Local Armidale rider Sam Jenner has finished his first season as an NRS rider with Subaru NSWIS who were also competing in the National Road Series for the first time. With a long-established cycling program, the NSW Institute of Sport Development Team joined with Subaru this year to create the Subaru NSWIS Development Team which, as the name suggests, has a strong emphasis on rider development. This is reflected in the team’s composition – all 8 riders are aged between 17 and 19. While the riders themselves might still be in the early part of their careers there is an impressive amount of experience behind them in the form of dedicated coaches Brad McGee and Ben Kersten.
Brad is one of Australia’s most decorated cyclists, with a career that spanned more than two decades on the track and road. He has multiple Olympic, World and Commonwealth track titles to his name, and in his road career he’s raced in the European Pro Tour with teams including FDJ and Saxo-Bank. On the road he won three Tour de France stages, and is one of only a handful of riders in history to have worn the leader’s jersey in all three grand tours.
Ben Kersten is one of Australia’s most successful all-round track cyclists. He has won gold in seven different track events, from sprint to endurance events and medalled in nine. In his career, Kersten won more than thirty Australian National Titles, two World Cup Titles, two Junior World Titles, was UCI World Cup Champion, held two Junior World Records and was two-time Australian Cyclist of the Year. Ben also won Gold in the 1KM Time Trial at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games. When he switched to road racing where he won the USA Pro Title in his first year.
Being based up in Armidale means that Sam’s dedication to the sport has to be supported by his family to enable him to travel far and wide to training camps and races which are typically held in the South of the country. This season started out with an activity-based team bonding session out in the bush. As Sam recalls, “I was initially a bit surprised as there wasn’t any road racing – they had us in canoes, doing mountain biking and point-to-point racing. We were definitely motivated as we were competing for food rations so needed to do well to eat!”
The first of 5 NRS races of the season for Sam was the Blaney to Bathurst where Sam was unfortunate enough to crash out in the closing stages of the criterium event but he was back on the bike and in the thick of things the next day for the Blayney road race stage. In fact Sam didn’t have a huge amount of luck in the first part of the season. “I had mechanicals, crashes and punctures in Bathurst, Cootamundra, Mersey Valley and Battle on the Border so it wasn’t the best start but the team was doing well and that was the main thing.” reflects Jenner modestly. In fact the team was doing really well with a stage win on Stage 5 of the Tour of Murray for teammate Ayden Toovey who also took the Best Young Riders jersey in the Tour of Gippsland where Sam recorded 29th place on Stage 2 out of 160+ riders.
When asked how riding with Armidale Cycling Club compares with an NRS race, Sam smiles and reflects that “nothing can prepare you for it, or even simulate it. It’s brutal. Unlike in the pro teams, the riders aren’t paid to sit on. They want to be spotted so it’s full-on from the start with attacks going off all day long”. This is where the support of the coaches comes in. “Compared to a 40K junior race where it’s easy to go hard for the whole race, in NRS races with 160 guys all wanting to win, I need to be smart about when to use energy and when not to.” Diet of course plays a huge role here too and the team takes their own food. They take turns to cook up the evening meals when at a training camp together and Sam reckons he can rustle up a mean chicken pasta – not surprisingly pasta and rice feature heavily in the diet for the team!
Sam still manages to balance racing and riding with school work and that means getting up at 4am twice a week and training for 2 hours before school and then riding again afterwards. In the winter that means going out in the dark, coming home in the dark so there is no question about his dedication. And when we roll up on a Saturday afternoon, fresh and ready to race, Sam has often already been out for a good few hours of training beforehand.
Amidst the hard, fast, pressured life in the NRS peloton there is still time for a bit of humour and there are always funny moments to break the tension. During the National Capital Tour in Canberra last month the entire bunch went left when they should have gone right, then slowed to a halt trying to work out how to get back on track and ended up riding across the park in front of Parliament House. And a couple of months earlier at the Junior Nationals they were confronted with a huge group of around 30 kangaroos who decided to cross the road right in front of the peloton.
As the year draws to a close, Sam is not hanging up his cleats just yet. Next up for him is preparation for the NSW track titles later this month where he’ll target the endurance events (individual pursuit, points race and madison) and following that he’s aiming to race a few criteriums including the Mick Chapman Crit at Newcastle and the International Grand Prix at Cronulla/ Wollongong. We wish him the very best in those events and of course hope to see him out for club racing with Armidale whenever he can. Congratulations and well done from Armidale Cycling Club on a great first season in the NRS with Subaru NSWIS and let’s hope 2015 brings even more success for Sam Jenner.