievable generosity that really made the team a reality. Back in 2013 I borrowed Kelvin’s Zipp 404s for the national road race in Ballarat. We got to talking about how great it would be to have more competitive women’s team at races like the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic and the National Criterium Championship, two races I had just competed in.

For me, this past weekend at the Launceston Cycling Classic really confirmed that what Kelvin and I set out to do has been achieved.

Since I was 17 I had managed to find myself guest rides in mixed teams throughout the Australian summer  but they just weren’t competitive against the likes of the Dream Team, managed by Rochelle Gilmore, or the Orica-AIS and Australian National Team squads that have dominated the racing over the past three or four years.

While being out number was at times frustrating the main issue was the struggle when I came home to Australia after racing the European season to get to a lot of the races around Australia, both financially and logistically.

Kelvin’s idea (with my help) was to create a well organised environment that could help riders in my position but also maintain a development aspect to help rising Australian domestic riders grow and develop. And that’s exactly what he did.

The team’s first race was the NSW GP in 2013 and we recruited the likes of Sarah Roy (current National Criterium Champion) and London Olympian Lucy Martin. Since then the team has just exploded. It has established itself as one of the best summer racing teams on the circuit and in my opinion is on par with the professional teams of Orica-AIS and Wiggle Honda.

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For me, this past weekend at the Launceston Cycling Classic really confirmed that what Kelvin and I set out to do has been achieved.

As was the aim of the team from the outset, the team’s lineup for the Launceston Cycling Classic was a mix of international riders with plenty of experience and one development rider who could have the opportunity to learn and race with ‘the big girls’.

Lauren Kitchen, the 2011 National Criterium lead the team, with 2013 Criterium Champion Kimberley Wells also on the roster. Just incase we didn’t have enough talent the current Criterium Champion Sarah Roy was also down to race. Throw in myself and development rider Steph Lord and we knew we had a pretty strong team.

Heading into Saturday’s Symmons Plains Raceway Kermesse our tactics were pretty open; be aggressive and if it came down to it set ‘Kimbers’ up for the sprint.

Four laps into the 15 lap race I turned around to see a light acceleration I’d put in had actually spilt the field. All of a sudden I was away with Eileen Roe (Wiggle Honda) and Loes Gunnewijk (Orica-AIS). I knew it was a good situation for myself and the team so I drove the break hard for the next few laps to really establish a gap.

With two laps to go we all started looking at each other, ‘no really, you can have the front, it’s fine’. At one point I thought we may revert to track standing. Coming into the final 300 metres I was positioned in third wheel. Loes opened up the sprint early and I sat comfortably on Eileen’s wheel. It was a strong headwind finish so I left my run late and probably only let her wheel go with about 75 metres left to race, but it was enough. I crossed the line first and managed a very, very poor victory salute. You trying taking both hands off the bars in a head-cross wind.

But the ‘big’ one was really the Stan Siejka Cycling Classic on Sunday being help in downtown Launceston. The race was going to be televised live on SBS and for us it was important not only to race well as a team but also to showcase how exciting women’s cycling can be.

Lauren actually won the event in 2013 so she was able to give us a lot of valuable advice about the course, possible scenarios and what we should do. In the end, we decided on a similar race plan to Saturday; be aggressive (be, be aggressive).

Alarm bells started to sound.

As it turned out we weren’t the only team with this plan because as soon as the gun went off there were riders flying up the road like missiles. I was speaking with Gracie Elvin of Orica-AIS later and she said he aim for the race was to be the first attack of the day, and she was.

It didn’t take long for a group of five to establish themselves which included our Kimberley Wells. Kimbers is probably one of, if not the, fastest sprinter going around at the moment so it was a good situation for us in that we knew if it came down to a sprint she probably had it covered. But we decided it would be nice to have one more Roxsolt lady up the road with her just incase.

Lauren, Steph, Sarah and I all started attacking, trying to sneak away from the peloton which was about 30seconds behind the lead group of five. I’ve heard people say when you don't care who gets away just as long as some does that 'we're going to roll the dice'. That's what we did.

After a few attacks Sarah snuck away with another Orica-AIS and Wiggle Honda rider and quickly closed the gap to the lead group, but she’d dug too deep. Next thing we knew Sarah was back in the peloton with us, unfortunately the other two riders weren’t. Alarm bells started to sound.

Kimbers was up the road with two Orica-AIS riders, three Wiggle Honda and one Tasmania rider. This was not an ideal situation. I heard our director yell from the side of the road ‘bring that back’ and I couldn’t agree more.

Steph, Lauren, Sarah and I started working hard to close the gap which had blown out to more than 40 seconds. In the end we got within about 10 seconds of the lead group but it didn’t matter. Kimbers road an incredibly smart race, after shutting down all the attacks in the closing two laps she also dominated the sprint for the race victory beating Gracie Elvin and Eileen Roe.

We won a giant novelty check and $150 worth of salmon which was probably the highlight of my weekend. That and all the Australians leaving it to the only non-english speaking person to ask for directions to lunch.

The winning team.

It was a great weekend for the Roxsolt racing team, but the reality is that probably every member of the team wouldn't have been able to travel to Tasmania if it weren't for Roxsolt. Now that I think about it, Kelvin lending me his wheels in 2013 is just a giant metaphor for what the Roxsolt team is all about; providing support to riders who might not have it otherwise.