2018 has been a season to remember for Mike Greer Homes Womens Cycling, with success domestically and internationally, World Road Championship call ups for four of their riders, World Tour experience for their riders racing around the planet, and a Women’s World Tour contract with Bigla for Mikayla Harvey next season.
It’s hard to know quite where to begin when it comes to looking back and evaluating the success of the year, but for Patrick Harvey, getting to grips with the success of this year really involves looking back further into the history of the team and the lessons learned across many years.
“It started with what’s happened before, it’s a progression over the last four years that’s led to the success we’ve had this year,” Patrick told RoadCycling. “And then putting in a good team outfit and a better team approach at our team camp last year.”
“A lot of it is to do with that mentoring that was going on between the more senior riders with more experience sharing what they’d learned, what was going on and what they’d done right and how to get better results for themselves with the juniors in our squad.”
“It’s pretty phenomenal that it’s far exceeded everything we could’ve hoped for, so super happy!”
Looking ahead then it would be tempting to continue on with the winning formula that MGHWC have been putting in place, i.e. keeping a strong finger on rider retention and not too many changes. But Patrick and the team will be having a near whole new look with only four of the team remaining with the outfit in 2019; Georgia Christie, Rylee McMullen, Niamh Fisher-Black and Libby Arbuckle, and Amanda Jamieson returning to the team. With a 75% new squad in 2019 it’s set to be a bit of a step into the unknown this time around.
“We’re sort of a victim of our own success,” Patrick acknowledged. “In that riders, through their success in prior years, have moved on to high level teams or bigger opportunities; which is fantastic, it’s what we’re there for. And then the other part of it is we’ve had riders in the past who have applied for the team, and we would’ve loved to have given them starts because they’re talented and because they’re dedicated and passionate but we haven’t been able to. Really we’ve had about half a dozen riders who we’ve really wanted to bring onto the team, so with everything that’s been happening in the last year this has been the perfect opportunity to bring a new crop of riders through.”
“We’ve got some riders with less experience, some with more experience, some with really great results, some not getting the results they quite want to get but with the potential to. We’re just super excited about the opportunity with the riders that we’ve got and what we can give to the new crew coming through.”
For Christie, McMullen, Fisher-Black, Arbuckle and the returning Amanda Jamieson there will be new responsibility on their shoulders; or at least an evolution of responsibility that was fostered last season. “Basically they bring a few things: leadership, and all of those riders at different levels will provide a leadership role within the team, which is something important, we didn’t get it right in previous seasons but we’ve certainly worked on it particularly in the last half of this season. Leadership on the bike, off the bike, and particularly with Amanda in that mentoring side.”
Harvey cites the international experience across these four riders, with the likes of Georgia Christie having enjoyed racing alongside Mikayla Harvey and Grace Anderson at Team Illuminate, Jamieson’s experience racing on the European circuit over the last three years, Fisher-Black’s European campaign and World Championship experience and McMullen and Arbuckle who both have experienced racing on the American and Oceania continents as key elements that will contribute to their effectiveness as leaders.
This week the Mike Greer Homes Womens Cycling Team will meet in Wanaka for the team training camp where the emphasis will be as much on putting in the hours in the saddle and working on personal performance as it will be about communication, learning the fundamentals of teams racing, implementing mentorship from the more experienced riders in the team; and beginning to develop the leadership attributes that will take the outfit – not just individual riders – to the next level.
2019 holds a big year in store for the riders with racing in New Zealand, Australia and Europe all on the cards. The introduction of the team’s European campaign is a significant step forward, building on what individuals from the team have done in the past few years. But with the climbing level in international involvement for the team comes an expectation that as a unit the squad will step up too.
“We expect to definitely up the level of teaching and training, teaching the skills for training and racing together as a team,” Harvey said.
Along with the mantle placed on the remaining riders with the team, MGHWC have introduced an official mentorship programme, which utilises the experience, knowledge and communication of Rushlee Buchanan, Mikayla Harvey and Amanda Jamieson; three riders at different stages of their career, with different pathways to high level international cycling, but joined and united by a wealth of teaching and advice they are able and willing to impart to the team this year.
Over the course of the year the team will have the benefit of being able to freely engage with the trio on a one-to-one basis or as part of a group-based chat scenario where the purpose throughout will be to provide further building blocks that will enable success not just at any given race, but success as cyclists, as hopeful professionals, as elites in New Zealand and around the world.
“When we first started to come up with the concept, we wanted to be able to mentor the riders at a number of levels; which was on the bike skills, tactics and racing as a team; off the bike from professionalism, preparation and making sure they tick all the boxes. And the last part of off the bike is living as a cyclist and all the challenges and opportunities it brings as riders. We wanted to cover all the bases, and having a rider like Rushlee who is at the pinnacle of her career and has been there a long time, she’s learnt all those lessons probably the hard way and can bring a wealth of information to all those areas.”
“Then we’ve got Amanda Jamieson who’s been doing the hard yards in Europe over the last three years, living and racing overseas by herself, so learning all those skills that need to go with that. So it was really important to get her on board as well.”
“We’ve got Mikayla as well who is the younger end of what Rushlee is doing, just new to the World Tour scene so she’ll be doing a lot of learning herself this year, and has learned a lot in the last two years; spending a good portion of her time overseas in lower level UCI teams. So it’s that broad coverage that we’re most excited about. I think they’ll be able to answer most questions that our riders come up with and all of them are approachable and really willing to share that knowledge.”
So as Patrick and the MGHWC team stand on the cusp of the training camp and the 2019 season how do you assess what one’s goals are when the team is so fresh and new as a whole? Patrick, in explaining his answer to us, revealed that it’s not just victory and results that the team are about, but with all the talk of leadership and mentorship having been so paramount in our conversation, it seems only natural that there’s something bigger at play than simple race wins.
“With the team our overriding concept is learning, developing and growing to higher levels of cycling. So we divide our season into races we target results in and races we target to learn and develop. We use races like Elite Nationals, Oceanias and some of the higher level races to target results, and though we race together as well as we can, we allow riders the freedom to express themselves and chase medals and chase results.
“The rest of the racing, and especially our domestic racing, we focus on a teaching and learning environment. Calder Stewart is a classic example, we’ve been racing there for four nearly five years. We don’t chase results as such anymore, we’ll have a race goal – usually around some sort of tactic or skill – and we’ll try to achieve that. Obviously we’re chasing a result in the process, but the result’s not overlaying the learning that we’re trying to teach the riders.”
“In terms of expectations we just want our riders to buy into that concept of team riding, team tactics, team racing and preparing and racing professionally on and off the bike.”
Bring on 2019!