In juniors, you just race for yourself, but now being part of BCS and learning to race as a team and be a leader... it’s a good experience.
New adventures beckon as BCS riders make their mark on the track and road
THE wheels of change may turn slowly for some, but they’re revolving at a far faster rate for rising cycling stars Tayla Evans and Lauretta Hanson.
Both young athletes are embarking on exciting sporting adventures that involve travelling around the country - and in Lauretta’s case, overseas - to race their track and road bikes.
Tayla recently switched from playing elite Victorian Premier League soccer to focus more seriously on her riding career.
And Lauretta, who has been pushing pedals since she was a toddler, has just secured a scholarship to join a US college and its competitive cycling unit.
The pair ride together for the Bendigo-based Building Champions Squad and have enjoyed early success, with Lauretta taking out the Tour of East Gippsland in February and their team leading the way in the Victorian Road Series and winning the two-stage Femme Vitesse.
They also joined forces to ride in the women’s madison at the Bendigo International Madison carnival, finishing third.
Tayla has already made a name for herself as a sportswoman.
She represented Victoria on the soccer pitch at under-13, under-15 and under-19 level, played at the national futsal carnival as an under-16, and toured Singapore with a state squad.
The former Strathdale junior has spent the past few winters in the Victorian Women’s Premier League, most recently for Bundoora.
But after injury and years of travel, the round ball and footy boots have now been pushed to the back of the cupboard, replaced by lycra, cleats and bike helmet.
“I’d been committed to travelling three times a week for soccer since I was about 12,” says the 19-year-old who is studying speech pathology at La Trobe University Bendigo.
“With my studies and the fact I had really been enjoying cycling, I decided to just play soccer locally, hopefully for Strathdale, and focus on riding and racing the National Road Series.
“I can train locally with cycling and it makes a big difference having a team in Bendigo like the BCS women to ride with.
“That’s part of the attraction for me, coming from a team sport background.”
Tayla began riding pedal vehicles when she was in year 8 at school, but it wasn’t until year 11 that some friends convinced her to get out on the track and have a go.
Now, she is on either her road or track bike almost every day.
She raced in the women’s cup in Adelaide in January as part of the Santos Tour Down Under and heads back across the border for stage two of the NRS in April.
Her BCS team aims for a strong showing in the 10-event Victorian Road Series, which continues at Mt Buller on Saturday.
Cycling features strongly in Tayla’s family lineage.
“My grandfather Terry Evans and his brother Richard were track and road cyclists here in Bendigo,” she says as she looks out over the track at the Tom Flood Sports Centre.
“My great-uncle is still involved in the J-cycle program and does the gun on the track on Thursdays.
“Pa is always down here watching me as well, giving me tips from back when he raced.
“My parents were involved in baseball, rather than cycling, so I think he’s pretty stoked to be able to come and watch me.”
Tayla says Bendigo has many wonderful opportunities for cycling enthusiasts.
“It doesn’t matter your age or who you are, everyone can ride and get along well.
“The Saturday morning bunches are made up of such a big difference in age, gender and ability but everyone can ride and train together and that’s one of the best things about cycling, in Bendigo particularly. It’s fun.”
Lauretta, meanwhile, will farewell central Victoria in June when she heads to Milligan College in Tennessee to take up her combined academic and athletic scholarship.
The Macedon Ranges Cycling Club member was spotted by the college’s head coach Zach Nave while she was riding in the US last winter during her gap year.
“He liked the way I raced and my attitude and offered me a scholarship,” says Lauretta, 19, who rode in the 2013 Tour of America’s Dairyland in Wisconsin in June and the BC Superweek in Canada in July.
While she studies nursing at Milligan, her scholarship will help with the cost of her tuition, board and collegiate race fees and travel.
Milligan College is in the mountains of north-east Tennessee, in the so-called Tri-Cities area of Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol.
It runs a men’s and women’s cycling program, with students competing for the Buffaloes in track, road, mountain bike and cyclocross events.
“I will be focusing on track and road, but I’ll be able to try the other two if I want,” says Lauretta, who leaves on June 10.
Before she takes up residence on campus in August, she will hit the road for the 2014 Dairyland tour, and return to British Columbia for the Superweek of racing.
“I went really well last year,” she says. “I was 10th overall in the Tour of America’s Dairyland - I got a couple of top-10 placings and a few sprint premiums.
“In the BC Superweek, I got a couple of top-10s and a second in the UBC Grand Prix.
“I definitely exceeded my expectations.”
Lauretta says women’s cycling in America has a very different atmosphere to Australia, even though the local scene is growing.
“The fields over there were a lot bigger and it was a lot better supported in terms of the crowds and there are a lot more sponsors.”
Since she finished secondary school in 2012, Lauretta has become one of the state’s leading riders and was a finalist in Cycling Victoria’s 2013 female track rider of the year award.
She represented Victoria at the national track titles in Adelaide in February, in the individual pursuit, points and scratch races.
“I was happy with how I went - (team-mate) Beth Duryea won a silver in the scratch race and I think I helped her - she says I did! I attacked and chased the breaks for her and she came away with silver, which was fantastic.”
On the road, Lauretta has taken on a senior role with the BCS squad and led by example when she rode to victory in the Tour of East Gippsland, the first race of the VRS season.
It was her best individual result on the road and also helped her team lead the series.
“I wasn’t expecting that, just coming off the track season,” she says. “I was expecting to get dropped on the hills, to be honest, so I definitely surprised myself.
“I am trying to take on a leadership role. The jump from juniors to seniors is a real change. In juniors, you just race for yourself, but now being part of BCS and learning to race as a team and be a leader, it’s different. But it’s a good experience and I am definitely enjoying it.”