Q&A with cyclist Laura Darlington
From New York state to Victoria’s King Valley, the Suzuki Brumby’s team captain has travelled the world on two wheels. Here, Laura Darlington tells us how she manages to compete in local, national and international cycling races, maintain a rigorous training regimen and a day job – all while playing an active part in Canberra’s community cycling scene.
The Suzuki Brumby’s cycling team is the second highest ranked women's National Road Series team in 2014. Tell us about your role as captain?
My role on the bike is to help make decisions in races. Off the bike, I help keep things running as smoothly as possible for both management and riders.
During races, there are decisions that need to be made about team tactics and it's often left to me to decide what to do. I don’t do this alone: I will consult the other girls or go back to the director in the car for advice, but ultimately my job as captain is to make sure we, as a team, get the best result. This is often difficult because every rider in the team wants to win the race, but I need to look at the team and the race as a whole and decide how we are most likely to win.
What are the team’s plans heading into summer?
There are criterium races [intense bike races held on short courses] over summer that lead into the Road National Championships in January. The team's main focus is the National Road Series – in which teams and individuals complete for national recognition – which is likely to kick off in January 2015. If a women's Tour Down Under event goes ahead in January, Suzuki Brumby's will be very keen to make their mark.
Where has your cycling taken you?
Cycling has taken me all over Australia and New Zealand, as well as to the US, Canada and China. Because of cycling, I have seen a side of the US that you don’t often see as a tourist. I spent two summers racing in the US, based out of New York state. When you go to races in the US, you don’t stay at a hotel; you are hosted by a family in the city where the race is held. Through this, I got to see how your everyday American lives, and how inviting and welcoming they are. The way that they take in complete strangers and make you feel so at home and loved was a real eye-opener and something I think Australians should embrace more.
Your website bio says you’ve been cycling for over 10 years – and that you’re a ‘climbing specialist’. What has been your most memorable ride?
Winning a stage of the National Road Series in King Valley: it was memorable because the whole Suzuki Brumby's team played a part in setting up the win and because I won the race in a sprint. I'm not a good sprinter by any measure, but to do something that I previously thought I wasn’t capable of was amazing. That day taught me to believe in myself and my team, and never to think something is unachievable.
What's the cycling scene like in Canberra?
The cycling scene in Canberra is amazing and, from my point of view, the best in the world. What makes it great is the fantastic infrastructure, such as bike paths, racing circuits and mountain bike trails – not to mention the community. No matter what day of the week it is, there is always a bunch ride, which means there is never a day you have to ride by yourself and there is usually a willing participant in the after-ride coffee-shop stop. For women in particular, feeling part of a community is what gets them on bikes and helps them live a healthier life, which is great for everyone in the community. The result of the great cycling scene is that Canberra punches well above its weight when it comes to producing world-class athletes.
How do you balance cycling with a day job?
I work as a chartered accountant and have just started my own business, so balancing work and cycling is always a challenge.
The key for me is to get up early and get through my biggest priorities first. For me, that means leaving the house for training by 5.30am, sometimes earlier. I find the later you leave it, the more likely you are to put it off and the more likely other things are to come up to stop you doing it.
What goals are you working towards right now?
I took close to two months around June/July to go mountaineering in South America. While I don’t regret it at all, I did lose a bit of bike fitness, which means that I’m still in my building phase of training. My biggest target now is the Road National Championships in Ballarat in January. However, I’m also keen to be in good form for the start of the National Road Series.
You can follow the adventures of Laura and team Suzuki Brumby’s at www.suzukibrumbys.com