PROFESSIONAL cyclist Shannon Malseed has the Great Ocean Road for training almost all to herself right now.
The 2018 Australian women's elite road race champion clocks in for work on a virtual racing and training platform from home, which for now is Port Campbell and not far from the iconic Twelve Apostles.
It is a juggle hitting the right time zones to ride with teammates based in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Columbia and across the United States. That is part of the job with American-based Team TIBCO Silicon Valley Bank.
Malseed has the added benefit of outdoor training rides in isolation along one of the most well-known coastal stretches in the world to ensure she is ready for a call back to action.
This is Malseed's third season in the sport as a professional rider. She has spent enough time in the game, and before turning professional, to feel how women's cycling is a fast-changing playing field with increasing profile on her sport's biggest stages.
Malseed's role model and mentor Gracie Elvin, a two-time Australian champion crowned in Ballarat, is a founding member of The Cyclists' Alliancechampioning better pay, conditions and education for female cyclists.
Elvin, who hails from Canberra, has said cycling had the benefit of not being shackled down by history. Women's cycling, as an elite sport, was relatively new and that meant opportunities for women to have a greater voice and choices, particularly in a more unified front with men in major events.
The way Elvin conducts herself on and off the bike also set high standards for Malseed in finding her own way in the sport. Malseed was rubbing shoulders alongside international professionals and Australian professionals, notably Elvin, when she first toured Europe with the Australian team in 2015. This has offered Malseed plenty of role models to follow as the spotlight has grown stronger on women's cycling.
Malseed is enjoying riding part of this change.
"You can definitely tell races in Australia are bigger. The women's tour starts in Australia. Tour Down Under went from being NRS (National Road Series) to UCI with the best teams in the world coming to compete," Malseed said. "That is possibly reflective of women's sport in general and the big push for equality.
"There is still a long way to go until we equal the men, not just in wages but the depth of field as well. That will come over time.
"Once you do get to the top level in cycling, the quality of riders is good and racing standard high. There is a fair gap between racing in Australia and racing in Europe. Australia could do more to close the gap in promoting women wanting to ride and sponsors.
"Most of the big men's races and the classics are all-inclusive now. There is a lot of interest in women's cycling in Europe as well - there are so many more fans, it's more prestigious and cycling as a professional sport in Europe as a whole is massive. It's the pinnacle of the sport, where everyone wants to be, but there is still that gap."
Cycling Australia shuffled its Australian road championships schedule to create a Super Sunday in the elite women's and men's showdown in Buninyong, just outside Ballarat, five years ago. This summer, for the first time, the women became the headline act for the evening national criterium titles on a circuit outside the town hall.
Malseed was instead at home lying in a dark room recovering from a nasty crash in criterium racing in Geelong a week earlier.
Leaving her Ballarat base, Malseed moved back home with her parents on the coast in Portland, deep in western Victoria, to build her way back physically and mentally for what she had hoped would re-launch her on to the world tour in April.
Training goals shifted with the pandemic.
"The tools I've developed mentally after crashing and not competing in the Australian summer of cycling have equipped me to deal with this loss of racing," Malseed said. "The UCI women's tour looks like it will start in August and that definitely gives you something to look forward to - you're training for something compare to just training."
World championships in Switzerland and Tokyo Olympics potentially loom ahead. Malseed can hardly wait to help women's cycling shift back into gear and see where this might take her.
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