Armidale has a long history of producing great cyclists that continues today across multiple disciplines. Mitch Bullen (Track), Sam Jenner (Road) and Harrison Munday (Road) are current examples of high-achieving, young athletes who all proudly call Armidale home and of course we can’t make that statement without also mentioning regular Armidale Cycling Club racer, Holly Harris and her fantastic MTB successes now extending beyond these shores.
You can find out about Holly’s latest exploits (and other emerging MTB talents) over on the New England Mountain Bikers website which is always a good read. Over here however, and in recognition of their achievements to date, we’re running a series following the exploits of Mitch, Sam and Harrison this season. With their help, we’ll provide you with an inside view from the perspective of an established member of the Australian track team in contention for a place at the Commonwealth Games, and from two young riders starting out on their racing careers with National Road Series teams. We’ll aim to bring you the highs, lows and insights into the hard work behind the scenes that all goes into being able to turn out and compete at the sharp end of the sport, without giving away too many trade secrets!
First up, we’re going to meet Harrison Munday, or H as he’s known – in his first year of riding as part of Newcastle-based NRS squad, Paradice Investment Cycling Team. So what’s it like to be part of the National Road Series? Just to put that into perspective, this year there are 35 teams in the mens competition and 13 more in the womens. This is where Drapac, Avanti, Budget Forklifts and Skoda riders come and ply their trade in Australia. There are 11 rounds in the 2014 schedule, culminating with our own local Grafton to Inverell race in October. Last week was Round 1 with the Tour de Perth and this coming weekend Round 2, the Adelaide Tour, runs from 3-6th April. Three riders who came and raced in the Armidale Criterium last month will be competing. Mitch Carrington, Sam Layzell and Carsten Chapman will all be making the trip south along with three of their team-mates – Ben Marshal, Samuel Hill and Matt Warner-Smith. You can expect to see Paradice Investment riders in plenty of these rounds in addition to other national, state and local races throughout the season which is going to provide H with important exposure to a learning curve that’s steeper that Erskine Street but which he can’t wait to get up. “Riding with a big team around you is fantastic in terms of support” says H, “we’ve got a really good range of experience in the squad with 4 guys in the U19 category, plus U23 and Elite riders in our team of 12 so it’s a great learning experience for me”.
When he’s not with the team he relies on family and friends to support him and be flexible to the needs and demands of his schedule. For H in his first season, 2014 is all about settling in and demonstrating his value which means putting in the hard yards and working for the team out on the road. Interestingly, this is also where Armidale Cycling Club really helps too. H needs a good 12 hours a week of quality training and aside from the enjoyment of riding with his home town club, our Saturday races actually give him a competitive workout whenever he can make them, especially with the regular handicap events. It’s also a great way of relaxing and of course everyone is always going to be out to beat him so there’s no such thing as an easy ride on the weekend.
H comes across as an extremely grounded individual and while like all of us he has his dreams, he’s realistic and cautious in setting his personal goals which he says he won’t do unless he believes he can achieve them. This year he’s hoping to be selected for his team to compete in the Tour de Polynesia or, continuing the French theme, the tour of New Caledonia and in the next 2 years he has set himself a goal of finishing in the top 20 of an NRS event, then in the top 10, and only then daring to dream of a podium finish.
This coming weekend while half his team is heading to Adelaide, H will be racing with the other half at the 110KM Blaney to Bathurst Gold Race where he’ll no doubt bump into Armidale club mate Sam Jenner also in his first NRS season with the Subaru NSWIS team. We’ll hopefully have some stories from that event and from Sam and much, much more over the coming weeks in what is shaping up to be another fantastic year for Armidale cycling.
You can follow H’s team via the Paradice Investment Cycling Team website, their Facebook page or on Twitter, and of course you’ll learn more about the exploits of at least one of them here on these pages over the coming weeks and months.