Cycling team turns dreams into reality

TEAMWORK: BCS riders Minda Murray, Nicole McNamara and Tayla Evans. Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

TEAMWORK: BCS riders Minda Murray, Nicole McNamara and Tayla Evans. Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

IT started as a pipe-dream; now a tiny but tight-knit team of Bendigo-based female riders is regularly mixing it with the main bunch on the national cycling scene.

Building Champions Squad members have claimed top-20 placings in four rounds of the National Road Series, despite debuting last year and racing in just a handful of NRS events.

In the hills and valleys around Wangaratta last weekend, four of the team finished in the top half of the field at the 2014 Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley.

Echuca’s Minda Murray was the best-placed BCS rider, at 21st overall.

BCS will also contest the one-day Amy's Otway Classic at Lorne on September 14, the National Capital Tour in Canberra from September 19-21, and finish the series with the Tour of the Goldfields around Ballarat in mid-October.

The all-women squad was formed in 2012 to give female riders a supportive network in their home region, allowing them to train, compete and socialise together.

Co-founder Nicole McNamara said she could not believe how the fledgling team had evolved in such a short time and was now holding firm alongside big-budget cycling squads.

"I feel like a proud mum," she said.

"To think that 18 months ago, we just wanted to give the NRS a crack and now we have girls inside the top 20 almost every time, it's just awesome."

While McNamara has been there from the start, there has been an exciting progression of faces through the BCS women's program.

International rider Kate Finegan has now retired, mountain bike champion Jo Wall is expecting her first child and rising star Lauretta Hanson has moved to the US to take up a college scholarship, but there is no shortage of talent filling their shoes.

"We feel like the team is growing and growing and we have the right mix, with such good riders coming through," said McNamara.

"Minda Murray is on fire - she is so strong and so fit at the moment. It is hard to believe this girl only rode her first NRS just over 12 months ago."

BCS also includes former state soccer player Tayla Evans, ex-swimming champion and Wangaratta native Emma Pane, and New Zealand teen Georgia Vessey, who lives in a small town outside Queenstown and flies over to Australia for events to gain experience.

"Emma is new to the scene, but learning quickly and we recently signed Georgia on for the rest of the season," McNamara said.

"Results are always great, but it's also really good seeing personal growth in our riders."

A supportive, family-like atmosphere is central to the BCS culture.

"We have high expectations of honesty and balance within the team," said McNamara.

"We're not highly funded - we are doing it because we love it and everyone has to pitch in and pull their own weight.

"A supportive environment is also important when we go away. Maybe it's normal among other teams, but it is a big part of what we do and it feels so special when you are going through hard times, like injuries, to have girls who are so encouraging and supportive.

"Losing Lauretta recently was sad, but she still classes us as team-mates even though she's overseas. She will be home for Christmas and still wants to ride with us when she comes back, even though she could have bigger offers and more support financially.

"That family focus we want to portray is working - we are more than just a team, we are a family and are there to support each other."

BCS is well supported by local businesses that sponsored their cycling activities, including Specialized through Bendigo Cycles, Skoda through Symes Motors, Feelgood Fitness and BendBal Financial Services.

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