With the NRS now underway, we thought it a good time to profile some of the people involved. Rachel de Bear caught up with the Manager/DS for the Suzuki Brumby’s team, Liz Fitch, to find out how she’s adapting to life in the team car while also holding down a full-time job.
Managing a team in the NRS
– By Rachel de Bear
As a fan of cycling, I feel a little ashamed to admit I don’t know much about Australia’s own National Road Series (NRS). But I want to change that. I started thinking about how I could become more personally engaged with the NRS, especially the women’s series. My idea? Adopt a team to follow and check in now and then with them throughout the season to track their progress, and post it all here.
But which team do I choose? I am at heart a Canberran, I love the cycling there and I barrack for the ACT Brumbies in the Super 15 Rugby. It seems natural I chose the Suzuki Brumby’s. And so I checked in with the team at the first race of the 2014 NRS at the Adelaide Tour. Team Manager/DS Liz Fitch answered a bunch of my questions not long after the first stage.
Here is part one, a Q&A with Ms Fitch about cycling, her team, her aspirations… and more.
RIDE: The first stage of the Adelaide Tour is run and done. How would you rate the team’s performance, especially in line with your aims for the stage?
Liz Fitch: “The first race of the season is always hard to predict as it is the riders’ first chance to really test their form against each other. Today the team’s aims weren’t results based. While we wanted to be able to stick with the most aggressive teams, we also wanted to test our form, our competitors, work on our communication and get through the race with plenty in the tank for the rest of the tour.
“A few of the girls have been quite sick in the last couple of weeks, and we didn’t want to go too hard too soon. It’s really early in the season, which we have huge ambitions for, so we are riding conservatively.”
A lot of work was done [in stage one] by Holden Cycling and Specialized Securitor, especially up the Corkscrew to set up [Ruth] Corset for the win and Lizzie Williams for second. Were you expecting that?
“We definitely knew that a few teams would be very aggressive – Holden, Specialized Securitor and Bicycle Superstore are all in great form. Corkscrew provided the perfect chance to sort out the field, and we were fairly confident that Holden would take the opportunity to attack and ride into yellow. The standard of team work in the women’s National Road Series has improved dramatically – all of the teams are contributing to make the racing this exciting. With four riders in the top 10 today, Bicycle Superstore is definitely going to be team to watch in the team’s Classification in the National Road Series for 2014.”
What’s the plan for the 103.8km second stage?
“Day two will be an exciting stage because there’s a tour to be won, and a handful of riders within a minute of each other. We expect the top teams on GC to make the race interesting and ride aggressively. We want to read the race well, and race smart. Hopefully we will be represented in any major breaks, and be visible at the end of the stage.”
And the rest of the Adelaide Tour?
“It depends on how stage two goes, and who is able to win the tour. The criterium and the kermesse could lead to a break away or bunch sprint, and we have a few cards to play for either situation.”
Stage one was your first stage as team manager/DS in the NRS? How were you feeling going into the race? How do you feel now with a stage under your belt?
“It’s sort of my first. I managed the Canberra Cycling Club composite team at the National Capital Tour in September, and I have been supporting my partner (Drapac Cycling’s Tom Palmer) at races for many years. Today was great, I was just super excited to be behind the wheel for Suzuki Brumby’s. I’m a little nervous ahead of stage two as it’s a long one, and there’s no feeding from the cars, so it will be tricky to manage. But there’s a great sense of camaraderie amongst the team managers, and I feel well supported knowing that there’s so many great people in the same boat.”
How did come to be that you’re in the position you are?
“I’ve been a cyclist for over 10 years, and dating a cyclist for the last six years, so cycling is a lot of my life. The Suzuki Brumby’s girls and I have been riding together as friends for years and I’ve been lucky to see them develop into the people and riders they are today. When Laura Darlington asked whether I was interested in being involved with the team I laughed; I didn’t think she was being serious. But the more we spoke about it, the more we both knew it would work – and I became very excited and grateful for the opportunity to become involved.
“I am four weeks away from finishing my degree in sports coaching and exercise science. I’ve got qualifications in business. I’ve done a very short internship under Agostino Giramondo at Drapac Cycling. And I’m vice president of the Canberra Cycling Club, so it was a natural step to start managing a cycling team.”
The team finished second last year to the to the now-defunct Pensar SPM Racing which effectively means it is the number-one ranked team going into this year’s NRS. Does that add any pressure for you?
“Not at all! The team were so excited to be continuing into 2014 as the number-one ranked team. They put tremendous amounts of work into their training and racing as a team last year, and it was great that the ladies could reap what they had sown. It was great to show our sponsors what they had helped us achieve too. It gives the sponsors and the riders perspective on what the team is capable of. It is a great platform – which we want to use to consolidate our standing in the National Road Series.”
Other than a sponsor change, have there been any major restructuring/ changes since last year?
“Definitely. Management has changed completely. This year we have a board to make big decisions, myself as team manager and directeur sportif, and Megan Johnston assisting with logistics and management. I know with Megan’s support we are able to run a very tight ship. The rider roster hasn’t changed much, but things like race selection, resourcing and logistics will be a little bit different.”
Can you talk a bit more about juggling work, the Suzuki Brumby’s, your role at the Canberra Cycling Club and other priorities?
“I work full-time in the public service as an executive assistant for four executives. It’s quite full on… I’m lucky that when it isn’t busy my work supports me to study at work. I get up early or stay up late to do my Suzuki Brumby’s and uni work – which can be tricky given that everyone else seems to be operating on Australian Eastern Standard Time. I love my roles as vice president and women’s coordinator in the Canberra Cycling Club. The club has definitely improved the resources and infrastructure for women’s cycling in the ACT and we have some exciting things planned for 2014/2015.
“I also try and have a social life in between. I’m lucky to ride with some of best friends nearly every day – you can talk about nearly anything on a bike.”
How is your work about this part of your life? Are they also flexible with the amount of leave you’d need to take?
“I am lucky to have incredible bosses who tell me they ‘see my potential’. They are supportive of study, any activities that build my resume, and anything I’m passionate about. I get the standard four weeks leave per year – so it can be tricky – but I work so much when I’m at home that I’m always owed flex time.”
Like me, even though you have to work, do you spend all day thinking about cycling?
“Yes! Especially in Canberra. Canberra has the best riding in the world. I spend a lot of time wishing I was riding my bike. And shopping. I spend a lot of time thinking about shopping.”
Finally, your favourite ride in Canberra?
“Too hard to choose. A pre work lap of Lake Burley Griffin, a Mild Monday bunch ride or Black Mountain repeats are equally as beneficial to mind, body and soul!”