Representing Australia - Lauren Robards

Lauren Robards wins gold in the Under 19 two-kilometre Individual Pursuit at the Australian Championships

Lauren Robards wins gold in the Under 19 two-kilometre Individual Pursuit at the Australian Championships

Radford Year 12 student Lauren Robards has been selected in the 13-member Australian cycling team to compete at the 2018 UCI Junior Track World Championships in Aigle, Switzerland, during August.

Lauren’s selection comes after the recent Australian Championships in Brisbane, where she won the Under 19 two-kilometre Individual Pursuit.

Here, Lauren talks with Communications Manager Mick Bunworth about her achievements so far, the hard work that lies ahead and balancing the demands of her sport with study.

1. What does your selection to represent Australia mean to you?Lauren Robards (centre) on the podium
I have always wanted to represent Australia since I was about six-years-old, when I first realised I was quite good at sport. I only found cycling three years ago after a talent ID day called Canberra’s Fastest and Fittest Athlete (which I won). Having gone to Nationals in cross country, athletics, gymnastics and hockey, where I was competitive but not medalling, I'd finally found a sport where I had success nationally. So, after I won the Australian U15 Road Race and Time Trial in 2015, I’ve wanted to test myself against the best in the world. The first chance to do that wasn’t until possibly Junior World Championships in 2018. Interestingly, after starting riding, my early coaches were very positive and encouraging, but at my first races I found myself right at the back of even the local Canberra Junior Tour. This came as quite a bit of a shock as other sports came more easily initially, and I remember wondering whether or not to even bother continuing to try after those early experiences. I’m glad I did now, obviously. It was also a very nervous three-week wait after National Championships this year, where I won the Under 19 Individual Pursuit, as it did not guarantee selection to the national team. There are often times in selection for sports where winners don’t get selected, and cycling has not been immune from this. So, to get selected to represent Australia is pretty much a childhood dream come true and I’m incredibly humbled by the opportunity I’ve been given.

2. What was your training regime in the lead up to the recent national championships in Brisbane?
After the end of the road season in September 2017, a typical training week in early track season involved 10-12 hours of training (about 250km per week) plus two gym sessions at the ACTAS gym. In addition, my Cycling Australia scholarship gives me access to the recovery facilities at the AIS which certainly aid in being able to train at the necessary level for track cycling which is fast and furious. Through Term 4, 2017, much of the time was preparing for Oceania Track Championships including driving to Sydney on Tuesday after school for three-hour track session then back home for school on Wednesday, and in November I got to travel to New Zealand to compete there. I was pleased to collect three individual medals at this first exposure to international-level competition, although it was only Australia and New Zealand riders. On return, I was invited to compete in the world’s first women’s six-day cycle event, with racing on six consecutive nights. At that event, Australia’s best 28 female track riders (including the recently selected Commonwealth Games team) were assembled and placed in pairs for the races. My partner from Victoria and I were delighted to finish ninth, given we were the youngest team (riders aged from 16–34). I did have a crash in the first race of the series, but fortunately both my bike and I were not too badly hurt and I was able to continue the racing.

After Christmas, for the last month in the lead up to Nationals, my training regime consisted of:

Monday: Gym and 1h Ergo (training bike) session

Tuesday: Drive to Sydney for 5 to 6-hour track session @ Dunc Gray (Sydney 2000 velodrome). Stay in Sydney overnight.

Wednesday: 1.5-hour Active Recovery, Club Racing and 100-lap point score (Wollongong) then home.

Thursday: Drive to Sydney again for 3-hour track session @ Dunc Gray (Sydney) and 0.5 to 1-hour Active Recovery, home late on Thursday night.

Friday: 1.5-hour Active Recovery and 1-hour Watt Bike session

Saturday: 2-hour Endurance 

Sunday: 3-hour Endurance

Some weekends were in Sydney or Melbourne or Ballarat for racing too!

It was lucky that we senior students have plenty of time after our exams to fit all this in and I’m also lucky that Dad loves a drive in his big blue ute!

3. How do you prepare mentally for big races?
For a few weeks beforehand, I will visualise an outcome or the feeling I want in my body when I'm in the event. I'll play it over and over in my mind until I know exactly what I'm going to try and execute on the day. On the day of competition, I'll aim to get the balance right between getting excited/nervous and staying calm, as being too excited/nervous becomes too mentally draining but being too calm can mean you aren't pumped up enough to properly compete. In many ways, despite being just 17, I’ve been competing in events since I was really little, so interestingly this is not a new process or an especially difficult one anymore. It certainly used to be.

4. Do you have to intensify your training to prepare for the world championships?
Yes. Over the next six months I’ll have two 10-day training camps at the velodrome in Adelaide, whilst also increasing the kilometres and gym training I do in Canberra. A typical week at the moment has 16 hours on the bike plus 3 X 1.5-hour gym sessions.

5. Will you ride in events besides the Under 19 two-kilometre individual pursuit at the world championships?
I’m not sure which events I’ll ride yet but I would think that I will ride more events including at least the Team Pursuit (four riders). At most, I’ll ride in four events I think. I’ll know more after the first training camp.

6. How do you balance the demands of training with your Year 12 studies?
I’ve always done sport and school, so it is all I’ve ever known, but I just stay organised and plan ahead. So, if I know I’ve got a big competition coming up and I’ll miss some school, I try and get as much of my school work done before I leave. Especially important is that I don’t need to disrupt any assessment dates as for me, I’ve always seen it as important to meet school requirements and the sport is extra, not a reason for adjusting deadlines. During general day-to-day routines I just organise my time and use it efficiently. I also make sure that I finish doing any schoolwork by 9.00 pm at the latest to ensure I’m fully relaxed and ready for sleep at a sensible time. There is still plenty of time to relax, watch some of my favourite TV shows and generally hang around at home.

7. Any words of advice for younger students who aspire to one day compete at the international level?
Something that I want younger students to understand is that I won one race, at one competition, on one day, which was enough to get me selected in the Junior Worlds team. However, what some people are likely to overlook is that in order to get to the international level, it’s not about those awesome single days of success, it’s actually about always trying your best, even on the days that you start to doubt yourself or feel like maybe you aren’t good enough. Or when you don’t quite achieve what you wanted in training or competition, or the conditions are so terrible that you feel like you can’t ... it can be easy to wonder if it’s all worth the effort. It’s those who persevere on those days that get to the international level. However, the reality is that not everyone can, but that everyone can set their own equivalent goals. It’s worth realising too, that in order to keep improving, even when I reach one goal, I don’t wait too long before thinking “what’s the next challenge”? Setting medium-term goals and striving to achieve them has been key to my ongoing development and success at what has most surely been a really big goal of mine - being selected to represent Australia.

I also want to acknowledge a number of people that have allowed me to pursue this goal. Firstly, I couldn’t be half as good as I am without the awesome programs and support of my coaches over the years, and since October 2016 to the ACTAS team across the road at the AIS. Maybe most importantly to a few people who very early on believed I would make a good cyclist and kept me in the sport long enough to realise it for myself. Finally, to my amazing Dad who sacrifices so much of his own time and money to let me pursue this dream of mine. Without him driving me across the country and financing what can be quite an expensive sport, I definitely would not be where I am today. I could not be more grateful or humbled by the opportunity to live out a dream I’ve had for over 10 years!

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