Rushlee Buchanan has continued to successfully navigate the multi-disciplined life of road rider and track star for New Zealand and UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling.  It’s been a bigger year this year than most with Buchanan taking Commonwealth silver for New Zealand’s team pursuit squad and supporting Georgia Williams to silver on the road.  We took the chance to catch up with her now that she’s back to business on the road.

RC:  First of all you were part of a very strong cycling campaign for New Zealand over on the Gold Coast.  What are your memories of the couple of weeks over there on road and track?

Rushlee:  The CWG was a successful time for Cycling New Zealand. Obviously being the very first medal at the games for NZ was special, and to get a medal itself was also special, and then to top it off Camilla presented us with it so then I even got to meet a Royal!  It was a big first day let’s just say that. I am honored to be a Commonwealth Games medalist and a proud moment with my family and best friend there too, that’s the best part – to be able to share the special moments with the people you love and who have seen and been on the journey with you. 

Buchanan took the bronze in the UCI World Track Championships omnium event after a brilliant final points race, photo Guy Swarbrick

I will be honest though and say my points race was a disappointment to me and I think anyone who watched my post-race interview would have seen that. I’m not one to hide my emotions and I’m an honest person, both the process and the outcome didn’t go the way I had hoped or planned in the points race so I am disappointed about that, but Barker was by far the best rider on the day and it was a great race by her. 

I then had to switch roles quickly back to the road, I had 4 races at the CWG and they were all on different bikes haha. The TT was great, I loved it, It was just me and for the most part it was only personal pressure for the TT.  5th wasn’t bad and I’m happy I did it. 

The the RR was also a good experience. Georgia was on fire so while the race didn’t exactly play out how we wanted it to, Georgia still pulled off a great sprint – against her teammates and some of the best sprinters in the world nonetheless!  I was happy to be a part of a cohesive team, all stoked to be there and everyone was respectful of one another and what each person had to give to the team. The road race was a day where we all had to wake up at 4am because the race started at 7.45!! But everyone was checked in and ready to go, it was a great way to end a long campaign for me. I didn’t have road legs so I was happy to help the girls out and do what I could to battle the Aussie train!

Georgia Williams (left) took a well earned silver on the Currumbin Beachfront, the biggest result of her career so far, supported by the New Zealand team featuring Rushlee Buchanan, photo Guy Swarbrick

It’s a unique environment and being my 3rd Commonwealth Games campaign I had targeted a few races that I wanted to do well in. Life will tell you though that no matter how much you prep and how bad you want it, sometimes things will happen and the goal you set or the target you set won’t be reached. This is common in cycling as I’m sure it is in any sport, and no matter how old you are or how good you think you are, sometimes it’s not your day – and that’s ok, it happens and it will happen more than once! 

I say this now because in the Commonwealth Games environment there were a lot of successes but there were more disappointments, it’s the nature of a ‘games’. I guess my point is no one is guaranteed anything, we don’t take turns winning, sport is not a linear progression, it’s a slow struggle with setbacks. I saw all sides to that story at the Commonwealth Games.  Overall the NZ team environment is something magic though and kudos to the NZOC for the great work they do every time.

RC:  Since Comm Games what have you been targeting with UnitedHealthcare this season?

Rushlee:  Since CWG I more or less went straight into road training. I flew straight over to Redlands Classic and joined UHC. It was a bit of a whirlwind but I was patient with my form and I have taken the entry into this season slower than previous years. The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Women’s squad has dominated the US circuit so my main concern was being able to do enough for the team! We’ve managed to keep that streak alive though and it’s been a good time being a part of the team again. 

RC:  Tell us about your role within UHC this season and how you’ve been fitting in with the team’s objectives.

Rushlee:  I’m in a place in my career where I need to target races now, I said at the beginning of the year I needed to forfeit nationals prep for track prep, and then I got a World Champs medal and a Commonwealth Games medal, so I think I made the right decisions. That thought process is going to continue, so I will always do my teamwork and be there for the team as much as I can, that in itself is a goal, but also to target some races that will suit me or peak for a certain time of the year. 

Rushlee Buchanan took 5th place in the Chrono de Gatineau time trial event, photo Christian Sundquist

RC:  Your time in Canada saw two top ten finishes in the GP & Chrono de Gatineau road race and time trial, where would you say your form is at right now in relation to where you’re hoping to get as the season progresses?

Rushlee:  Gatineau was a good trip for us, and it’s good to have a few races with the UCI 1.1 ranking reasonably close to us here on the east coast of America. The road race up there was a good time, we raced through this beautiful park but it has a lot of climbing. Previous years it has always come to a bunch kick, so naturally this year it was different! There’s only so many times a race can play out the same way. So that was great for us, full gas from km 15km pretty much. We had 5 riders in the front break of what ended up to be 14 people so we better have won! Lauren is a class act, she did it perfectly, the team did it well and we all nailed it. 

The the TT was after the road race so it gave everyone the opportunity to go for it with nothing to lose – so that’s more or less what I did!  Just used it as another opportunity to test the legs, it was a bit too uphill for me but I was happy to see my form coming, especially against the top 4 girls who are TT experts and all peaking for their Nationals this weekend!

RC:  What can you tell us about your race schedule coming up?

Rushlee:  My upcoming schedule is a mixed bag, next friday I’m actually pulling the NZ skin suit on again and racing Track at The Velodrome in T-Town, where there are two UCI omniums; so I’m looking forward to that. There’s a small Kiwi contingent there and it’s the biggest and most supported track and racing schedule in USA. 

Then from there I fly to Europe and join UnitedHealthcare again, we do Tour de Feminin in the Czech Republic, then head to Southern France to ride some mountains and prep for La Course, then we have one day to get our butts back north to Belgium for BeNe Tour 19-22nd July! 

So it will be busy but I’m really looking forward to that schedule. Then I change colours again and am back with NZ and based in Oudenaarde for 2-3 more weeks and we do a bunch of 1 day races and kermesses. So I’d like to be going reasonably well through this time, but will take each race as it comes – it’s a lot of racing and a lot of traveling so it’s important to just be in the moment and do one race at a time!

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